Congratulations for surviving another busy week! Now you can take a moment to unwind and check out the latest scoop on my blog. I recently interviewed a couple mystery writers and it gave me another idea. Most people are familiar with mystery novels, films, and television series. Occasionally, the genre infiltrates video games as well. I really like the mystery genre because creators can use familiar concepts to make something unpredictable and interesting. The genre is also very influential to steampunk. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular and famous mystery characters. I played a game on my Xbox One titled Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. It's completely different than the typical shooter, RPG, and beat'em up games. I'm going to break down the game's pros and cons. Whether you're a gamer or bookworm, this post should be worth the read.
The premise is very simple. You play as Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson. The game takes place during the late 19th century in various locations that center around London. You have to solve a handful of murders and mysteries by finding clues. It might not sound challenging, but many of the clues are quite tricky to find. Sometimes, you'll follow a false positive lead and then it will head to a dead end. At that point, you'll need to backtrack and find more clues. If you want an exciting action game with a lot of bloody violence, Crimes and Punishments will seem very disappointing. This game is more about exploration, problem solving, story telling, character backgrounds, puzzles, and deductive reasoning. Let's take a look at this game's positive elements.
I thought Sherlock Holmes was a really nice break from my usual gameplay. Games like Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, Resident Evil, Dishonored, and Fallout are awesome. But changing the pace can be refreshing. The gameplay is laid back and doesn't rely on a timer. You can take the time to explore each crime scene and environment to find valuable information. Gathering clues and items helps you uncover vital parts of the story. I thought it was fun to interrogate suspects at the police station. They'll say different things, depending on the questions you'll ask. Figuring out if they're telling the truth is entirely up to you. Once in a while, you'll have a chance to examine bodies in the morgue and it's a unique way to find clues. I thought it was fun to explore the various crime scenes. You can pick up all kinds of objects and notes along the way. It's also a cool way to see how much detail goes into the 19th century environment. The game doesn't have very much combat, but that doesn't mean you can't destroy things. You can smash objects, cut material with knives, set items on fire, and blow up barricades with dynamite.
I thought the game makers portrayed Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson quite accurately. Holmes is very intelligent and perceptive with a blunt approach to everything. He's very tall, thin, and angular. I'm sure some people would prefer a more attractive version of Holmes, but this one is more accurate to Arthur Conan Doyle's literature. Holmes was portrayed as a master of disguise in the book series and that element was incorporated in the game. He's very arrogant and peculiar instead of a gentleman charmer. I was glad the game makers actually understood the source material.
Regarding the gameplay again, you can make Holmes run from one location to another without getting tired. That part is good because it speeds up the gameplay. If memory serves me correctly, there's an arrow or a way to obtain hints if you feel lost. The environment is pretty big, so an arrow on the upper screen will help you navigate across the terrain. I thought some of the puzzles were challenging in a fun way. It takes a little bit of effort to uncover hidden messages, unusual objects, and secret passages. The controls are simple and easy to remember.
Each case can have multiple endings. Technically, only one choice will be the correct and it will affect your evaluation at the end. You'll get a higher rating for busting the correct suspect at the end of each case. It's also possible for you to grant the murderer or criminal mercy. Are you going to condemn the culprits to prison or give them leniency? A murderer should be punished. However, the murder could have been self-defense or a last resort. Maybe the victim was a blackmailer, con artist, or abusive husband. You have the power to decide what will happen in the end.
As you gather clues, Holmes will document them in his notebook. Those details are very helpful throughout the investigation. It definitely helped me narrow down the suspects. Basically, you can't die in this game. You just need to be persistent enough to finish each case. I appreciate that part in a mystery game. Wouldn't it be frustrating if you died in the middle of a case and had to start over?
I definitely have some complaints about this game. There is very little variation from one case to another. You'll see different characters and locations, but the gameplay never changes. After a while, it gets stale. You'll probably get tired wandering around the crime scenes, picking up clues, solving puzzles, and interrogating suspects. Boredom can be a problem after you finish a couple cases.
It's really hard to narrow down the right suspect. Finding the right suspect means stretching out the gameplay and it requires a lot of patience. Sometimes I settled for the wrong person to end the case sooner. Does it matter if you pick the wrong person? Not really. You can still complete the entire game and get a decent rating without condemning the correct suspect. I also have some issues with granting mercy to the murderer. Some of the murders are somewhat understandable, but that isn't the way justice works. You can give mercy to every criminal in the game and I find that part kind of weird.
After a while, you'll notice formulas. If you follow certain patterns, it will be easy to reach the end. The game is overly predictable at times. However, it's really easy to get lost in the environment. There's a guide to help the player, but I still wandered aimlessly for long periods of time before finding the right clues in a few sections. The game also lacks replay value. After I finished the game, it didn't seem necessary to play again.
Overall, I would only recommend this game for people who enjoy mysteries or gamers who want to take a break from their usual genres. It gets boring and redundant sometimes, which is not a good thing. I might also recommend this game for steampunk fans because of the time period and experiments. If you want to have a more laid back experience for a while, give this game a shot.
That concludes my review for Crimes and Punishments. Next week, I might have a double feature review for Alien: Covenant and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Be safe and have a good week.
Mystery Interview: Paul D. Marks
Q: Thanks for visiting my blog again! Our guest is another talented and interesting mystery author. Let’s give a warm welcome to Paul D. Marks. He won the Shamus Award in 2013 and specializes in crime thrillers. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a literary panel and luncheon. Thanks for joining us, Paul.
A: Thanks for having me, Stephanie.
Q: Why did you become a mystery author?
A: I write crime fiction so I can kill people...on the page that I can't kill in real life...........
Q: Did you start as a self-published author or did a traditional publisher pick up your work right away?
A: I’ve done both and both have pluses and minuses to them.
Q: The Shamus Award is quite prestigious for a mystery author. Did you feel confident that you were going to win?
A: Hardly. I was hopeful, of course, but not confident. Nonetheless, my wife and I packed our bags to go to Albany where Bouchercon was that year as the Shamus Awards are always at the same time and place as Bouchercon. And we went to the convention too. But when I learned of the nomination, I told my wife, “Albany – who wants to go to Albany?” But we took an extra day or two to sightsee and we both really enjoyed it and got to discover a city we probably otherwise would never have visited. And winning the Shamus certainly didn’t hurt our moods and our reaction to Albany.
Q: It seems like several of your stories take place in Los Angeles. Is there a particular reason why the City of Angels intrigues you?
A: Oh, boy, do you want the long or short answer? Because I could go on forever about this, but I’ll give you the short one: I love writing about L.A. I’m a native of Los Angeles, born and raised here and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the City. I’ve seen it go from a spread out small town to a big, cosmopolitan city and I love its history. It’s the place at the end of the map where people come to start over or fade away. You can’t go any further west, you either sink or swim in L.A.
Q: I imagine your books need to be realistic. It’s a different situation for a science fiction author like me. Is it difficult to maintain believable realism in your work?
A: Well, as you know from your own work, you can create any “world” that you want to as long as you remain true to that world. So if you create a science fiction world that bears little or no resemblance to the world we know people will buy it if you set the foundation and don’t defy the rules that you’ve set up. The same is true for writing crime fiction. My stories are set in the world we know, but it’s a hyper-real version of that world, at least for most of us. So in terms of maintaining realism in that world I think it’s what I said, the characters have to be true to themselves and if they change you have to show it and why. They can’t defy the laws of physics, so to speak, that you set up for them and don’t throw in a deus ex machina to resolve everything at the end, which is like pulling rabbits from a hat.
Q: Your books have a significant emphasis on noir. Why does the noir subgenre appeal to you?
A: I think noir is a modern-day version of the fall from grace. To me, noir is somebody basically tripping over their own faults: somebody who has an Achilles heel, some kind of greed, or want, or desire that leads them down a dark path. I think we can all relate to that. We’ve all made mistakes and tried to do the right thing. But I also like the ambiguity of noir. Things are never black and white. You never know who is really the good guy and the bad guy.
Q: In my opinion, most protagonists in noir stories seem grizzled, tough, cynical, and the poster child for damaged goods. However, they’re still redeemable. Would you say this stereotype is true for your protagonists?
A: Well, some are and some aren’t redeemable. And in classic film noir about the only redemption is death. But my characters are very much like I describe in the previous question. They’ve fallen into the gutter, but ultimately some of them do have something redeemable. And I think we all want to root for that person. My PI character in White Heat, Duke Rogers, screws up a case and an innocent person ends up dead, that’s his Achilles heel, he’s a screw-up. But he tries to make things right by going after the killer, that’s the redeemable part.
Q: A great mystery author needs to keep their readers guessing until the end. How do you make sure the general plot and ending doesn’t become predictable?
A: I try not to give into stereotypes and clichés, but I also want my endings to grow naturally out of the plot. I hate when people pull rabbits out of hats in books and movies. I like it when things happen that you didn’t anticipate, but when you go back you see the clues and have that “aha” moment when it all makes sense.
Q: You write a lot of crime thrillers. I definitely love books that have plenty of action. Bloody violence doesn’t frighten me away either. How much action and violence should we expect from your books?
A: I’d say that depends on the book or the story. Some of my stuff is pretty violent. In one story a dog gets killed and, believe me, I heard about that from a lot of people. But I think it grew out of the plot, and that’s what violence or anything requires – to grow organically from the plot and characters and not be gratuitous. But I also write stories that are more mainstream mystery and have less violence and some that are more humorous or satirical. So as to how much to expect, I’d say it depends on the book or story and maybe that’s not good because people who read something of mine that wasn’t very violent could pick up something else that is and not be expecting it, but that’s a chance I have to take.
Q: Some mystery authors conduct a lot field work for their research. Does this method of research apply to you?
A: Research is my Achilles heel. I like doing it too much and spend too much time on it when I should be doing actual writing. And I have done field research. Once, while working on a screenplay set in New Orleans I just had to go and check it out first hand. I mean, after all, I didn’t want to wrongly describe the taste of a beignet now did I? And very recently, between the time of this interview and the time you publish it I will have gone to New York City. I’m going there for a couple of reasons, but one is to do research, as a novel I’m writing is set there. As far as LA goes, well you just sort of learn that by osmosis from living here forever.
Q: My books have a heavy dystopian element. Do any of your books have dystopian settings?
A: I’m not sure anyone would agree with me, but I think noir is dystopian, at least in the larger sense. If this definition from Dictionary.com applies, “a society characterized by human misery, squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding,” I’d say noir fits most of those to a T or is that a D, for dystopian. White Heat takes place during the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, what could be more dystopian than that?
Q: What are you plans for the remainder of 2017?
A: I’ve got several projects I’m working on. And I think I’m about to ink a deal for Broken Windows, the sequel to White Heat. That’s been a long and winding road of close encounters of the bad kind. I’m also working on another “Bunker Hill” story and I have another novel set during World War II in Los Angeles that I’m shopping around right now. Always working on something.
Q: That was a really cool interview. I’m glad you took the time to answer my questions. Your books sound very interesting and I’m sure your fans will enjoy this blog post. I wish the best for your career and book sales. Keep your ambitions high!
A: Thanks for having me, Stephanie. And good luck with your writing too!
That's the end of another interview. I thought it was fun to venture into the realm of mystery again. There are more things wroth mentioning about Paul. One of his books titled Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted number one in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. Howling at the Moon was shortlisted for both the Anthony and Macavity Awards in 2015. He has quite a few accomplishments. I believe his work is definitely worth the read. Paul's books are thrilling, intriguing, and very characteristic of the gritty noir style. Here are a few links pertaining to Paul.
-Official Website: www.PaulDMarks.com
That's a wrap for tonight. Please leave comments if you want to say anything about this interview. Stay tuned for next week's blog post. I'll write another interesting topic to keep you guys entertained. Thanks for visiting and enjoy the rest of your week.
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