James Patterson Women’s Murder Club – A Darker Shade of Grey (as part of the James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Collection) (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)
May 14, 2012 by Dennis Amith
The second game in the “James Patterson Women’s Murder Club” series, “A Darker Shade of Grey” featured an enjoyable and captivating mystery storyline, better graphics over the first game and also some challenging puzzles. But it also takes a few steps back by eliminating the hidden objects gameplay (utilizing lists) of the first game and instead going for something new and different, especially using timed click-based games. Some may love it, some may hate it. For me, “A Darker Shade of Grey” was good, but not great.
VIDEO GAME TITLE: James Patterson Women’s Murder Club – A Darker Shade of Grey (as part of the James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Collection)
YEAR OF INITIAL RELEASE: 2009
VIDEO GAME GENRE: Hidden Objects/Interactive Hidden Objects
MEDIA: PC CD-Rom
MEDIUM REQUIREMENTS: Windows XP, Vista, Pentium 1.0 GHz processor or faster, 256 MB of RAM, 89 MB Hard Drive space, DirectX 9.0, Keyboard, Mouse
RATINGS: T for Teen
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2010
VIDEO GAME HIGHLIGHTS:
Tragedy strikes during a brisk morning jog. Key forensic evidence and an abundance of uncertainty become the key to exposing years of corruption, cover-up and conspiracy. With nothing more than a hunch, the famed heroines of San Francisco’s finest are on the scene. In Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey, a young cadet is found at the bottom of a cliff outside of the Presidio. What deadly secret is a prestigious military academy hiding? It’s up to you and the members of the Women’s Murder Club to travel to South Carolina and investigate a puzzling world of code, honor and corruption.
In 2002, James Patterson released his first “Women’s Murder Club” novel “1st to Die” and since then have created a total of eleven novels.
The novels feature homicide cases and four women who have a group known as “Women’s Murder Club” who work together to solve each murder mystery.
The main protagonist is Inspector Lindsay Boxer who investigates various homicide cases and is aided by her friends Deputy District Attorney Jill Bernhardt (who tries to keep Lindsay within the law and issues the search warrants), Dr. Claire Washburn (who works in the forensics lab) and Cindy Thomas, a journalist at the San Francisco Bee.
In 2008, a ten episode drama series based on the characters aired on ABC and with the popularity of the novels and drama series, hidden objects games were released on the PC/Mac and the Nintendo DS.
For the PC and Mac, a trio of hidden objects games were released: “Death in Scarlet” (2008), “Darker Shade of Grey” (2009) and “Twice in the Blue Moon” (2009) and each were collected in a triple pack titled “James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Collection” in 2010.
Also attracting people to the “Women’s Murder Club” games was the fact that “Gabriel Knight” creator Jane Jensen was involved as a designer and director for the trilogy.
The second game of the series “A Darker Shade of Grey” begins with the four women of the Women’s Murder Club discussing how great there are no homicides in the San Francisco area and perhaps now is the best time to go on vacation. And right about the time when Lindsay is looking forward to that vacation, she receives a call that a teenage boy was found dead.
The teenage boy is a student of Jackson-Moore Academy, a military school in the South.
While the death of the boy looks like an accident due to falling off a cliff, as Lindsay works on her investigation to know more about the identity of the boy, Claire’s forensic evidence points to not accidental death but murder.
When Lindsay brings up the evidence to Lt. Colonel Brad Burns, he immediately wants the military to conduct their own autopsy on the boy named Winston Adams. And sure enough, the autopsy done by the military determines that the boy must have slipped off the cliff during his jog.
But Lindsay and the Women’s Murder Club feel strongly that there may be a cover up and now Lindsay travels to the South in order to conduct her own investigation as evidence is showing that Winston Adam’s death is not an accident, but a homicide.
The “James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Collection” was easy to install and had no problems with installation whatsoever. There is one icon that is installed onto your desktop and when selecting the icon, you have a choice to click either of the three games. You can not install each game separately.
“James Patterson Women’s Murder Club – A Darker Shade of Grey” is a hidden objects game that is much different from “Death in Scarlett”. Whereas “Death in Scarlett” was a hidden objects game with puzzles, “A Darker Shade of Grey” is more puzzles than hidden objects. In fact, there are no lists for the hidden objects like first game “Death in Scarlet”. For “A Darker Shade of Grey”, you literally are finding two dozen pieces of shredded paper or coins or putting things back in place which lead you to puzzles that require you to put pieces back together or quickly using your mouse to click on certain objects before the time is up.
While this does add to the challenge of the game, it doesn’t help those who play on a laptop and use a mouse pointer pad on their laptop. This is one of those games where you want to use a regular mouse connected to your laptop or computer and prepare to click things before the time ends.
Personally, I dislike timed puzzles that require quick clicking because I usually play hidden objects games while in bed. Not sitting on my computer. And so I’m usually using the mouse-based pad on my laptop which is not responsive during quick movements. Especially during one puzzle which required quick clicking during a secret morse code meeting and another which Cindy has to play a duck game (think “concentration”) and find a duck and farmer before an alligator eats the duck. Once again, you have to be quick.
The number of hints accumulate with each puzzle solved and you don’t get penalized for searching too quickly. And for puzzles, you do get an unlimited number of “Solve” buttons.
While the hidden objects and many of the puzzles were easy, Claire’s forensic testing was not like the last game (which was redundant) but this time, I found the bottle organization system so difficult, I lost interest and clicked on solve. And unfortunately, I had to skip many puzzles that were timed as I’m usually playing hidden object games in bed, not on a desk and with a separate, more responsive mouse attached.
I also noticed that this game was wanting more precise button clicks on objects. There were times I was clicking on an object but it never disappeared. When I clicked hint, sure enough it was the object I was clicking on many times before. So, it’s another issue I had with this game is that it required exact positioning and can easily fool gamers that the object they were clicking on was not correct, when it actually was correct.
So, overall…in terms of difficulty, if one is easy, three is average and five is difficult, I give this one about a 3 or 3.5. Because the hidden object challenges that existed in the first game was simplified, and objects were much easier to find, it’s the puzzles that are the most challenging in the game.
For those who are hardcore completionist, the good news is that there is a point system, so for those who want to get a perfect score will need to play everything without using a hint or using the “solve” button during the puzzles.
The graphics for “A Darker Shade of Grey” featured much more detail in the painting of the characters, scenery and rooms. The cut scenes are still done in a comic-book style format with word balloons but instead of all hand-drawn designs with basic coloring, this time they tried to give a balance of both hand drawn and painted figures.
There is also an improvement of music as you do get more musical tracks, from the same guitar rock diddles to the synth suspense music. Music was not obstructive to the overall gameplay, so that’s a positive.
There is replay value for those who want to get a perfect score (via points) in the game and want to try playing without using a hint or using the solve button.
After the first game and complaining about the redundancy but enjoying the storyline, I was hoping that Jane Jensen would improve on gameplay for this second game. But instead, the game not only gets rid of the hidden objects gameplay (ala the list of objects to find), the game is more puzzle-driven and require you to use your mouse and have quick reflexes.
For me, this was one of the first hidden objects games where there was more emphasis on the puzzles and the quick click games. So, for this second game, you can’t casually play this lying on your bed, you need to use the mouse and prepare for timed puzzles that require you to move your mouse cursor and click. While this will be no problem for those who play on their desktop PC and have a good mouse to count on, for those using the built-in mouse pad on their laptop will feel these timed puzzles are not worth the aggravation and some will choose to bypass them.
While I did enjoy the storyline and was happy that they gave this game ending credits, I really didn’t like the changes made to the hidden objects portion of the game, especially puzzles like the forensic lab organization system. Another thing that I disliked is that you are required to watch the cut scenes unlike the first game where one click you’ll bypass the wait for word bubbles. But this time, you have to wait as the timed word bubbles are not quick. In fact, if you do click while reading the cut scenes, it will ask if you want to skip the whole thing. I did not want to skip the storyline, I just didn’t want to wait for each word bubble to come up in a slow pace. I liked how the first game allowed you to click after you read a word bubble and quickly get to the next scene.
While the storyline, graphics, music and some hidden object games and puzzles were a step up, “A Darker Shade of Grey” was also a step-back for some gameplay elements. I was surprised they dumped out so many of those elements (and without spoiling the third game, they did return to the basics and also improved gameplay for the third game, “Twice in a Blue Room”. But it’s unfortunate that the positive things about gameplay in the first game “Death in Scarlet” was removed. The problem for the first game was redundacy (for the forensic lab games) and small, hard to find objects. Those could have been fixed easily in the second but instead, they changed the whole gameplay style and I wasn’t enjoying the puzzles as much.
Granted, there are some fun puzzles such as alluding the guard checking the hallways to using all washer and dryers at once but the timed quick click games that required near precise clicking, and also on hidden objects was another pain to deal with.
Fortunately, the storyline was too good to bypass and it made playing this game worthwhile. I really enjoyed the storyline of this second game over the first. And with the price of the triple pack at under $10, for three games that last quite awhile and are not too easy or too difficult, it’s definitely worth purchasing “the James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Collection” for that low of a price.
Overall, “A Darker Shade of Grey” was a game that featured an enjoyable and addictive mystery storyline but the gameplay that I enjoyed from the first game was left off the second. Sure, “A Darker Shade of Grey” is not a perfect game and has its share of problems but fortunately, you do get enough hints and infinite solve buttons that the game can be completed, for those having difficulty playing the game. It’s definitely a different gameplay style than the first game but there were a good number of improvements in “A Darker Shade of Grey” as well. So, it has its good and bad points. Fortunately, more positives than negatives.
So, if you are wanting to give these “Women’s Murder Club” games a try, I highly recommend purchasing the “James Patterson Women’s Murder Club collection” rather than purchasing these games individually.
For “A Darker Shade of Grey”, I give it a RATING: B-
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