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Gumshoe Online: The Murky Truth
Gumshoe Online:
The Murky Truth
Developer:Hiding Buffalo
Publisher:Hiding Buffalo
Platform:PC
Genre:Adventure
Release Date:2006
Article Posted:June 2006
Grade:88/100
System Requirements


I certainly hope all the detectives out there had a nice vacation and a darned good rest since the last case. Hiding Buffalo has released The Murky Truth (their fifth case) and this one is a doozey. So, get your trench coat and Fedora out of the closet and get ready to stick your nose where it doesnít belong, rifle through othersí belongings, aggravate some bad guys, and put someone behind bars.

Your day starts out in your office as you wait for clients to contact you. Itís been a while and you need the money. Life isnít free, you know. Eureka! You get an urgent telegram from Theodore Nash. Mr. Nash is a successful shipping magnate whose latest venture has been creating a top-of-the-line luxury liner (The Midgard) where the rich and famous could travel in style and have their every whim catered to. Unfortunately, his brilliant business plan has been stopped in its tracks by robbery! Four sets of unknown prints have been found at the scene. Wheaton City is known for its connection to crime, but does that crime extend to piracy? Piracy would seem to be the obvious answer due to the fact that in addition to the precious cargo of wealthy citizens, the ship was also transporting Hungarian antiques on their way to a Miami museum.

Eager to earn some money, you rush right out the door to the Neptune shipping offices. Youíre greeted by Nashís secretary who informs you that Mr. Nash has left you a letter in his office. Donít think youíre just going to waltz up to his office and get the letter. The team at Hiding Buffalo would never allow that. Youíll have to solve a puzzle first. When you obtain the letter and another item left for you, the secretary will inform you that Mr. Nash is being detained at the police station. Apparently, the police believe Nash is involved. The situation has become desperate. After speaking directly to Nash, youíll head over to the ship and the investigation will truly begin. Itís up to you to clear Nashís name and find the true culprits fast!

Gumshoe-Online is a web based detective game. The entire game is played online. There is no need to download anything. Gumshoe supports the following browsers: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape, and Opera. If this is your first foray into the Gumshoe world, let me give you a glimpse into what itís all about. You are a detective hired to get to the bottom of the latest crimes occurring in Wheaton City in the 1930ís. When you sign up, you get to pick your detective name. Anything goes here; you can use your real name, stick to an old detective classic, or get creative as you wish.

As stated above, this is the 5th case for Hiding Buffalo. The first case (Osbourne Mystery) is a tutorial and is offered for free. The following cases are substantially longer and offered at a minimal cost. Game play is the same for all the cases and is entirely point and click. At the end of the case, you will be required to solve it by choosing the correct suspect(s), motive, and a specific number of clues to prove your solution. Points are awarded based upon correctness of solution, total number of clues found, and the time taken to complete. You will also receive a letter telling you that you did an excellent job, so-so job, or that youíre a disgrace to your profession. When the Gumshoe cases first made an appearance, they had contests running so getting the highest number of points was important for those competing. Currently, there is no contest, so the points will only dictate your rank in the detective world. Likely, most gamers just want the letter telling them they solved it correctly and donít really care about the points. But, for those who are competitive in nature, itís important to note that after purchase, each case can be played an unlimited amount of times. So, you can go in and replay for a better score if so desired.

As you conduct your investigation, there will be characters to interact with. Dialog is conducted all in text. When you click on a character, a dialog box will pop up. Topic options will be listed at the bottom. There is a bar along the bottom that details the tolerance level of the person youíre talking to. At some point, the tolerance level will hit the red zone meaning you wonít get any more out of this person. In previous cases, choosing the topics in the wrong order might have you missing a topic and losing points on your final score. However, unless I missed it, it was not experienced this time. Even though you have a decent amount of characters to interact with, donít expect all of them to greet you with fondness. Some characters from previous cases make a return appearance and truly seem irritated by your very presence. They will bombard you with plenty of snide comments. You will get to interact with the police, ship crew members, mobsters, and more.

One of the main focuses for the game is in locating all the clues. Based on the stats provided, there are over 170 clues to be found and over 1200 items that you can examine. Yes, you will pixel hunt and pixel hunt and pixel hunt. As you find each item, a description will pop up and your detective will usually make a comment. Not all items count as clues. All clues truly relevant to the case will be transferred to your notebook. A small icon will appear in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and a ďbloopingĒ noise will sound as a clue is transferred. The notebook is located in a separate pop-up window which loads at the same time as the game. The notebook contains all your clues, usable items (such as a crowbar or key), locations you have available, and characters you have encountered so far. You can also find a summary of possible motives based upon what you have learned up to that point. There is even a tab where you can type in your own personal notes if you wish. You will find a lot of clues that turn out to be red herrings. This is done intentionally to keep you guessing until the very end. Your game is saved automatically each time you exit the game. You also have the ability to save your game in the filing cabinet in your office. This allows you to load a game so you can solve again without replaying the entire case.

The game is pretty linear. Certain clues or locations do not become available until you have completed a preceding task. This means that you will have to revisit locations constantly to see if something has changed. For example, in one cabin there is money sitting on a desk. You canít take it and your detective doesnít even acknowledge itís there. Only when another event takes place and your detective needs to find some bribe money does that money on the desk become available. So, be prepared to do a fair amount of running around. Note that a dial-up connection will slow things down a bit, but settings can also be adjusted to compensate for some of the slow-down. Combining inventory items is also done in the notepad as is solving some of the puzzles.

Oh, the puzzles!! As with the other cases, there are inventory puzzles (finding keys, tools etc.) but there are also logic, math, and message decoding puzzles. In every case, our bad guys always have a habit of tearing a piece of evidence into little pieces and hiding the pieces all over the area. Murky Truth is no exception. Once you find the pieces, you must assemble them in your notebook and they always turn out to be an important clue. The logic puzzles arenít too bad and wonít strain your brain too much. That being said; be prepared to have your butt kicked by the math puzzles. The team at Hiding Buffalo kicked up the difficulty level to new heights.

You will spend a fair amount of time on some of the puzzles and pull your hair out on others. Take for example the most difficult puzzle in the game; a fuse puzzle located in the hold of the ship. You have 16 fuses to choose from and they must be arranged in rows of 4 fuses each with the numerical values of specific positions adding up to specific numbers with the last number being unknown. I happen to enjoy math puzzles, so I set up my excel spreadsheets complete with formulas and spent the next five hours calculating the wrong solution. A little help from a moderator (Thanks to Andre aka Dr. Dee!) and I now had a new correct formula and spent 6 more hours calculating all the possible combinations resulting in five possible correct solutions. What a relief and sense of satisfaction to have finished that one!!! The puzzle has since been adjusted to make it a little easier by limiting the choices of all the fuses in the 1st position and eliminating multiple solutions. Naturally, the new revised version did not match any of my previous solutions so upon replaying, I had to go through it again, but it only took me about 1-1/2 hours to get the answer this time.

The dreaded lock pick puzzle which caused many a gamer distress in the previous cases was replaced by a different kind of lock pick puzzle. You now have 4 lock pick tools that must be clicked in a specific order. The puzzle involves 16 steps. If you choose incorrectly, the puzzle resets and you must begin again. While this is an easier version and only appears once, it is tedious and random. So, if you replay the case, you will have to go through the process all over again. Aghhh! But, it was fun. There are 14 butt-kicking puzzles throughout the case. You may want to ask Hiding Buffalo if there is a headache medicine reimbursement program available.

There are 5 different locations to visit. The police station is standard for every Gumshoe case. Youíll also make another visit to Pretorioís. Pretorio is the local mob boss and seems to be constantly involved in a lot of shady business taking place in Wheaton City. New locations include Neptune shipping, a bridge and the massive cruise ship location. The cruise ship has a lot of floors and a ton of rooms. Trying to remember where you last saw something can be quite a task on the old memory. While the graphics are simple in format, they are crisp, clean and thoroughly enjoyable. Each room at every location has hotspots to examine. There could be something hidden around every corner. There are 3 choices of background music which are jazzy and appropriate for the time period, but quite repetitive and you may want to turn it off after a while. While appreciated, you donít really need background music to enhance the game.

Gumshoe Online storylines are always interesting and filled with twist and turns. The same holds true for The Murky Truth. Itís really about using your detective, reasoning and logic skills. Again, this is a linear game so information is fed to you along those lines. The only complaint here is that you tend to be left with unanswered questions about the story. For example, there was a lot of mention of the fact that Midgard was not the original name for the ship and that Midgard has some kind of meaning. I personally was not able to find out what that was and am unsure as to whether a clue or a conversation topic was missed. There also was never any follow-up on the Captainís death. Youíre told that Dr. Brandt (the coroner) has to get back to the lab and make a report, but he never seems to do that. In the end, the motive is understandable, but as you donít get as much information as you would like on the underlying reasons. But, as some of the bad guys make repeat appearances, one can only assume that some of these questions will be answered in future cases. There are even questions with little items, such as the fact that you will always manage to find a casino chip somewhere in the game. Why? Is there some reason that will be made clear later or is this just to throw us off?

The Gumshoe-Online cases are somewhat different in the fact that there is no walkthrough available. Hints are posted in the forum and solutions are provided through the private messaging feature of the forum. These hints and solutions mainly come from other players who have decided to stick around and help others. When a new case comes out, the forum is flooded and help is only a moment or so away. The forum community is extremely friendly and there are excellent moderators who ensure it stays that way. You might even make a few new friends. As Murky Truth is new, most hints are provided via private message as to not spoil the experience for others. You may find there is a delay in getting a response on the forum once the rush has died down. There are only a few players who stick around indefinitely to provide assistance. And, itís important to note that gamers come from all over the world, so you need to be aware of the time differences. You will get a response; however, you may have to wait a bit. Even the best players can get stuck. A special thanks goes out to Bri aka Renik for the sorely needed direction, SarahCA for the damn triangle count and our own AL reviewer Thaumaturge for allowing me to pick his brain dry regardless of whether he was tired or not.

What has been impressive since the beginning is the dedication given to making the experience a positive one. The team at Hidden Buffalo welcomes feedback and suggestions. They pay attention to the gamer and implement changes as necessary. Puzzle suggestions by players have actually been used. They acknowledged the previous lock pick puzzle dread and changed it for Murky Truth. Technical problems are also corrected in a timely manner. Itís a great feeling for a gamer to know that they are heard and that their opinions matter. This is rare to find these days.

Game length for The Murky Truth is estimated at about 6-9 hours. However, with the difficulty level of some of the puzzles, you will find that you are playing for days. If you like detective games with a diverse mix of medium difficulty and brain-busting puzzles then you absolutely must try The Murky Truth and all the previous cases. Be forewarned; as many in the forums can attest; Gumshoe Online is very addictive. You really donít get the full effect from the free tutorial case. Once youíve tried one of the longer cases, you may find yourself hooked and counting the days until they come up with another. Improvements are made with each new case so the future looks bright for Gumshoe-Online. You can play the game at www.gumshoe-online.com

       


PC System Requirements:
Internet Connection
Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox,
Mozilla, Opera, and Netscape
Sound: MS Media Player, RealPlayer or
Quicktime plug-in required