Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery
First posted on 23 March 2012. Last updated on 16 April 2013.
Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery is the eighth game in the long running Carol Reed Mystery series. Once a short film producer, indie developer Mikael Nyqvist has turned his talents to creating adventure games since founding MDNA Games in 2004 together with his wife Eleen. Based in Norrköping in Sweden, MDNA Games utilizes the local sceneries to great effect in its games. Situated on the mouth of the Motala ström river system which drains into the Baltic Sea, the city provides breathtaking environs as well as many historical landmarks that are prominently featured in the games' backdrops.
Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery is a classic first-person, point-and-click adventure game. You take on the role of Carol Reed, a British born detective now living in Norrköping, Sweden. Investigating an apparent simple discrepancy in an obituary of a friend's grandfather, Carol soon gets entwined in an intriguing and macabre mystery. Full of twists and turns, the mystery even evolves to the extent that Carol is hunted herself. What secret is so great that it must still remain a secret? Who is the mysterious adversary investigating in parallel with Carol?
Installation of the game is straightforward and without any glitches. The menu options are refreshingly simplistic. Options in the Main Menu allow you to control the volumes for Speech, Music, and Effects as well as to enable or disable Subtitles.
The game offers an interactive tutorial that explains how to play the game, including on how to use the inventory, handle objects, and navigate around the environment. If you have played previous games in the series, you may safely skip over this tutorial.
The game begins with Carol just waking up and going to the living room to check her cell phone for messages. There is a message left from Stina, her close friend, who wants a favor done. Not finding Stina at her kiosk, Carol discovers instead a note presumably left by Stina that she has had an accident. On arrival at Stina's home, Carol learns that Stina has fallen off a ladder and has badly sprained her ankle. Stina tells Carol that, while rummaging through her father's belongings, she has found an old obituary from 1999 of her grandfather, Alfons Larson. To Stina, this discovery presents an enigma, as she has always led to believe that his death had occurred many years before. Wanting to correct either a misprint or a misunderstanding, Stina asks Carol for help to investigate the anomaly.
Over the course of the case, Carol will frequent 14 locations of interest around Norrköping, gleaning clues to discover the truth about Alfons and his research. Amber is the smoking gun. Yet, little is known about her. Who is she? Where does she live? How can she be contacted? What is her relationship with Stina's grandfather? Once again, it is up Carol to unravel the mysterious web of deceit. Gradually, Carol learns about Stina's dysfunctional family and its dark and twisted heritage.
Controls for the game are simple but effective. You navigate around by clicking on the right, left, or forward arrows. Once you find a clue to a specific location, that location appears automatically on a map. You can then click on the map to arrive at that location. The game can be played entirely using the mouse only, except for the Esc key that is used to access the Main Menu.
You cannot die (at least unexpectedly) in this game. The game supports up to 100 save slots and does not provide automatic save facility.
I am quite impressed with the game's overall production. The game uses high resolution still photographs to depict the environment. These photographs lend a sense of realism to the places which you visit and the character with which you interact. When conversing with another character, multiple poses of the character are cycled through the conversation, each with different facial expressions, thus giving the effect of movement by the character. Many of the photographs also feature very picturesque landscapes and structures of the local environs. The city of Norrköping is steeped in history. In fact, the hundreds of photographs featured in this game can easily double for a tourism pamphlet to show off what Norrköping has to offer as a tourist destination to visit.
Dialog is kept to a minimum when Carol speaks to her friends and persons of interest. A notepad shows the list of topics which you can ask. Clicking on a topic then triggers a conversation. I like the unique built-in hint system that the game provides. At any time, you can click on the notebook in the inventory to find a list of current tasks on the Objectives page. If you are stuck, you can simply click on the adjacent Hints page to reveal clues to solve the current tasks.
The story is believable, interesting, and immersive. During the investigation, you are often lead to believe that certain characters are responsible for the death of Alfons' wife, only to find out later that they are all false leads. Red herrings are in abundance. It is not until at the end of the game that you will identify the real killer and the real motive behind the killing.
The puzzles are not too difficult, though a couple of them are quite challenging. Knowing when and how to use the cardboard sheet with the cut-outs in it and how to open the blue clock can take plenty of thoughts. All of the puzzles are well integrated into the story. They vary from logic puzzles to matching colors puzzles to code breaking puzzles. You cannot skip any of the puzzles.
The voice acting is generally good. Carol (voiced by Sara Louise Williams) speaks with a natural English accent, whereas other characters speak with more local accents. There are 16 other major characters in this game: 7 active characters with whom you can interact and 9 passive characters whom you do not meet but only read about. The musical score that is played throughout the game is pleasant. It is never too dominant or dramatic but still gives an aura or ambience of mystery which complements the game.
The game takes around 10-15 hours to complete. There are about 59 items to use or to combine to make other items in the inventory. The game is relatively linear, in that you are always prompted to proceed to the next location to investigate for further clues.
In sum, Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery is a very good and enjoyable game to play. If you are a fan of murder mystery, the game will supply enough interest to keep you involved and searching for more clues. Despite the subject matter, the game is family orientated. With MDNA Games releasing a game for this series roughly every year, it appears that there are plenty of mysteries left for Carol to solve.