Women's Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey (or, if you want to get really fancy and see the full title, James Patterson Women's Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey) is the latest installment in the mystery/hidden object adventure series started by Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet, both of which are based on the books and television program of the same name. Investigating the death of a young boy, you play the role of several different experts, each with a specialization and accompanying gameplay mode. Gather evidence and clues and piece things together in the forensics lab to solve the mystery!
Most of your time in Women's Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey will be spent playing as Detective Lindsay Boxer, an investigator with the San Francisco police department. You'll be the first on the scene to question suspects, gather information by talking to witnesses, collect evidence and take photographs for later analysis. These first-person scenarios are much like a hidden object game, though there's a good variety in the types of tasks you'll undertake. One scene has you searching for a way to turn off a fan, for example.
After some evidence has been gathered, it's back to the forensics lab where medical examiner Claire Washburn performs her magic. By completing simple mini-games you'll distill facts from the evidence gathered by Lindsay. For example, the first mini-game involves mixing various chemicals from three moving belts to determine the blood type of two samples taken from the crime scene.
Much of the game progresses in this manner, with Lindsay's hidden object scenes gathering data while the other women play supporting roles. You visit a number of locations to interview suspects and question locals who may have a connection with the deceased. The story unfolds in a rather linear manner, but the mystery is well-cooked, so you'll want to sink your teeth in for bite after bite of delicious (and intelligent) plot.
Analysis: The first Women's Murder Club game took the familiar mystery/hidden object concept and made things a bit different with a more crime-focused slant. The sequel continues in the same vein and doesn't really change the formula beyond adding different mini-games and an entirely new plot. The puzzles in A Darker Shade of Grey are where things get interesting, as they're very well-thought-out and actually make you think, not just blindly go through the motions. This doesn't carry through to some of the mini-games, unfortunately, as most of them (especially the forensic games) are pointless busywork.
While the story is intriguing, I have to admit I wasn't really drawn into the experience as much as I was in the other game. Many of the characters seem stiff and unresponsive with dialogue that's almost completely void of flavor. Sometimes you might as well be reading from a textbook. The strength of a game like this is often in its writing, and here I can't help but feel it slightly missed the mark.
Despite its few writing flaws and less-than-stellar mini-games, the story and progression of events in Women's Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey make it worth a visit. Murder and mystery drench every scene, and playing as three different characters, each with her own unique gameplay mode, livens things up to make this hidden object adventure a tier above the rest.