When you think of Square-Enix, your mind would probably conjure up thoughts of Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts, maybe for older gamers who remember Squaresoft, you’ll even think of Chrono Trigger or maybe even Parasite Eve. Most of these games are sold as role playing games, and it’s the genre where Square-Enix has really dominated over the past twenty-five years. It came as a bit of a surprise then, when I saw a paranormal detective game being released by the RPG titans in the form of Murdered: Soul Suspect.
You begin the game as the bad-ass detective Ronan O’Connor as he chases down a suspect believed to be involved in a recent spate of murders across the city of Salem. Unfortunately for Ronan, his brash nature causes his immediate downfall, as, just as you were getting used to him being alive, he’s murdered. Instead of just being plain ol’ dead, you’re thrust into a world in between life and death, a purgatory of sorts, named Dusk. Similarly to the movie Ghost Town (a moderately funny film starring Ricky Gervais), Dusk is a realm where people who have unfinished business with the real world go once they die. The game plays not too differently to a point and click adventure, just without the pointing and clicking. You move around as you would in a standard game, with either WASD or the D-Pad and interact with things by moving near them and clicking the relevant button. There are some cool little interactions you can have with people, because even if you can’t talk to them, you can possess them and guide them towards giving you the information you require. Sometimes, there’s even a need to possess cats in order to progress through the Dusk. While they’re not quite as forthcoming with information as humans are, they’re certainly useful if, like me, you enjoy gathering every bit of information possible from a game on your way to full completion, as some of the many collectables you come across in the game are often found tucked away in tricky to reach locations. You’re even able to act as a poltergeist on certain objects and have them malfunction or create enough of a distraction for you to get beyond any lurking enemies.
Making your way through the eerie Dusk is something to really enjoy. For most of the game, there’s no real urgency to it, so you never feel too pressured to advance, letting you wander around and find every secret the world has to offer you. The new ethereal plane has many, many different collectables, and at no point do they become boring to find. They have all been expertly hidden away, giving you plenty to distract yourself if you ever find yourself at a particularly tricky part of the story. There is more to Salem than just the town centre, which acts as the hub of the game. There are various different areas to explore, each of which are creepy to begin with, but wandering through a disused wing of an asylum, with dozens of ghouls patrolling around, ready to reap your soul, will keep you on the edge of your seat.
It’s not just the environment that will keep your attention, the game has also got a small population of both humans and ghosts to interact with. Most of the humans in the game you can possess, even if they aren’t connected to the plot at all, you’re still able to listen into their thoughts and feelings, which can be particularly funny when you find two people who are on a date! Not everyone in the game is alive though, and there are a dozen or so ghosts around the town dating back as far as the witch trials. Most of these are helping hands in the game, but some also provide you with some fairly fun side quests to complete, which mostly surround helping the deceased come to terms with their untimely end. Not every ghost is quite as scared, and there are a few around that will be able to tell you a bit more about your surroundings and help you settle in to your new role as a ghostly cop.
There are more malevolent creatures in the game, designed to horrify you and bring about your characters demise, but on the whole these are somewhat disappointing. The way they move and sound, especially when they let out a terrifying shriek after seeing you, can be a little scary, but the ease of which they are dispatched makes them much less of a threat. As long as you remain behind the ghoul and don’t get seen by it, you’ll be able to dispose of it. In most cases, this won’t even be required. It’s surprisingly simple to just bypass a ghoul simply by walking into a different room and waiting until its back is turned.
Length of gameplay is never normally an issue for Square-Enix, and perhaps it may be due to them being just publishers of Airtight Games’ creation rather than having a hand in the development, but Murdered: Soul Suspect doesn’t take long to complete. I spent a little over nine hours in the game and ended up with the large majority of the game completed. If I was only doing the main story and avoided all the collectables, I would’ve probably been able to see the game off in four or five hours. It’s a minor detraction from a relatively fun experience, but it never felt abrupt. The story flowed perfectly and you nothing stopped and gave me the impression that they had rushed any particular part of the game.
Murdered: Soul Suspect won’t ever hit the heights of Square-Enix’s more famous franchises, but Airtight Games have created an enjoyable and, at times, fairly disturbing game. It’s evident while playing that a significant amount of effort went into making the game feel like a real horror movie. There are some excellent cut scenes to supplement the eerie surroundings, and the story is of the highest quality. It is fairly disappointing to have it end so quickly, but it never feels forced and you’ll thoroughly enjoy playing through it. The most unfortunate thing is that Airtight went out of business shortly after the game released, so there won’t be any games in the same vein, which is a real blow because they created a real gem.