I wanted to play Christopher Huang's games from the Peterkin Investigates series ever since becoming acquainted with his short stories — a delightful trio that skillfully brings classic detective fiction of the Agatha Christie persuasion into the 21st century. My interest was compounded because, you see, these games are meant for beginners, and as such rely on a restricted command set (did I mention it's interactive fiction?) — a topic I've given quite a bit of thought to, earlier this year. The author was even kind enough to provide me with my own copies: playing them in a web browser is rather too slow on this elderly computer. And yet it took me a shamefully long amount of time to actually play them. But I did, at last, and so should you.
The first game in the series is called Mustard, Music and Murder; I played it while tired and perhaps a bit distracted, so take the following with a grain of salt. Right away I appreciated the tight design, and clear goals. But I found the map hard to visualize for some reason, the characters bland and the situation a murky mess. I failed to learn much at all, and was still baffled when the inspector arrived much too soon, which caused me to give up.
Now, the second game, titled Point Blank Blank, is another thing entirely: a much nicer setting, with a colorful cast of well-rounded characters, most of whom have a lot to say; the map is easy to navigate and even has a location you have to unlock — twice. The chalkboard proved an invaluable tool, even a bit overwhelming after a while, and I'm proud to report having figured out the murderer before the game spelled it out for me. (Without spoiling too much, pay attention to what the last two suspects have to say about their prospective future.) It's also of a satisfying length for a change, if still on the short side.
In the mean time the author has published a third game in the series, that I'm now looking forward to. Mr. Huang has proven equally adept at playing the deduction game with the reader in both static and interactive fiction, and my interest in this kind of story is, as it turns out, undiminished. So give these games a chance if you were ever a fan of the genre; they certainly deserve it.