I imagine there will be two crowds interested in Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze ($4.49, iOS), Tin Man Games’ episodic take on the hit ABC show about a glamourous and forceful 1920s Melbourne detective – series fans, and crime-focused visual novel enthusiasts who want to see what a local developer can do with the genre. I fall into the latter category, which I can’t imagine is nearly as populated as the former.
For the sake of writing this piece, after playing the game I decided to watch a few episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix (which only carries the first two seasons, somehow, despite it being a local show with a moderate fanbase) to get a sense of what the whole thing was about, what the tone of the show is, and who these characters actually are. The first episode of Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze communicates the broad strokes of these characters, but not necessarily all the details – by the end I had a good idea of who Phryne and Jack and the rest of the supporting cast are, the basic facts of their characters and how they all felt about each other, but it wasn’t until I watched the show that a real understanding of their personalities emerged.
With this in mind, I’d say that Miss Fisher’s mobile debut is probably only really going to appeal to fans of the show. For them, it’s a great opportunity to revisit these characters, who have not appeared on screen for a few years at this point. This is important, because the mystery in the first episode of Deathly Maze is extremely light. A woman has been murdered during an opera performance and left on the stage in full costume, and Miss Fisher takes it upon herself to solve the crime. You can explore each setting like you would an adventure game, and talk to people you encounter for clues, and when two clues contradict each other you can use your ‘deduct’ ability to reach a conclusion about them. The game more or less tells you what to do at any given point: if it’s time to deduct, for instance, Jack might outright ask you if you can make a deduction from the evidence you have. The first 90 per cent of the solution is pretty rudimentary, and I frequently found myself reaching obvious conclusions well before the characters did.
It's not until the last ten minutes, though, that Miss Fisher cranks up the fan service, pivoting on a plot twist so bonkers that I don’t suspect fans of the show will see it coming (I had to do quite a bit of research and watch a few episodes just to understand what, exactly, had just happened). I was worried that it might, in fact, be too outlandish – it seemed out of step with the tone of the rest of the game – until I sat down and watched an episode of the show in which a bloody hypnotist runs around immediately bamboozling everyone he encounters with a few stern words, realising in the process that this brand of fun nonsense is actually part of Miss Fisher’s appeal.
This is only the first episode of Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze, and the eponymous maze doesn’t actually make an appearance, so I reached out to Tin Man for some clarity on how the rest of the season will play out. “The rest of the episodes will appear as in-app purchases”, explained creative director Neil Rennison. “We don’t have a release structure nailed down yet, but Episode 2 should hit before June. We have an Android version to release and we’re also looking for a Steam release too. Ultimately the lifespan of the game all depends on the demand and we’re really hoping that we get some good download numbers to continue releasing lots more episodes.”
For fans of the show, the game’s light puzzle solving are mostly an excuse to hang out with the cast again. For visual novel enthusiasts, maybe consider checking out the show on Netflix before jumping in.