Like a good pulp novel, Cause of Death by Electronic Arts puts the player in the middle of the crime, giving them the perspective of both detective and victim. Using many of the standard tropes (some might say “clichés”) of the genre, you’ll play through a number of “episodes”, some of which are free, others costing a small fee.
Fans of crime dramas like CSI or Criminal Minds will find a lot to enjoy here as good writing and intriguing scenarios make Cause of Death a pulp fan’s dream come true.
Reminiscent of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” games, Cause of Death plays like an interactive novel. In the first – free – episode, your job is to track down the “Maskmaker”, a serial killer who abducts young women, makes plaster casts of their faces, and drowns them near San Francisco Bay. The interesting twist in Cause of Death is that you’ll see the story from a number of different perspectives. In Episode One, you’ll play as the lead detective, the FBI Agent assigned to the case, and even the victims as they’re being abducted.
Gameplay in Cause of Death revolves around decision making. You’ll be given a number of choices, whether it’s responses to questions or simple “go left or go right” options. Most often, however, these choices are timed, forcing the player to make a snap decision in a very short amount of time. Other times, you’ll have to remember a certain clue or make a judgment call based on your detective skills. Make the right decision and you’ll be rewarded at the end of each chapter with points and a player ranking. Rank highly enough on all the levels and you’ll be treated to an extra scene at the end of the episode.
My one complaint about the gameplay is that much of the time the player is left to simply scroll through mountains of dialog and exposition and only treated to tiny morsels of interactivity. The stories are interesting enough to make up for these long, dry spells, but an action-packed game this is not.
The stories are told through a series of still animations. During dialog, characters’ heads simply pop on the screen to let you know who’s talking. And while the artwork is mostly very well done, much of what goes on in Cause of Death is described via text narration, leaving a lot to the player’s imagination. Again, Cause of Death is often more of an interactive book than a typical “game”.
Once you’ve unraveled the mystery of the Maskmaker killer, you have a choice of playing through “Now Airing” episodes or “On Demand” episodes. In “Now Airing”, episodes are loaded up for free (with advertising) for seven days, allowing players to play through as many as they’d like. “On Demand” episodes operate exactly as they sound: pay-for-play episodes that are always available for a nominal fee.
Bottom Line: Cause of Death is a great app for those who love pulp fiction and crime dramas like CSI and Criminal Minds. Though interactivity is limited, the scenarios are strong enough to make up for it.