There's a killer on the loose on the streets of San Francisco. A cryptic message leads Detective Lindsey Boxer to a deserted alley, and the body of a young woman. But, when it appears the murder is more than just a random killing, she decides that it's time to involve a very special group of friends.
In Women's Murder Club: Twice in a Blue Moon, you play all four members of the titular group of friends from the books of acclaimed crime novelist James Patterson. Lindsey Boxer is a detective with the San Francisco police force, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Cindy Thomas is a reporter on the crime beat, and Jill Bernhadt is the District Attorney. Each of these characters' skill-sets will come in handy as you make your way through this series of bizarre murders.
Twice in a Blue Moon is primarily a hidden object game. You'll start out most of the investigations in the office of either Lindsey Boxer or Cindy Thomas gathering items in order to proceed with the investigation. Some of the items make sense, like getting your badge, or an envelope that has a clue to the killer's where-abouts. The purpose of other items is not so clear, like why you would need multiple baseball bats, or a bunch of stars. But, in general, the hidden object sections are relevant enough to keep you involved in the game. Some even involve additional puzzles, like collecting all of the CDs to a collection, and then having to place them in the CD holder correctly, or using the letters on tokens you've collected to solve a bar game.
There are other ways in which you will interact with the game, as well. A number of times throughout the game you will have to plug words and names into computer databases in order to lookup information relevant to the case on which you are working. This has become easier than the previous games in the series, in that the words or names that you need to lookup are written on a post-it note at the bottom of the computer monitor, instead of having to search for them. The information is generally easy to find in the database, as well. You either get the information you are looking for, or you get nothing. No red herrings or false information to have to sift through.
As you progress through the game, you will also come upon other types of puzzles besides the standard hidden object fare. In one, you'll have to follow an archivist through the correct series of doors in order to make it down to the San Francisco public archives in the basement of the library. In another, you'll have to place wooden pieces into the correct holes in a puzzle box in order to open it. And during the finale of the game, you'll have to travel blindly through a basement maze in order to capture the killer.
Analysis: I played the first game in this series, Death in Scarlet, over a year ago, and it was one of those rare games that has stuck with me this whole time. The second game in the series, A Darker Shade of Grey, was a no-brainer for me to pick up when it came out, and I was not disappointed. So I come to Twice in a Blue Moon with high expectations.
The story, penned by Patterson himself, is well written, if a bit cliche. But, this is crime drama we're talking about here, so there are just some things that you're not going to be able to get away from. We've seen the copycat Jack the Ripper or Boston Strangler done before, but the way that Patterson weaves the cliches into the story is nicely done, and the ending is not completely telegraphed to you in the first chapter. Exposition is done with the use of comic panes in-between investigations. While I would have loved to see more of the voice acting and animation seen in the intro to the game, the comics are well-drawn and understandable.
As I mentioned earlier, the hidden object sections do a good job of staying on-task and not asking you to find an excessive amount of completely random items, although they do stretch the definition of "relevant" quite a bit. The best are probably the ones where you are cleaning up a room, either prior to investigating it, or in order to compete a task at one of the offices, because the objects can be more random and still fit with the story. You will run into the odd butterfly and lizard, but it doesn't get too crazy. A good tip to keep in mind: be sure to look for objects in the pictures on the walls of the rooms. Often the object you are looking for is actually depicted in the picture, as opposed to being a physical object in the room. Also be aware of patterns on rugs and on walls. These are often hiding places for simple objects like stars and letters.
One problem that I have had, and continue to have with this series is that the sections involving Claire Washburn's medical examiner's lab seem tacked on to the rest of the story. The quick stops to the lab to arrange bottles and discover the chemical makeup of a particular substance seems like something that could have just as easily been handled in text as opposed to such a brief game section. I would love to see it expanded in future installments to make it seem like a fuller part of the game.
This is really turning out to be an excellent series of mystery hidden-object games, right up there with the classics like Mystery Case Files. If murder by moonlight is your thing, then check out Women's Murder Club: Twice in a Blue Moon, as see if you have what it takes to catch a killer.