Reviewed: September 10, 2008
Released: August 25, 2008
Thou shall not kill… a familiar saying that most of the world should be familiar with. After all it is the Fifth Commandment. But I’m not here to give a sermon, well not really. I’m here to “preach” about a new game from Spanish developer Alcachofa Soft and The Adventure Company called Murder in the Abbey or just “The Abbey” to the European crowd.
Murder befalls a monk/gatekeeper named Brother Anselmo in the mountain abbey of Nuestra Senora de la Natividad and it is up to Brother Leonardo of Toledo to get to this matter most foul. Players will assume the role of this highly learned former royal advisor as he and his clumsy charge Bruno figure just what is going on in the abbey with such a legendary collection of books.
Murder in the Abbey, for the most part, takes its origins from the novel “The Name of the Rose” by Italian author Umberto Uco. While I have not read the book, sadly, I did see the film by the same name starring Sean Connery. While the stories differ the process is much the same.
Murder in the Abbey is presented in the classic point and click interface that harks back to the golden era of adventure titles. Truth be told, pretty much the entire experience can be enjoyed by using only the mouse. The Esc and M Keys are the only buttons on your keyboard that you will need otherwise.
Murder in the Abbey also features an interesting inventory screen. The developers allow players to play this title in either 4:3 or 16:9 modes. If the player chooses the widescreen mode then they can have access to a lateral (vertical) inventory screen to the right of the main gameplay area. However the default inventory screen requires the player to move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen triggering the slide down inventory screen. The one thing I really like is the item slots are worked into the shape of stain-glassed windows.
The puzzles are mainly inventory based where combining objects or using single items on certain objects will gain you passage to the next area, and there are a few traditional puzzles including those slider-style puzzles. The overall mood and pacing of this title is very slow and deliberate. Many of the “puzzles” in Murder in the Abbey are actually dialogue based, and you will not be able to progress until you trigger some sort of proper response.
Murder of the Abbey has a few things going for it that I really liked. The story is very well written and thought out. The feel of the story reminds me of a darker Disney film. The cast of various characters is also robust and no two are really alike, each with their own personalities and worries.
Murder in the Abbey features a huge amount of dialogue, all of which is spoken. I haven’t seen this kind of verbal detail in a really long time. These days developers seem to be scaling back on the audio, but still giving the player a visual show. Luckily that is not the case here. Character interaction and awareness in Murder in the Abbey is also well detailed. There is one scene/ location where the person I just finished talking to would turn in his chair and watch me pass by his door as I finished exploring before returning to his work.
Murder in the Abbey also has a feature that is invaluable to most adventure titles. Pressing M will bring up the map of the abbey. You can then click on any of the 6 locations on the map and be transported outside the desired building. This however does not work while inside buildings unfortunately. Movement is done by clicking once in the desired location; however you can make him zip to the next area by double clicking which is really useful and a great time saver.
Alcachofa Soft took a nice approach to the presentation of the whole title starting with the nicely created animated sequence where Leonardo and his shadow Bruno are almost creamed by a huge boulder. I almost forgot that I was playing a game and not watching a cartoon. The whole title gives off a cartoony yet realistic look and feel to it.
The developers went with an innovative mix of 2D and 3D graphics to portray their story. Cel-shading is the main means of designing interiors and the characters while the exterior of buildings are shown in a bit more realistic manor.
The one thing that I noticed right away and rather like is the use of lighting effects. There are times where Leonardo will walk across a dimly lit room with only the light of day shining through the broken roof. As he would pass under the light his character model would be light up and then cast back into shadow. Also when visiting the kitchen, particularly when in conversation with the good cook, you will see the glow of the fire upon his face. Little details like these go a long way with me.
Murder in the Abbey features over 70 minutes of nicely composed orchestral music. Given that this title takes place in an otherwise serene location it only seems fitting to have such a score. The sound effects are also well done and no sound seems out of place. The only main drawback that I found in Murder in the Abbey is the voice acting.
Don’t get me wrong; most of the acting is done well, however there are a few characters that I could do without ever hearing again. The main culprit is the novice Bruno. I think that his voice was overdone and just seems terribly out of place in an otherwise good group performance.
Murder in the Abbey took me roughly 20+ hours to complete. It's not exactly the 40 hours that the back of the box promises but then again that probably depends on just how much walking around you do trying to find your next trigger. Personally once you beat this title there is very little reason that you will ever pick it up again. It has a great story but like most adventure games no real replay value. Murder in the Abbey can be found for around $20 dollars at your local retailers, which is the going rate for a PC adventure these days.
I highly enjoyed the story of Murder in the Abbey. It was well written and the dialogue is pretty good and the graphic blending of cel-shading, 2D and 3D graphics really make this title stand out from the rest of the crowd. The only thing that really bugged me was the voice acting from a few of the character. If you’re looking for a tale of monks getting knocked off or perhaps a good read I recommend giving Murder in the Abbey a stab. At 20 bucks it’s well worth a try.