Let’s Play: Sleuth (Sometimes The Simplest Games Create the Best Narrative)

So you wanna be a detective...

I’m back!

The Windows 7 system seems more or less stable, and I’ve managed to get most of my habitually used programs reinstalled without too much hair loss. I’m sure I’ll stumble into an unpleasant surprise later down the road when I’m missing a less-used program, but well, I’m a cynic and need my crusty pessimist coating to cover up my soft and squishy eternal optimist insides.

Naturally, we will celebrate this system upgrade by playing a DOS game!

Sleuth is an interactive murder mystery by Eric Miller of Norland Software.  It’s one of my favorite games for its ability to generate a narrative that your imagination quickly builds upon, made especially interesting when you play a personalized game and type in all your friends’ names as potential suspects and victims. Or you could input all your favorite characters’ names and end up crafting a story based around them eyeing each other askance. (Been there, done that.)

I think you know where I am going with this…

On the guest list today are a bunch of bloggers: Jeromai, Joseph Skyrim, Gypsy Syl, Zubon, Ravious, Eri (J3w3l) and Bhagpuss!

I generously threw myself in, hoping to be the victim. Except the game had other ideas…

Three times I restarted, and this person INSISTED on being dead.


So be it. The investigation begins…


Past the police barrier, the mansion is quiet. Too quiet.

Six guests have been on lockdown, prevented from leaving until the investigator arrives on the scene to interrogate them and examine the evidence. Let us hope that I arrived swiftly enough and can solve this post-haste, before the murderer has time to clean up their tracks and make their escape. The wandering presence of the five other guests may have been an impediment thus far, but the threat of being caught may make the killer desperate or violent.


Only a piano in the conservatory greets me. The silence is more than a little unnerving. I debate on the wisdom of calling out for the guests, but I don’t want them assembling up just yet. Better to catch them by themselves and get their stories individually.

A brownish stain on the piano catches my eye, and I squint shortsightedly at it. Where did my magnifying glass go again? I grope around for it in my pockets, and then realize it’s fallen out onto the floor. I scoop it up and check out the items in the room more carefully. Nope, not blood, just a coffee stain. Nothing out of the ordinary.


The living room is deserted. The chairs and divan appear to have been sat on rather regularly. The candy dish is empty, wrappers strewn around the table. So there were people in this house once, but where IS everyone?!

The rhythmic thud of a knife hitting a chopping board interrupts my reverie, and I make my way over to the source of the sound.


In the kitchen, I find the first suspect, assembling slices of bread and cheese together. “G’day,” I say, and introduce myself as the police inspector in charge of this crime. “I’m afraid you’re a suspect in this murder, as is everyone else in the house, so I have to ask you about your whereabouts this evening.”


Right. If I could find anyone in this gigantic mansion.

I thank the man and take my leave.



Though quite a number of suspect items have caught my eye (so many possible ways to kill someone – a bottle opener and a pepper mill make decent impromptu clubs, not to mention the heavy can of unpronounceable soup) and warranted thorough examination with a magnifying glass, nothing so far shows any signs of being used as a murder weapon.

Something seems off about the wallpaper in this dining room. The repeating pattern doesn’t line up quite as nicely in one spot.

I’d like to say that sharp insightful eyes immediately knew the location, but it took a lot of trial-and-error probing before a panel clicked and slid smoothly out of the way.


Momentarily intrigued by the strange black obelisk on the floor (no bloodstains, though,) I get the fright of my life when I turn around and see a face staring out at me in a corner of the secret passage.

Good lord, man, what in the world are you doing in here, I want to ask. But think the better of it.

After all, I’m here too, aren’t I?

I take a deep breath, introduce myself and ask my questions.



Perhaps they’re just the ramblings of a madman.

Stressful situations do things to people, I hear.

I scramble out of the secret passageway in a hurry, aiming to get to the upstairs rooms. Downstairs was a bit of a wash.


I nearly collide with someone else in a great hurry to get downstairs.

“Hold it!” I say, and introduce myself a third time. “Where were you this evening?”


I let the man go on his way then, the sudden pounding in my chest so loud I fear others might be able to hear it too.

I have to sit down on the steps for a second, to calm the thumping down. The stories contradict. One of them is lying to me. One of them may be the murderer.

I need to find the one person who can exonerate one and damn the other.

I steel myself.

The upstairs awaits.