Cold Case Summer: A Carol Reed Mystery
First posted on 19 March 2013. Last updated on 15 May 2014.
Founded in 2004 by husband and wife Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist, MDNA Games is the developer and publisher of the long-running Carol Reed Mystery series. Cold Case Summer: A Carol Reed Mystery is the ninth game in this series. Set in Norrköping, Sweden (where the developer is located), the game makes use of the picturesque city's environs to provide stunning backdrops for the many scenes featured in its story.
Like previous games in the series, this game is a classic first-person point-and-click adventure. You take on the protagonist role of Carol Reed, a British native who now lives in Sweden and works as a private investigator for hire. Having recently been questioned by the local police for the death of a man named Harri Michelsen who has just sought out Carol for a case, Carol decides to investigate and soon discovers that his murder may be tied to the real life assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme years ago. Further sleuthing leads Carol to a suspicious associate named Christer Pettersen. Who is Christer? Who is behind Harri's killing? Only Carol can solve this case, but not before she puts her own life also at risk.
The game installs without any glitches. Selecting Options from the Main Menu allows you to set volumes for Speech, Music, and Effects as well as to enable or disable Subtitles. The game supports a native resolution of 1024x768 pixels only, so letterboxing or pillarboxing will occur if higher resolutions are set.
The game opens with a cut scene detailing the background history in assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister near Malmskillnad Street in Stockholm in 1986. After you are debriefed on this real life political murder (a case which remains unsolved to this date), you are given the option to take an interactive tutorial on the game's main functions before proceeding to start the game in earnest.
Carol is shown to be at home using her tablet computer when she receives a message from her best friend Stina reminding her to pick up her mobile phone that she has left behind at Stina's shop. After picking up her phone from Stina and then agreeing to pick up some asparagus peas for Stina at her country allotment, Carol receives a call on her phone from a mysterious man who asks to meet with her at the Graffiti Heap about an urgent case. Upon arriving there, the man identifies himself only as "X" and tells Carol that he has a case that will make her famous. However, Carol is suspicious of the man's motive and immediately turns down the case.
Next morning, Carol is awoken by a call from the Norrköping police with the news that the mysterious man has been found murdered. As Carol is the last person whom he has contacted by phone, the police wonder if Carol can be of some help. Being curious, Carol researches on the murder victim and discovers that he has been previously arrested at the scene of Palme' assassination. Carol decides to take up the case on her own, risking her own life to try to solve this murder mystery.
You navigate through the game by simply left clicking on the onscreen directional arrows to go right, left, up, down, or forward. For the first time in the series, you can also press the spacebar to reveal all of the interactive hotspots and exits that are in the current scene. These hotspots are denoted by swirling blue circles. The green circular cursor also changes into a magnifying glass whenever a hotspot is located in the current scene. Once a clue to a new location is found, that location will automatically appear on a map which you can then click on to travel to there. The game features a total of 26 different locations. You will need to frequent these locations to forage and glean clues in order to solve your case.
The game supports up to 100 save slots. You cannot die in the game. Saving the game can be done manually by selecting Save after choosing a save slot or automatically by selecting Quit to exit the game. Resuming the game can be done by selecting Load and then choosing the corresponding save slot or by selecting Continue to load the automatic save.
Built using the Wintermute Engine, the game is impressive for a small indie production. High resolution photographs are used to capture the exotic views of Norrköping and its environs. Characters are animated by a series of still photographs in different poses and with different facial expressions. Carol uses a notepad to converse with other characters in the game. Each question on the notepad is ticked off and triggers another question to appear until the entire dialog is exhausted. Carol also uses a double sided notebook to track her current progress on the case. The left and right pages of this notebook have the headings Objectives and Hints respectively. Opening the notebook reveals the current objective that describes what you have to do or where to go next. If you are still stuck, you can click on the objective in the notebook to reveal a hint to the case.
The plot develops slowly at first but soon gathers pace. As more characters (including suspects) are introduced, a number of intriguing subplots emerge. Each suspect has a different reason for killing the victim. The victim's associates are all criminals with various illegal activities brought to notice. Only towards the end of the game will you begin to suspect who the murderer is. I have found myself immersed in this murder mystery, not wanting to leave the game until it is solved.
The puzzles are varied and well integrated into the story. They vary from inventory puzzles to logic puzzles to matching colors puzzles to code breaking puzzles. There are no timed puzzles. There is no provision to skip any of these puzzles, however.
Alas, the quality of the voice acting is mixed. Carol's voice (played by Sara Louise Williams) is pleasant, with a distinct native English accent. Other actors speak with more local accents but seem to lack emphasis or emotion. There are 17 secondary major characters introduced in the story, including 13 of them with whom you can interact directly (along with a cameo appearance by Nyqvist himself). The background musical score varies from organ to string instrumentals. It is never overbearing, though a little repetitive at times.
It will take you about 10-12 hours to complete the game. Over the course of your investigation, you will locate and use some 46 items. The game is rather linear, as these items must be located in a strict order which you can only access after completing certain tasks first.
In sum, Cold Case Summer: A Carol Reed Mystery is another worthy addition to the series. Although there are references made in the game to mature subject matters such as drugs and prostitution, there is no explicit violence or foul language. If you have played other games in the series, you will love sleuthing with Carol in her most dangerous case to date.