GRAPHICS: Graphically, the game looks fantastic for a downloadable title. Relentless use the same art style from the Buzz! series. The animation is perfect with the voice acting and lip-syncing matching perfectly. The village itself is finely detailed with subtle details such as your typical red post box and even the odd paving stones in the garden.
The game is bright and colourful which is perfect for the younger audience the game is targeted too. Even adults will take pleasure in seeing the fantastic visuals and cartoon-like setting.
SOUND: The voice acting in the game is brilliant, though sometimes a little stereotypical. Although the main playable characters do not speak, the main suspects in the game each have their own distinct accents and dialects, all of which adds a nice English feel to the game. The narration and some of the characters add humor to the game with subtle jokes and the odd arguing-with-the-narrator interchange.
The environments have subtle sound effects to make it feel like a typical English village, with ducks quacking and birds singing in the background and the sound of water flowing through the stream.
GAMEPLAY: Being a family game, you can play cooperatively with up to four players, each of the players can select one of the four detectives to play as. You each take turns in visiting a location in the village and question a suspect or retrieve a clue to your next lead. Correctly solving the puzzle allows you to get the relevant information you need to continue your inquiries. If you play cooperatively with two players, each person answers six questions each. Only one controller is needed as the game uses pass-and-play.
Each episode has 12 puzzles to solve, which can involve logical problems, mathematical questions, anagrams or simply listening to the suspect and following their description or instructions. Each puzzle has a time limit to achieve a gold bow. If you get a puzzle wrong you can try again or give up, but you are penalized for getting the question wrong. If you manage to earn a gold bow in each puzzle, you are rewarded with a gold trophy for your efforts.
The puzzles are separated out with “Case Reviews,” to see if you are paying attention to the story. Each episode has three case reviews consisting of four multiple-choice questions each. Answering all 12 questions correctly unlocks a silver trophy.
After the 12 puzzles and case reviews have been completed, you are presented with a lineup of the remaining four suspects. Each player gets a go at selecting who they believe is guilty of the crime. Correctly identifying the criminal completes the episode and once again another trophy is unlocked. The story is wrapped up with the police confronting the perpetrator and ending the episode in suspense.
LONGEVITY: Each episode takes no more than an hour to complete, but if you are aiming for all gold bows you can get the episode completed much faster. Each puzzle only takes a few minutes to complete but the remaining time is spent on watching the story unfold through cut scenes. After completing each episode there is no real need to play it again unless you missed out on the trophies.
There is no real replay value except for the trophies. Each episode has has 6 trophies to unlock, with the first episode having a total of 7 trophies. There is no leaderboard for best competition times or variations in the story to warrant a replay through the story mode.
There are three game modes in the game: Play the Story, which takes you through the entire story; Puzzle Compendium, where you can replay any of the 12 puzzles in the story mode; and Scene Compendium, which lets you replay any of the cut scenes in the game. The latter two are unlocked once you complete the story mode.
VERDICT: If you are looking for a challenge, Blue Toad Murder Files offers exactly that with a number of logical, mathematical, picture and word based puzzles. Over the 6 episodes, there are 72 different puzzles to solve and the rest if just observation. Although the puzzles can be brain straining, by the end of the episode the identity of the criminal is obvious.
Each episode costs £6.29 from the PlayStation Store, or you can purchase the first two episodes for a special price of £9.99. The third episode is out now and is available to download free for the first month. Compared to other games, the £10 you spend on the game only translates to around 2-3 hours of play, which isn’t a lot. Total this up for all six episodes and you can expect to spend around £30 in total £20 as episode 4-6 will be available to download for £9.99 as a pack, adding up to around 6-8 hours of gameplay. Bargain!
With little replay value in the game and less than 10 hours to gameplay over all episodes, we were a little let down by the game. We did have a great time solving the puzzles and deducing the evidence to identify the perpetrator. As far as other PSN titles go, Blue Toad Murder Files is value for money. We recommend purchasing the first episode to get a feel for the game and take it from there. Episodes 4-6 will be available to purchase from April 8th 2010, all for just £9.99.
OVERALL: 7.5 / 10