Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace
Developer: Virtual Playground
Genre: Mystery, Point-and-Click, Hidden Object
Release Date: 09/26/2013
In Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace, you play as a young peasant woman (Sophia Fay) who has awoken, memories lost, in Laroche Palace, a place that is rumored to have been created and enchanted in order to protect the De La Roche family. There are also tales of a curse of Laroche, which state that the King eventually will fall ill and go crazy before dying. As you explore the palace and remember that you were to wed one of the sons, Alexander, you learn other secrets of the family you are trying to join. It seems that everyone but you has been put into a mysterious sleep that you cannot seem to wake them from, and finding out what happened and fixing it will require you to go deep into the palace and discover the darkest secret yet.
If it sounds fairly interesting, that’s because it is. Generally, I don’t like mystery games, because I figure out the plot relatively quickly and then feel bored for the rest of the game, or if the game is difficult to figure out, it’s because it’s throwing so many plot twists and dei ex machinis at you that it’s hard to keep the story straight at all, let alone figure out the mystery. Thankfully, this game does neither of those things. In fact, I would argue it is a return of the old-school classic “whodunit” style of playing, where everyone has an understandable motive for the person in question being murdered (or person who has had a murder attempted on them).
The graphics are nice and somehow not cluttered, considering it’s a PC port. The voice acting is a bit iffy in quality, but not grating. I finished this game in four hours (one sitting) with having to redo a good portion of it (I’ll detail that below), and I was at least mildly interested throughout the entire experience. In fact, my one complaint about the story would probably be the ending. It just… ends. You figure out the mystery, you talk to a person, that person magically believes everything you’re telling him, you see a single picture and boom, you’re done. While I wouldn’t want a hugely embellished ending with lots of fanfare, it would have probably helped to have a few more minutes of exposition, where we find out what happened to the other residents of the household, especially because one particular bombshell about one of the children gets dropped, and I would have been interested to see where that went.
The controls for Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace are fairly straightforward, as anyone who have ever played a PC point-and-click game would attest. There are two main ways of playing. You can either play with a tutorial and “sparkles,” which tell you where interesting things are, or without them. If you’re playing with the sparkles, these generally help you know what you can interact with, without telling you how to interact with them or if you have the required items (if any) to do so. To use items, you drag the item from your inventory at the bottom of the screen to whatever you’re trying to use. This can be kind of tricky because the bottom of the screen is also what you use to switch areas of the house, so if you accidentally press there, you might end up in a different room, forcing you to go back. You may also have issues with using items if you don’t drop them in a particular spot, though I had minimal issues with this.
If you’re playing with the sparkles, you basically click on yellow sparkles and see if you can do anything with the item in question. For instance, early on in the game you need to get an item out from under a plant with a lot of thorns on it. If you don’t have the item that will help you reach into the thorns without getting cut, you can’t do anything with that plant for a while. Once you get that item, you can go back to the plant and get the item no issue, and the yellow sparkles will disappear once you’ve done everything you need to do. Blue sparkles will let you know that you can play a hidden item mini-game there, usually to get items you’ll need for your quest.
There are several mini-games available, including ones that require you to navigate a system of wires, press buttons in the right order, insert keys in the correct slots, and others. I found all of them to be pleasant, other than the ones where you have to rotate a face of a clock or a door part to line up a particular way. If you are having trouble with a particular puzzle, you can skip after a time. I’m not sure that this is necessary, though.
I did have the game crash on me at one point, which caused me to lose about forty-five minutes of playtime that I quickly made up, since I already knew what to do. I thought it was because I had done something out of order, but when I went to do the same action again (saving beforehand this time of course), there weren’t any issues, and I was able to move on. There were also a few pieces of text that didn’t make sense to me; for instance, when you wake up, if you look at a picture in your room, it says that there’s a prince and princess there, but you don’t know who they are. Considering you have amnesia, this makes sense. But after you remember who they are, that text still remains if you look at the picture. Additionally, when you get a particular item, Sophia says, “This should help me get beneath the palace.” I didn’t know I was supposed to be going under the palace yet (maybe I’d done a few things “out of order”), and even if that’s the case, how would Sophia know that this item would help her get under the palace? While the latter example is somewhat explained later, I am not sure that was intentional on the developer’s part.
The game is pretty easy overall, but I don’t feel like that makes it boring. It’s about the right length to keep someone interested and not too convoluted in either plot or gameplay, though I don’t know that there is that much replay value to it, other than playing it without hints. (Those with good memories, then, would have little reason to replay it.) All in all, it’s not a bad experience.
Short Attention Span Summary
Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace is the appropriate length and difficulty given its pricing, and it will likely be interesting enough to hold your attention for one playthrough (though probably not another). The voice acting is a bit iffy and the ending is quite abrupt, but this did not detract much from the experience. The game did crash on me once, but I was not able to replicate it. Most players will be able to finish it within four hours.