Picture the scene: an English manor during a dark and stormy night. Four people are confined within its walls, each of whom could have committed a murder. Fortunately, a detective is also at hand, determined to get to the bottom of this case. Who could have done this? The master of the household, who writes mystery novels? His wife? The mysterious parapsychologist who happens to drop by on the evening of the murder? The housekeeper? The cat?

The cat?! Yes, the cat. For this is no ordinary murder mystery. The murder victim is none other than the pet hamster, Roderick. This may sound very silly, and perhaps it is. But Murder in a Wheel treats this as a very serious murder case, and that is where much of its humour comes from. It makes fun of murder mysteries by following their conventions meticulously, but at the same time it pays homage to the genre.

Murder in a Wheel has all the ingredients of a classic Agatha Christie novel. It keeps you guessing until the end, and even though it is rather short, it contains several plot twists. The game ends with a grand reveal that would not have looked out of place in a Poirot story. A nice little touch is the quiz at the end, which forces the player to really understand all the ins and outs of the case – in other words, you can’t stumble your way into the solution by luck alone.

It’s hard to imagine that any of these people would have the temperament to murder a hamster… or maybe it isn’t

Can this game do no wrong then? Well, yes. Apart from some minor annoyances, like exhausted dialogue options not disappearing from the tree, a graphical glitch with a particular animation, and my personal dislike of the lady’s character model, there is one huge shortcoming: the music. The game’s music is actually very good, so what could possibly be bad about that?

It’s lifted straight from other (mostly LucasArts) games. At least the game’s creator lists the music’s sources in the credits, but I would have preferred no music at all. If you have played any of the games the music is ‘borrowed’ from (and chances are you have), you will be instantly transported out of the manor in Murder in a Wheel and into a location from Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, or another such game.

It’s a real shame, because in other areas, the game is actually good. The graphics are nice, and obviously a lot of work has gone into replicating the feel of classic LucasArts adventures, which the author succeeded in rather well. The writing is also funny, parodying both murder mysteries and adventure games as a whole, and the premise of the game is wonderfully bizarre. This is really a delightful little game which is sure to entertain anyone who likes a juicy murder mystery. I just wish a version would be released with original music, because that would really be the icing on the cake.

Jan’s Score: 4/5 starks

Note: The game can be downloaded for free from the bigbluecup.

Note 2: The winner of Best Short Game Award in the AGS Awards 2007

The master of the household has apparently been working on a sure-fire winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature