A DEATH IN THE RED LIGHT • MYSTERY CITY GAMES • Online Puzzle Game Review
◣ GAME FACTS
🎮 Game: A Death In The Red Light
💪 Difficulty: N/A
⏲️ Time: 120 Minutes
🧑 Capacity: N/A
🏢 Company: Mystery City Games
🏘️ Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
◣ FORMAT SPECS
🕹️ Format: Online Puzzle Game
💻 Platform: PDF Reader, Web Browser
📰 Media Used: Text, Images
◣ "TL;DR!" BRIEFS
😺 THE GOOD: Amazing graphics! An engaging narrative incorporating accurate historical facts that is not boring, and in fact, quite amusing, especially for its candid and comical look at the adult industry in Amsterdam. And one killer jazz music playlist.
🙀 THE NOT SO GOOD: Several puzzles belong in the same category of "logic deduction", which isn't a fault on its own, but may become repetitive, or frustrate players that are not good at that certain type of games. Certain rules or instructions could be more explicitly stated to avoid confusion.
🤝 BEST FIT FOR: If you enjoy unraveling murder mystery, solving crime cases, and that general sort of thing, this is a special one to try. Especially if you go in without knowing anything about the game, the conclusion is remarkable. Do take note that this game contains references to murder, violence, drug use, and prostitution, so it may not be an ideal game for younger audience. Most easily enjoyed by 1 or 2 players in front of the same PC.
► A ROUND OF APPLAUSE! ◄
solved an *actual* "murder mystery" took place in the 1980s!
🏆 "A DEATH IN THE RED LIGHT" OFFICIALLY JOINS THE "MUST DO!" RANK! 🏆
Amsterdam, 1988. The city smells of sex and drugs. A detective walks the streets, with whiskey on his breath and a gun by his side. Another night, another dead body bathed in the red light. Follow the clues, chase the leads, and connect the dots to solve the case before the trail goes cold...
• • • • •
◣ THE REVIEW
LOOKING SHARP, DETECTIVE
When I was first fiddling with "A Death In The Red Light" after downloading the game PDF file off the website, it became super apparent that the visual aspect of this game would easily knock out most, if not all, of all its competitors. (Not to mention the cheap price tag!)
Both the website and the PDF graphics were consistent in color, theming, and style. Embodying an obvious Hollywood crime drama black & white films from the 1940s influence, the colors mostly remained monochromatic, interspersed with different shades of red as main accents (as in "Red Light District"). Even after many browsing, it was pleasing to the eyes.
Photos were cleverly edited to resemble individual grids of printed comic book media. This unique approach of comic panel motif not only looked neat, but also made sense in coming the closest for maintaining its retro noir vibe without actually employing film.
AN AUTHENTIC STORY
To be honest, I wasn't familiar with Mystery City Games and did not know of its MO. I merely walked in thinking I would solve a run of the mill murder mystery as the lead detective, bringing to light who died, how they died, and at whose hands.
And it did start that way. A stiff, dead body outlined by chalk on a bloodied street, a short list of evidence items lying nearby, a whodunit mystery scenario all too familiar to a trained puzzler's mind, nothing really out of the ordinary.
As evidence, witness, and testimony led me further down the path of truth, the story was enriched with details that I thought more detailed and specific than usual. My virtual running all over town gradually had me more invested and immersed.
It was until the very last moment that I had the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle to complete the entire picture, and the outcome wasn't quite what I anticipated. With one last "twist" (best to find out on your own), I was sold. What an epic adventure, so much more than at first glance.
A FUNNY STORY, TOO
The adult subjects and humor scattered throughout also made this exceptional. As Mystery City explained, "[A Death In The Red Light] takes place in Amsterdam in the late 80s. The city was a lot scarier and grimier back then." A detective manning this city would behave correspondingly.
When the story introduced its protagonist through the slightly debasing memo from his superior, openly referencing his excessive drinking, I appreciated both the pseudo-realism and absurd humor it set forth for the rest of the game.
When it came time to investigate the multiple sex theaters in town, (nope, not just the one), the game REALLY went there. Privates were hidden in shadows, and a leg was up in the air. (Relax, no actual body parts were ever explicitly revealed.) The performance were descriptively captioned, and illustrations ever so cheekily invoked my imagination to fill in the gaps.
I snickered at the ridiculous yet possibly historically accurate sight. And I slowly came to terms that I may never think of fruits and giraffes ever the same again. Indeed, an eye (and/or other orifice) opening experience. Looking back, I should've known--this was Amsterdam, after all.
THE PUZZLES, AKA CASE FILES
The decision to (almost) completely ditch an online interface gave the company an innovative, standalone format (PDF) to achieve a smooth running hybrid of escape room game, murder mystery, and "choose your adventure" story. No bandwidth concern here!
The adventure flat out opened with the entire city accessible from the get go. It looked overwhelming at first, but by taking it piece by piece, everything fell into place.
The puzzles began innocently enough. Low level of difficulty, it took me no time at all to fly through. Two-thirds of the way in, however, I started to falter... Time to use a friend/hint!
Although the game contained a good amount of puzzles, there was a tendency for these challenges to converge in the "logic deduction" sub-genre area. You'll need to put things in order, figure out who's telling the truth, eliminate suspects, and the likes. Most riddles might not appear very "escape room" like, but they were adeptly written and executed.
One thing that did slightly irk me was when things got stuck, it was due to my not having enough information to move forward, though it wasn't always made clear that was the case. So theoretically, I could end up failing to solve, not knowing why, frustrated; or I could get lucky, solve it somehow, move on, and miss out on certain contents. Neither is ideal.
BONUS FOR YOUR EARS
Worth mentioning was that a Spotify playlist to set the mood, and a self start timer to track the time, were both included, optional features.
In particular, the song list showcased soothing jazz numbers performed by industry legends like Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. Their music readily transforms your home into a comfortable jazz lounge where pajamas are permitted.
Bathe in the melodies of film noir (literally in your bath robe even) while you chase down the killer. Who knows, maybe somewhere hidden in those notes will even inspire an unlikely clue?
a little footnote
On the official game webpage, at the bottom lies the message, "All our games are historically accurate. We love making games that tell stories, that teach us about our surroundings and our past. We hope you enjoy playing our games as much as we enjoy making them!"
That I did, Mystery City, that I did.
And so sneaky of you to fool me into learning some Amsterdam history, a school subject that I am normally not a fan of... if only all history classes were this fun.
• • • • •
◣ PARTING TIPS
★ Keep a clear check list--especially places to visit--and make sure to visit ALL of them.
★ Certain puzzles may benefit from using the first hint to clarify puzzle rules/instructions.
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⤻ Though game access was complimentary, this article was written basing on unbiased and genuine opinions.
⤻ All media credited to and used with permission from contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ A Death In The Red Light • "MCRedLight"