At night, the museum comes to life
Once upon a time, FMV games got a bad rap. Though once seen as cheesy and outdated, modern releases such as Her Story, Telling Lies, Death Come True, and Immortality have offered refreshing takes on the genre. This is also the case we’ve seen in our hands-on preview of Murderous Muses. The developer D’Avekki Studios has you exploring a haunted art museum, and you’re investigating who killed the artist behind the beautiful paintings inside. While the journey can be cryptic at times, Murderous Muses so far pulls off a striking FMV experience for those who love the genre.
Murderous Muses pulls off an engaging atmosphere
D’Avekki Studios knows how to pull in players to its games, such as with The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, and it does the same here. The paintings displayed are stunning but eerie at the same time. Each art piece is accompanied by a narrator providing curious worldbuilding of the strange setting. The music is also spot on as it helps drift you into this spooky art exhibit. Murderous Muses sets the stage for the intrigue that takes place wonderfully.
The storyline format isn’t traditional. You’ll have three days to solve the mystery and get as much information as possible. The main premise is you’re placing the paintings of each suspect on the wall, and a video clip plays when you match the painting with a certain topic. For example, the display says “All Hallow’s Eve” and then they’ll discuss how that day transpired. There are key topics you need to cover with each suspect, which seems to be randomized with every playthrough. With each day, there’s a limit to how much dialogue you can witness, but as you complete all of the key tasks in front of you, the art gallery will begin opening up more.
It’s engaging to explore the mysterious art gallery and solve puzzles. These puzzles are relatively simple but engaging all the same. Once you solve a puzzle, you’ll get a key. When used at a locked door, there are a few secrets to find and an exclusive word that hasn’t been used in any of the rooms.
Lack of a cohesive story
Murderous Muses’ narrative is disjointed. The acting and storytelling behind each painting are engaging. However, it’s hard to really piece a through-line on everyone’s alibis and the motive behind the murder. Some may lose interest, due to the lack of a cohesive plot. Perhaps, with multiple playthroughs, the overall storyline becomes clearer. Just keep in mind, you may be scratching your head in the beginning. In one playthrough, I had 79 videos played out of 588 and no character lore videos were unlocked.
The goal of placing each painting in the right spot can be cryptic at points with no context provided. Some of the paintings make little sense with their titles at first. When you do manage to figure out the right positioning, however, it’s quite clear as a white button appears from the woodwork. A rush fills your mind when you do finally solve the association. This white button can then be pressed for some commentary on the piece, now with the context you needed earlier.
Multiple playthroughs offer new content, but…
When you begin a new playthrough, the layout of the art gallery will change. New puzzles emerge, different paintings show up, and additional words are found. Like D’Avekki’s other games, a new murder culprit is selected for the crime.
Multiple playthroughs are encouraged for Murderous Muses. This format, however, is a little flawed. A lot of the same paintings appear, and over and over again, you’ll need to place them in the right locations. For the first time, it’s enjoyable as you get drippings of lore from your efforts, but after a few playthroughs, this process will get repetitive.
That’s also the case with a lot of the videos that play with word association. There is a list of words you need each painting to interact with in order to proceed to the next area. For example, three of the words for the character Otto may be Passion, Home, and Criminal. It’s engaging to learn more backstory about each murder suspect, but with multiple playthroughs, you’ll need to see (and skip) the videos you see over and over again.
Something you should keep in mind is that once you’ve completed a list, you should click on the sign below the picture. It will play a video with the police interviewing their suspect, and there’s a neat callback to a past title The Shapeshifting Detective. These videos are easily skippable, so hopefully, this can improve.
Flawed but fun
The format is flawed to an extent, but there is a lot of content to find within Murderous Muses, and learning who did it can be entertaining. You must decide who you think killed the artist. Then, a series of cutscenes play to determine if you’ve succeeded. Murderous Muses is an entertaining FMV that does have its faults. The environment, exploration, and worldbuilding are fascinating, but the overall gameplay can be repetitive with multiple playthroughs. The story can be confusing to follow as well. It’s possible the game’s expanding narrative depends on you playing the game multiple times, however.
Murderous Muses is scheduled to release on April 12 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. What is here stands an FMV game with intrigue, engaging puzzles, and daring storytelling tools. It just comes across as jarring during your first playthrough, with cryptic motives and hard-to-follow narrative beats. Hopefully, some of the game’s faults can be smoothed over by its launch.