Imagine this scene if you will: a married couple in the throws of passion is interrupted by a man in a white mask. The man proceeds to drug the couple, chop off their heads, place their heads in their laps, and then place ancient gold coins in their mouths. Grisly, eh? Such is the backdrop for Post Mortem, the latest adventure from French developer Microïds.
In the game you play an ex-detective named Gus MacPherson. You’re currently trying to be an artist, which means you’re broke, and so when Sophia Blake calls on you and asks you to investigate the case, you reluctantly agree. However, as you examine the scene of the crime and track down witnesses, you find that people aren’t being overly truthful to you (especially Sophia Blake) and that no ordinary murderer is on the prowl. Something darker is going on.
The story ends up working pretty well. In fact, Post Mortem is one of the few adventures I’ve played where the story is more interesting than the puzzles. What I just said could be considered a left-handed compliment, since it could simply mean the puzzles are awful, but the puzzles in the game are fine – if not exactly frequent. Post Mortem is a game where you actually investigate a murder. It’s not like some recent adventure mysteries (like, say, Mystery of the Druids or Mystery of the Mummy) where you’re supposedly investigating a crime but really you’re just solving the regular assortment of adventure game puzzles. In Post Mortem you spend a lot of time questioning people, and then every so often you encounter a puzzle.
The puzzles in the game make a lot of sense. For example, the first real puzzle you encounter allows you to make a sketch of a suspect. It’s a nice puzzle because 1) it’s something that needs to be done in a murder investigation anyway, and 2) it underscores the fact that your character is an artist and is capable of doing such things. Unfortunately, the sketch puzzle also illustrates the main problem with the puzzles in the game: they require a lot of trial and error. Even if you read the case file and talk to all the witnesses (and thus get a good description of the suspect) the sketch puzzle takes a while to complete because you have to figure out which eye option means “small and dark” and which hair option means “short and straight” when numerous options fit the descriptions. Plus, some of the clues to later puzzles are less helpful (or less existent) and so Post Mortem’s puzzles are mostly on the difficult side. But, luckily, nothing in the game prevents you from completing it, so you can experiment all you want, and the interface is nice enough that experimenting won’t cause you a headache.
Also nice about Post Mortem is that it’s non-linear. Not only can you visit locations and talk to people in any order you want, your choices also adjust how the game progresses. If you lie to people and tell them you’re a reporter, you might get one set of responses (and puzzles), while if you tell the truth that you’re a private detective, you might get another. Unfortunately, these gameplay differences aren’t huge, and they probably do more to make conversations mesh less well with each other than anything else, but I’m happy that a developer is at least trying such a thing. It’s good to have choices in a game.
As for production values, Post Mortem rates pretty well. The locations have a nice 1920’s noir feel to them, and the 3D characters are some of the best I’ve seen in an adventure game. Plus, there are several top-quality cinematic sequences sprinkled throughout the game, and they do a lot to pull the player into the story. Less good is the voice acting. Post Mortem’s characters usually say their lines well enough, but they’re so low-key and uninvolved that none of them sound believable.
And so, overall, Post Mortem is a nice enough adventure. It has some rough spots here and there, and for some reason my journal stopped working halfway through, but the game also looks good, and it gives you enough options that you might want to try playing it a couple times. Plus, who can resist murders with decapitations and gold coins?