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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Murder by Numbers: The Nintendo Indie World Standout

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I learned a new word today! And (re-)learned about a new game!

Today Nintendo did one of their rebranded Nindies Directs, called Indie World. You can watch it for twenty minutes here or skim the press release in two minutes here.

A lot of what's in there really should make you doubt that indie developers are supposed to be a bastion of innovation, with games like Gleamlight that's very similar to Hollow Knight (brought to you by some of the same developers of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which is similar to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). 

Then there's the subject of tonight's article, Murder by Numbers. This is developed by Mediatonic, with characters designed by manga artist Hato Moa (known for the game Hatoful Boyfriend) and with music composed by Masakazu Sugimori (of the first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Ghost Trick—which are KoopaTV darlings). And the trailer and official game page makes this quite known as a selling point:

You might notice that the announcement trailer has been around for two months now. That's because Murder by Numbers is coming out on both Steam and Nintendo Switch, and Mediatonic had other things to do than wait for the next Indie World to announce the game, releasing early 2020. KoopaTV fan Samantha Lienhard even wrote about Murder by Numbers on her website, announcing her interest due to the team behind it.

The woman is named Honor Mizrahi. The robot is named SCOUT. They're off to be a much better detective duo than Detective Pikachu and Tim. She's accused of murdering her boss and has to clear her name.

Now, the game's title is around its core gameplay mechanic, variously called “nonogram”, “paint by numbers”, or on this site, “Picross”, a game mechanic I have a very negative opinion of. Instead of finding evidence by pixel-hunting during an investigation, you solve nonograms (which end up as a picture) denoted by numbers on the left/top to leave cells as filled in or left alone. Confusingly, Nintendo's game page calls these “pixel puzzles”, which, again, isn't the Ace Attorney pixel-based investigation gameplay.

Murder by Numbers nonogram picross strangulation marks evidence
It's possible strangulation marks are more interesting than unicorns.
But I'm not sure if that'll make nonograms actually fun.

Also things similar to Ace Attorney is that it's in Los Angeles (but in 1996), and there's a character named Dick.

Sort of speaking of which, the game's Twitter account is trying to promote the game because it has “a strong lead #LGBT character” which may or may not be Honor. The developers are “super excited” about it. I'm pretty sure I don't mind it, since this is a new intellectual property. It's one thing to have a problem with developers being pressured into retroactively making existing characters gay, but there's no issue with this if it's written well (read: not preachy or feels forced). I mean, it's in Los Angeles, too, so I think the lead character being an L, G, B, or T is statistically more likely in that setting. Makes sense to me!

Picross doesn't make sense to me, though. I'm sure the game will explain it, and maybe it's a lot more fun to play than it is to watch. In any case, Murder by Numbers may have to do since there isn't a new Ace Attorney game anytime soon. Just old ones in French

Ludwig asked Nintendo superhero John Numbers for comment if he was a murderer, and Mr. Numbers stated that he didn't see the word “by” in the game's title and he took the game as a death threat as opposed to him being the killer. One will have to play the game when it releases early 2020 to find out! If it wasn't clear, the new word Ludwig learned was “nonogram.” Not to be confused with the Zero Escape nonary-based games.

Coming (likely sooner) than Murder by Numbers to Nintendo Switch is Aviary Attorney, though this game isn't new to the world.
Ludwig decided against buying Murder by Numbers, even while it's on sale, because the Picross is quite prevalent.
After playing a Picross game, Ludwig has changed his mind, and realised that he really enjoys Picross and he wants to buy Murder by Numbers.

Ludwig bought Murder by Numbers.
Ludwig then wrote a full review of Murder by Numbers!


  1. I knew that soon as Ace Attorney was mentioned that you were going to write about this game. I wish that the gameplay consisted of more than just nonograms, but I still find the concept interesting enough to see how the story unfolds. I would have to say that this game and Liberated were favorite reveals of the Direct, the latter being because of its artstyle and its theme of how giving government full control all in the name of safety leads to fake news and an invasion of privacy.

    1. I'd prefer to be considered unpredictable.

      Perhaps the menu-based dialogue trees are highly pleasing and the nonograms are more far between.

      Liberated might have some potential, too!

  2. "A lot of what's in there really should make you doubt that indie developers are supposed to be a bastion of innovation"

    I personally see indie games as a way to make mimic games of games that were long abandoned by the company. See Wargroove for Advance Wars which was abandoned by Intelligent Systems.

    1. Or for another example, FAST Racing NEO on the Wii U, commonly compared to F-Zero.


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