Murder mysteries are entertaining, playing out the story and never knowing who is going to die or when, until the fatal event occurs and the police intervene and investigate. However, what if we began at the murder, knowing the who, where and when, but not the why – this concept is fascinating and one which very few games within this category tend to use. Bohemian Killing is a unique and brilliantly constructed murder mystery which gives you the conclusion and the free will to explain yourself to the judge in order to testify how you ended up in this compromising situation…
Initially announced as an Indiegogo campaign, it failed to meet its target yet still provided the backers with their rewards due to utilising flexible funding – I’m so happy the dev didn’t just run with the money as so many other projects on there do. However, this wasn’t the end, Bohemian Killing was officially launched in 2016 thanks to partnering with publisher Libredia Entertainment. Now, thanks to Ultimate Games, you can enjoy this narrative choice-based adventure on the Nintendo Switch.
So, come with me as we step back in time to 1894 and present our case to the Judge in the hope that we’ll make it out with our head still attached to our body…
Bohemian Killing is the story of Alfred Ethons, a man who is on trial for the murder of a young lady known as Marie Capet. The interesting thing is, during the prologue of the game, you actually play out the events which lead up to the murder – as described by the prosecutor – so you actually see the murder and are told that she died to your hand via an antique knife. However, was the prosecutor correct in his assumption or was it all a misunderstanding? It’s up to you to tell the court your interpretation of the events which occurred in the hours leading up until this final act – will you manage to sway the decision of the judge or maybe even get off with an insanity plea?
The game reminds me a lot of the absolutely outstanding The Return of the Obra Dinn, which I reviewed previously. You work backwards from the end result in order to reenact the actions which led up to that moment so that you gain context and background into the events which took place. However, the difference here is that there isn’t a set future or end result, despite what the prosecution may think, there are a number of subtle choices and ‘facts’ which can be adjusted in order to spin the story one way or another. Sure, there are witness statements and testimonies which are set in stone, but it doesn’t mean what they saw was correct or that they were telling the truth…
You can’t change the past, nor the present outcome – Marie Capet is dead and she died via a weapon which is very much like the one within your office. However, you can twist the truths and opinions of others in order to persuade the judge into siding with your interpretation of the events and not those of the man standing against you. Bohemian Killing is a very clever and complex game which will have you obsessed with discovering the numerous endings and pathways. This isn’t a game which you’ll play once then never return to, it’s a game which will keep you intrigued over and over again.
Bohemian Killing is played in the first person, yet it’s unlike anything I’ve played before. You are essentially playing out the testimony which you’re presenting in court, describing every event which took place the night of the murder. As such, the game ingeniously turns into “Stranger than Fiction”, the Will Ferrell movie which sees Will have his entire life narrated to him. No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s looking at the art or posters on the wall, checking your mail, or trying to open your neighbour’s doors, the narrator (the protagonist in the courtroom) will describe and explain everything you’re doing – even the mundane actions such as walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
Although this sounds strange and possibly annoying – having everything you’re doing described and read out to you – it fits in perfectly with the gameplay. You’re in court telling the judge the things you did on that night, things which you’re slightly altering by playing the game. However, you can’t deviate too much without reason as the judge will magically step in and freeze time if he has a question about your actions and why you’re deviating from the statements given by other people. For example, why are you knocking on your neighbour’s doors at gone 11 PM? And why did you enter the bar twice when you got a beating the first time, you were bound to get beaten up the second time as well?
Speaking of time – Bohemian Killing runs in real-time, meaning 30 minutes in-game takes literally 30 minutes in real life. This is a core mechanic to the game as testimonies and statements are based around what people witnessed at set times, so if you wish to twist them or prove them correct, you need to be in the right place at the right time. Thankfully, there are various objects to reduce the wait, such as talking on the phone to waste 15 minutes, but you don’t want to skip too much time otherwise you’ll miss events and skip straight to the final verdict.
You can’t handle the truth!
The whole point of Bohemian Killing isn’t to prove your innocence, it’s to create an alternative perspective on things without changing things drastically and casting doubt upon your actions. Each time I’ve played the game (six times so far) the outcome has been different, events have not been the same, and I’ve made decisions which altered the conversations within the courtroom. All this has happened because I’ve slightly altered my responses, not been in the same places at the same times, or ignored key moments in order to do something different elsewhere. Just like with The Complex, which I reviewed yesterday, the structure of the game is very complex and has multiple outcomes depending on how you choose to play the game.
There is a ‘goal’ to the game, other than not getting your head chopped off. Each time period has set statements, evidence, events, and objectives assigned to them. Completing each objective will essentially guide you down the path of the ‘good ending’, allowing you to not only gather evidence which says you’re innocent, but it also gives the court information on who to actually blame for the murder. But, that’s merely one perspective on the story as the murderer could very well be the protagonist, a murder which was carried out for a number of different reasons based upon your choices and the information you uncover.
Seriously, if you like a good murder mystery and don’t mind working things out for yourself and experimenting with various subtle changes to see how they affect the future, then you’ll love trying to figure out all of the endings within Bohemian Killing. If you are stuck, each time slot has a bunch of ‘clues’ which will guide you towards how to obtain the evidence within each seamless segment. What I liked about this is that it doesn’t blatantly give you the answer, it just hints at what the objective means and offers a nudge in the right direction.
For example, at 11:30 pm someone from your apartment building walks past you as they leave the building, unfortunately, they notice you have blood all over you. This is the statement that was given, yet you can improvise – either you commit a crime and the witness was correct, walk by with no blood on your clothes and state the person was lying, or you purposely go into the bar and get beaten up and then tell the court it was your blood they saw. They are all subtle changes that alter the narrative ever so slightly.
I was highly impressed with Bohemian Killing on the Nintendo switch. I only play my console in portable mode yet everything looked really sharp and clean on the small screen, making me believe the game is running at a native 720p in portable mode. The text was easy to read, including the well-sized subtitles, and the main assets (such as pictures and things the game expects you to look at) were of high quality. Obviously, like most titles, non-important assets and effects such as lighting, shadows, walls, and LoD textures, were cut back from the initial PC release, but it’s nothing you would notice unless directly comparing the two.
One thing which is strange, that I don’t understand, are the clothes Marie is wearing within the prologue. In the PC version, based upon the GIF on the Steam page, Marie is wearing her dress which we see her wear during the entire game. However, on the Switch version, she’s wearing what appears to be a shirt and black panties. I know Nintendo is rather relaxed on the whole ‘lewd’ aspects within games, but I’m not sure if this is a glitch (as I saw in The Dreamlands: Aisling’s Quest upon release with the unintentional naked lady), or if she has purposely been placed wearing less clothing?
In terms of the voice acting, I honestly can’t fault it – I was actually surprised at the quality on offer by a one-man indie studio. The main protagonist is voiced by Stephane Cornicard, the same person who voiced the evil Vitalis Bénévent in last years A Plague Tale: Innocence!
Speaking of the studio, The Moonwalls is Marcin Makaj, a game designer with two Master’s Degrees in Law and Economics who, aside from creating these immersive games, actually teaches video game designing courses – he’s a very busy person! He has a second game coming soon, Commander ’85, a game which I can’t wait to play after seeing how well this one turned out.
If you like original, creative, unique indie games, Bohemian Killing is a great title to pick up. It takes an intuitive spin on the murder mystery genre by removing the mystery and having you recreate the events in order to exonerate yourself through lying, framing others, or claiming insanity – alternatively, you can recreate the murder exactly as described by the prosecution and endure your fate. There are lots of subtle changes and deviations to discover, changes which affect the final verdict and the opinion of the judge you’re trying to convince. This is a very clever and complex narrative-driven adventure game which seamlessly adjusts based upon your choices and actions.
If you like interactive narrative-heavy games, such as the brilliant FMV and CGI cinematic experiences like The Complex, The Shapeshifting Detective, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, and Hidden Agenda, then you’ll really like Bohemian Killing. Each playthrough will be different based on the actions you take. Just try to remain calm and keep your head…
- - Creative concept and intuitive gameplay
- - Good voice acting with decent dialogue and an interesting overall story
- - Visually looks very good on the hybrid system, despite obvious downgrades from the PC version
- - Lots of variables and branches which change the final verdict
- - You're free to do whatever you wish in order to clear your name or simply 'go with the flow' and commit murder
- - The in-game hint option makes it a little too easy to work out how to progress sometimes
- - Although the first playthrough will take you around 70-90 minutes, subsequent ones won't take anywhere near this, meaning you could fully complete everything in around 3-4 hours