Oh, visual novels. One part book, one part video game, and one part something else that no one has ever fully explained. It's usually Japanese companies putting them out, but other companies do as well. So how does an Australian private detective visual novel, Miss Fisher and the Deadly Maze, compare? Well...
Based on the Australian TV show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, you are Phryne Fisher. You're a feminist private investigator who is a snappy dresser and yet also a pilot for some reason. You're in 1920's Melbourne (Australia, not Florida), and you're going after your sisters killer. That's a lot to take in, but over the course, it sets the tone pretty well. The story isn't that bad (there's murders!), and is probably either taken from, or branched off of, the show. Fans would probably get more out of it, but standing alone, it does the job.
Like many Japanese text-games, Deadly Maze relies heavily upon stills or slow fades to show changes in mood, etc. I will say the the art is gorgeous – it's very art deco and period oriented, which is always welcome, with art still showing the 'action. Many scenes look very much painted, and there is limited animation even during times it would be needed (such as when you're inspecting). Still, this can be forgiven for it's dedication to the style of the show, history and crisp art.
I'm not sure you can really call this a game. There are some investigation bits, but most of this boils down to pointing and clicking with a magnifying glass. The other bit is using the gathered evidence to deduce or make judgments via a separate window. It's a bit like LA Noire in that regard. I'm not really a fan of games where 99% of the game is reading, but there's a enough going on here to pay attention.
Controls are easy – it's point and click. Maybe your cursor becomes a magnifying glass or something to do some more pointing and clicking, but otherwise that's all you need to be an investigator in the game. Keep handy to know which keys makes the text speed up – you'll need them.
The music in the game comes directly from the show – 1920's piano and violin mixed with eerie orchestrals. It fits well, as it should, and offers a nice background to what you're doing. Sound isn't much, like notebook scribbles and clicks, but some of the incidental background noise, like a street or a murmuring crowd, do add to several scenes and make it a bit more immersive.
The frame rate in the game is fine. Some of the dissolves are slow in between character art changes, and it seemed like it was loading a few times when it seemed a bit behind the average time, but that was it. No real problems to note. Playing through there were no glitches or bugs I saw.
Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze is an above average detective game, if only for the story, unique setting/period and graphics. It's not that complicated of a game, but still relies on several skills. Some of it you can tell was more for fans, and other parts you could tell were a bit ham-fisted in getting points across. And yes, there's not too much action. But I'd say it's worth a look. Games based on TV shows or movies can be real hit or miss, and this is more of a hit.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.