Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny
First posted on 25 April 2010. Last updated on 30 August 2013.
This game is part of the Ultimate Crime Thriller Collection re-released in 2010 by City Interactive.
Ultimate Crime Thriller Collection
The compilation includes 3 games in the Ultimate Crime Thriller Collection series previously released separately in 2008-2010:
- Art of Murder: FBI Confidential
- Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer
- Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny
City Interactive's Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny is a game whose flaws are not obvious at first glance. The setup is clichéd but workable: an FBI agent named Nicole Bonnet is after a wily serial killer (a questionable and perhaps apposite translation refers to him as a "series killer"), who leaves playing cards on the body of his victims. During the investigation, Nicole travels to a variety of rich locales, from the swamps and bayous of Louisiana to a snow-covered town in Maine, in search of this killer dubbed as the "Card Man". All the while, she must deal with a difficult relationship with her new partner, an overbearing veteran cop who thinks little of Nicole. Much like Art of Murder: FBI Confidential and Art of Murder: Art of Murder: Hunt for the Puppeteer (previous games in the series), Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny boasts superb graphics in almost every scene. Unfortunately, this sequel is ruined by awful voice acting, poor (often laughable) translation, and incoherent puzzles, all of which will probably have you turning away from the game in frustration.
The game's story seems straightforward, but there are plenty of surprises in store for even observant and experienced gamers. The killer's identity is fairly obvious early on, though this does little to spoil many key details that are revealed later. For reasons never fully explained, the killer is intrigued (perhaps obsessed) with Nicole, and he gives her plenty of opportunities to arrive on the scene just as a murder is under way. Nicole's partner, Dick Parry, provides plenty of tension to the drama by repeatedly trying to wrest control of the case from Nicole. Eventually, a nuanced conspiracy unfolds that involves a top secret government project, a bribed jury, and an insane megalomaniac.
An immediate problem with this game is that none of the characters are really likeable or endearing, including the victims, who are all just strangers. There is no connection to any of the characters, including Nicole, who seems more like an android without an emotion chip than an impassioned pursuer of justice. The villains are only slightly more interesting. The awful translation and voice acting work to aggravate these already serious flaws. In fact, it is easy to imagine a third-rate hack of a script having more original storyline and drama among the characters than the script for this game.
The "Card Man" relies on complex machinery to kill his victims—a setup that easily lends itself to some good puzzles. Even better, several puzzles are thematically integrated into the locales. For example, a puzzle in the bayou has Nicole leaping from post to post in an alligator infested swamp. The puzzles range from the typical "find object, use object" sort to standard logic teasers such as adjusting a sequence of lasers to fit a specified pattern. Unfortunately, many of these puzzles are so lacking in imagination as to feel more like tedium than fun. For example, Nicole must make copies, enter items into a database, and prepare items for a scanner. Somehow, the developer seems to think that the player will enjoy doing these tasks, though they are exactly as fun as they sound. There is even a computer that forces the player to wait patiently as it loads! Other puzzles rely on boring trial and error, such as trying every possible combination of items in a database. Even puzzle sequences that have the potential to be fun, such as operating a crane, are too straightforward to be satisfying. The game has a built-in hint button that will display question marks over all exits and hotspots, and Nicole will occasionally mutter aloud what she needs to do next as a hint. Even with this help, though, most players will find it difficult to complete all the puzzles in the game without a walkthrough (which, incidentally, is included on the game disc).
An example of these bad puzzles is a scribbled note that has to be folded a certain way. The game provides no clear hints on how this needs to be done, and the player cannot advance until the puzzle is solved. Moreover, at many points in the game, it seems as though Nicole inexplicably has more information than the player, yet she refuses to give any hints. The game also violates the principle of good puzzle designs by requiring the protagonist to die in order for the player to discover clues that are vital to the puzzles (so-called "resurrection" fallacy). The worst offender is the post hopping puzzle in the swamp. Since there are no clues about which posts are safe to jump on, the player must save, die, and reload repeatedly to find the right path.
The English translation and voice acting in this game are terrible. It sounds as though the actors have just been given snippets of the script to read, with no clue whatsoever of their context. Nicole sounds like a telemarketer, accenting every word equally and rarely breaking out of a precise monotone. Aaron, an African American from southern Louisiana, shifts randomly from corny Irish to Jamaican accents. Even worse, many dialog lines are unnecessarily repeated over and over (such as Nicole saying, "I don't think so!"), delaying the action and adding extra tedium to the already boring and monotonic gameplay.
Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny is a game that is difficult to recommend. The game has some redeeming qualities, such as the marvelous graphics and moody music. Yet, none of these can compensate for the game's lackluster gameplay, shallow writing, and poor acting. As it stands, it is more likely that you will have much more fun playing with a standard deck of playing cards than playing this game.