Have you got a PS3 Slim sitting under the Christmas tree? Is it teasing you… taunting you? "I'm here", it whispers. "I'm right here. All you have to do is unwrap me, plug me in and then… well… then the magic can begin." If only. Your parents/partner/significant other would kill you. All you can do is sit there and imagine what you'll do with your brand spanking new PS3 Slim on Christmas day.
Brighton-based Buzz! developer Relentless Software hopes one of the first things you'll do is log in to the PlayStation Store and download its self-published episodic murder mystery Blue Toad Murder Files. You could do far worse: while the first two episodes, out now as a £9.99 bundle or separately for £6.29 each, won't keep you entertained for long, they're both good fun for all the family.
Set in the quintessential English village of Little Riddle, Blue Toad is part four-player co-operative murder mystery and part competitive puzzler. Each player assumes the role of one of the four members of the Blue Toad Detective Agency: Hannah Dakota is Nancy Drew in all but name; Vanderbosh wears a quite wonderful moustache, Maple is the inquisitive granny, and Dick Dickens is the fresh-faced boy-sleuth. It doesn't matter which detective you pick, the story plays out in the same way. Little Riddle's mayor is shot and killed, and it's up to you to interview the village's eccentric locals, identify suspects and point the finger.
The game's tongue is firmly in cheek, and packed with memorable British class and regional stereotypes, all superbly voice acted. The snotty Basil Fawlty hotelier steals the show, but he's run close by the posh, tea-drinking lady who finds her stately home burgled. Each character is a caricature, and designed in the colourful, over the top Buzz! style. The village itself, viewed from a slightly off top down perspective, looks lovely, and is perfectly in keeping with the quintessential feel.
Blue Toad has been designed, like Buzz!, to be as accessible and inoffensive as possible. No matter how many people are playing, only one pad is required, and then, only the d-pad and two face buttons are used. Players take turns to interview a local, be it at the hotel, the train station or one of the many residences to name but a few of the village's possible areas of inquiry. But before they divulge their precious info, a puzzle must be solved. Blue Toad's puzzles vary in quality. Some are ridiculously easy; some are impossibly hard. But they all at least make sense. Many are logic based, a lot are maths beard-scratchers, and some challenge your observation skills. When you reckon you've got the puzzle sussed, a press of the triangle button submits your answer. If you're right, you're awarded a medal: gold, silver or bronze, based on the time it took you to complete the puzzle and the number of incorrect answers you submitted. Then, it's a case of listening to your interviewee dish the dirt. And make sure you pay attention: impromptu memory tests pop up regularly.
Once all the interviews have been conducted, and all the puzzles have at least been attempted, the episode ends and it's time for each player to take it in turns to decide "whodunnit". Right or wrong, the episode ends with a cliff-hanger, and each player is awarded an overall medal based on their performance throughout.