When we first heard about "The Art of Murder" by Michael and Muffy Berlyn, we were intrigued by its choose-your-own-ending capability, an element that we loved in some of our favorite books growing up, so we tested the interactive eBook to see if it lived up to its expectations.
When we opened the app, we were taken to a somewhat basic home page. Side tabs marked Introduction, Help, Settings, Credits and Start directed us to different elements of the book. Within each tab was a Done button that we could tap to navigate back to the home page when we were finished.
The Introduction tab explained the app's intentions: The reader is the detective, and their job is to interact with the characters, investigate locations, gather information and name the killer. Sounds like Clue in app form. The point of the book is to tap -- the Tappable Tale will unfold new plot turns the more you tap.
Every time a character or location is introduced, the reader is notified by a red number on the bottom and a ding sound (although you can turn it off in the Settings tab).
The narrative in "The Art of Murder" is enticing and engaging. It's written in a tone that makes you want to know what happens next. After an initial introduction in which we were brought to the murder scene, we met our first character: Lola Perone, the victim. We then had the chance to review information and forensic data concerning Perone. We liked the ability to skip around from person to person or place to place and investigate at our own pace.
With each person of interest, we had the opportunity to review their statement, question them, read archival research about them and add them to our suspects list.
Within each place we explored, we were able to investigate different rooms. When we held our finger down within a room, circles identified different areas of interest. If we tapped on a circle, the app gave us information about the object or gave us the option to add it to our evidence collection. One minor complaint: When tapping on objects in the far left or right of the screen in portrait view, text cut off so we weren't able to read the entire description. In fact, at one point we couldn't add a seemingly important piece of evidence to our collection because the description cut off.
After gathering ample evidence from several different locations, we went to our list of suspects and did further questioning, then went into our evidence collection and did further research on each piece.
At the end, once we thought we had compiled enough information and done enough research to speculate on who the killer was, we were able to submit our suspect and supporting evidence to the district attorney. He then told us if we were right, needed to refine our argument or just plain wrong. And, if the suspense is really killing you, you have the option to read what actually happened on the night of the murder.
We were impressed with how intricate the app was -- the makers certainly took their time in creating a truly immersive experience. We played with the app for several hours to get a feel for how it worked, but we easily could have spent days playing with the murder mystery to get more clues and different results. We were nowhere near cracking the case after a few hours of work. However, it's important to note that it didn't feel like several hours: The app was so entertaining we lost track of time while using it. Definitely a great app for a rainy day.
Another cool feature is the ability to enlarge the text. That way, older audiences or those with visibility issues can also enjoy the interactive story.
One thing to note about the app -- it's definitely not for all audiences. Although we compared it to Clue above, it's for a much more mature audience -- with serious and frequent references to violence, profane language, sexuality and alcohol. This definitely makes the experience more realistic -- you feel like you could actually be reading a real crime report, but probably not an appropriate app for younger children or little cousins.
All in all, the app provides a fun, immersive experience. We could spend days with it, trying to crack the murder mystery. And we liked having the freedom to go through the case at our own pace. There were minor issues we had with the app, such as its tendency to cut off text in portrait view, but the good far outweighs the bad. If you're looking for a stellar narrative app that makes you think, "The Art of Murder" is worth a look.