Bohemian Killing Review: Mamma Mia, Let Me Go

Bohemian Killing
Developer: The Moonwalls
Publisher: IQ Publishing
Release date:  July 21st, 2016
Game code was offered by developer via Keymailer.

In The Moonwalls’ debut game, Alfred Ethon must lie and manipulate his way out of a murder conviction in 19th century Paris.

Bohemian Killing is less of a “whodunnit” and more of a “Ididn’tdunnit”. You play Alfred Ethon, standing accused of a murder that you absolutely did commit. The victim is Madame Marie Capet, stabbed to death in a Parisian hotel room. The murder is played out in the game’s introduction, and from there it’s up to you to bullshit your way through your testimony, hoping the judge will believe you and not convict you. Gameplay alternates between the courtroom, during which you’re little more than a spectator to the proceedings, and the fictional reconstruction of events Alfred tells as his testimony.

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The story is nonlinear, and affected by the objects you interact with in the game world, and if you activate certain objects. There’s many different ways to play Bohemian Killing, and several endings to discover. Multiple playthroughs are encouraged and rewarded. While the game doesn’t really give you much instruction while you play (for instance, using objects to manipulate the passage of time isn’t very well explained), you can choose to accept hints as to how best ensure your exoneration. It’s tricky to get ahold of, and even trickier to get right. During my first playthrough, the first action in my testimony was to walk into a bar and immediately be beaten up by a gang of drunken thugs. This did, however, ensure that Alfred’s clothes were bloodied, and thus corroborated with a witness description of him later in the night.

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The opening message of Bohemian Killing states “This game adapts to the choices you make. Each lie can change the verdict for better or worse”. This is certainly true. You can try to spin an elaborate tale of how you were framed by forces unknown, or create as nonsensical a farce as possible. You can even claim that you simply went to bed and nothing else happened. This of course leads to a swift trip to the guillotine, but it’s still pretty funny to try out. To secure your freedom, you will need to collect evidence that points all fingers away from you. To do this, a lot of trial and error is involved. This is a game where you would possibly want to take notes just to keep track of all the evidence you can collect. You also have to be careful of recounting anything that could raise the judge’s suspicions. For example, in the hotel, I tried opening the door to another person’s room, because that’s what you do in video games, right? This immediately caused the judge to question me on why I was trying to get into other people’s rooms. So I soon learned to be careful where I touched.

Bohemian Killing is very visually distinctive, with 19th century Paris recreated in lush colours of blue, orange and gold. The environments are elegantly decorated, and it’s well worth taking the time to explore each location. Every action you take is accompanied with narration by Alfred as he recounts his actions leading to the murder. This can get a little grating, especially as the small environment and backtracking means that you’ll be hearing the same lines over and over. The opening scene also commits the video game crime of an in-game character telling you about the controls of the game, essentially breaking the fourth wall. This is just a personal gripe and it doesn’t affect my opinion on the game, I just feel it’s fun to point it out. The voice acting and writing is competent, and the French accents feel authentic. Some players may find the accents a little difficult to understand, but that’s what subtitles are there for.

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Overall, Bohemian Killing  is an enjoyable little tale that unravels how you want it to. If it had been a short, linear mystery game where you simply had to collect evidence, then it would have been acceptable. But The Moonwalls adding in the freedom of choice is where the real fun lies. This allows players to feel like the tale is theirs to form, and the multiple endings mean that the game’s relatively short running time is extended by the desire to get to the “true” ending. With clearer instruction in terms of the gameplay mechanics this could have been improved. But as it stands, Bohemian Killing is a fun romp well worthy of a few hours of your time.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10 – A charming choose-your-own-adventure packed with style, but needs a little more polish for it to become truly great. 

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