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Visual Novel / Murder by Numbers (2020)

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Murder by Numbers is a 2020 Puzzle Game Visual Novel developed by Mediatonic and published by The Irregular Corporation. Heavily marketed as "Picross mixed with Ace Attorney", the game consists of solving murder mysteries while collecting evidence by way of solving nonograms.

It's Los Angeles, 1996, and Honor Mizrahi is having a tumultuous summer. After leaving her abusive ex-husband Ryan, she finds she's been fired from the detective show she works on for no apparent reason—and worse, her friend Blake has been murdered. Honor finds herself playing detective for real as she begins to unravel the many mysteries she finds herself in with the help of her new companion—the flying Robot Buddy SCOUT, who's missing his memories.

Honor vows to help SCOUT regain his memories and prove she can strike out on her own, but as the bodies pile up, it becomes clear that someone is invested in SCOUT, who may be more than he seems...


The game was released in March 5th, 2020 for the Nintendo Switch, and March 6th on PC online stores such as GOG, Epic Games Store, and Steam. A Google Stadia port was released on March 23rd, 2021.

No relation to the 2002 film with the same title.

This game contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Fran wanted to collect insurance to avoid going broke, but in her attempt to stage a crash ended up running someone over.
  • Amoral Attorney: Ray Kino is a defense attorney by trade and knows every trick in the book to ensure the police can't investigate his eccentric sister Eirin. Lampshaded by Cross after he does realize a loophole, saying attorneys usually find those only when it helps them, as this clears his current murder accusation.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Detective Cross is initially frosty towards Honor, but it's because she reminds him of her father, who died in the line of duty while working with Cross.
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  • Answers to the Name of God: When Honor shouts "JESUS!" after seeing Detective Cross following her escape from the room, he responds that calling him Detective Cross would be enough.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: For those less puzzle-inclined, Easy Mode lets you complete most puzzles easily and without penalty, though you can't unlock all of SCOUT's memories that way.
  • Asshole Victim: Dick Stanford was a terrible person and abusive to his co-worker Kathleen.
  • Big Bad: Jack, the CEO of Lethel Security. He used to be involved in the project that created SCOUT and was the one that moved the project into turning SCOUT into a military weapon. He turns out to be behind the murders of Lori and Frank.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Tully (AKA Frank Pritchell) tried to blackmail Blake with pictures of him cheating on his wife to make him fire Honor. When Blake tried to call the cops, Tully panicked and whacked him in the head with a trophy.
  • Bookends: The first and last cases both end with everyone gathering at Honor's apartment to watch Casablanca.
  • Broken Pedestal: Part of why Honor found it hard to cut ties with Ryan was because she loved him and didn't think him capable of hurting her, which K.C. had to help her with. K.C. himself falls into this trope when his drag mother Fran, who helped mentor him and get him a job in fashion, turns out to be a murderer.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Dick's award on Case 2. It turns out to be the moment where he was poisoned. The flowers had toxins in it, and he inhaled it when he sniffed the flowers.
    • The bullet casing on Case 4. It seems to just be an item Hyde keeps it to remember Vietnam. It's later revealed it was a missing piece of evidence from his trial when he was accused of murdering a superior officer.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Ray Kino for his sister Eirin. As he is also a lawyer, this extends to getting his sister acquitted for crimes she very definitely did commit
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Honor starts the game reeling from her abusive ex and overbearing mother, and learning to trust herself no matter what anyone says is a big part of her development.
  • Cute Machines: SCOUT is an adorable robot who loves movies and books, and is especially cute when happy or excited. His Assault Mode form, not so much.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Becky starts out extremely cold and unappreciative of Honor and everyone else around her, but softens up by the end of case 2.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: In case one, Honor very nearly manages to talk her and SCOUT out of trouble after the two were caught at an off limits crime scene...only for SCOUT to cheerfully blurt out that they were also messing around with the evidence at said crime scene. Cue a major tongue lashing from Detective Cross.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The motivation for the murder in case two. The murderer kills the victim after suffering years of abuse by their hands, and only after the victim had removed all other means that the murderer had to get back at them.
  • Doom Magnet: Eirin Kino has this reputation, due to something suspicious always managing to go down on the sets of her movies. Part of the reason that her brother Ray is at Honor and Cross's throats is because he's worried that their investigation will only add fuel to the rumor fire.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Honor tricks Ryan into admitting to blackmail by pretending to make up with him on the condition he tell her the truth.
  • Fanservice Extra: Kathleen was hired solely to provide a certain...extra appeal to Dick Stanford's show. Though she did refuse to wear the more skimpy outfits the producers tried to stuff her in.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Honor's mother is very vocal in her disapproval of Honor's career as an actress, and spends most of the game nagging her to give the whole thing up and pursue a more stable career.
  • Feeling Their Age: Detective Cross seems to be on the verge of retirement, and repeatedly comments on how much simpler being a police detective used to be.
  • For the Evulz: Why Eirin Kino breaks the law: she can, so she does. Honor compares her to a domestic cat - a cat that is provided with all the food it can ever want, but still insists on killing birds.
  • Gay Best Friend: The gay British K.C. is Honor's only major support before SCOUT enters the picture, and a drag queen bar he helps with makeup becomes the setting of case 3.
  • Guide Dang It!: It's possible for the player to finish case 3 without using any hints and still get only an A rank (B if you're playing Easy mode). That's because there is a missable puzzle in the bar that can only be done if the player goes into the bar and finds the puzzle before talking to everyone and advancing the plot. The best time is directly after you meet Crispin for the first time.
  • Hate Sink: Ryan has no redeeming qualities at all and is a textbook abuser, complete with emotional manipulation and false apologies.
  • History Repeats:
    • Both Honor's mother Sharon and Detective Cross are terrified that Honor will suffer the same fate as her father if she takes up a career in solving crime. Their immense disapproval of her involvement in the early cases is them trying to avert this trope by any means necessary.
    • By the end of the game it's not the first time that Cross is partnered with a hot headed Mizrahi.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Honor's mother Sharon thinks Ryan is perfectly nice, and also thinks highly of the arrogant, abusive talk show host Dick Stanford. She also has no idea K.C. is gay and doesn't even get his name right.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Honor asks Detective Cross about who may have been her dad's partner, she mentions a photo that was taken at his favorite restaurant. Cross mentions the restaurant by name, which Honor points out she did not.
  • Insurance Fraud: What Fran was trying to do by crashing the parade float into the front of the bar, as she was drowning in debt. Sadly, she didn't see Oliver Laurel sleeping on the ground outside the bar, and she ended up running him over.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For years of mental abuse to his ex and blackmailing the Starshines just to get back at her, Honor tricks Ryan into confessing the latter charge, landing him in jail.
  • Loan Shark: What Crispin Hakewell from If The Shoe Fits turns out to be.
  • Locked Out of the Loop:
    • Nobody bothers to tell John that someone has just been killed when he meets the rest of the cast in case one. He proceeds to be very confused when accusations of murder are flung around just seconds later.
    • In case 4, Honor, Cross and Jena keep SCOUT in the dark regarding the plan to disable his Assault Mode functions. Though SCOUT does manage to piece things together eventually.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Becky Call's parents don't pay attention to her at all, and a major reason she wants to win a Starshine Award is so they notice her.
  • Magic Feather: Jena spends most of the fourth case working on a patch for SCOUT to prevent him from activating Assault Mode again, and appears to install it near the end of the story. Except it's revealed minutes later that she never installed it, instead choosing to allow SCOUT to make the decision himself.
  • Meaningful Name: Made clear in the final chapter, Honor and SCOUT make "scout's honor", a phrase said when you're telling the truth.
  • Mood Whiplash: No matter how serious the scene that preceded it, solving puzzles always has a bouncy, upbeat theme.
  • Moral Myopia: Jack insists that his military-level modifications to SCOUT are purely in the interest of helping save lives. He is completely indifferent to the lives that he had a hand in ending (Tom's, Jena's, Frank's, Lori's, and very nearly Honor's) to achieve this goal.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By letting Musselmann off the boat, Cross accidentally let the real killer get away. This leads to Musselmann murdering Cruz in the hospital to keep him silent.
  • Out of Focus: Despite being depicted prominently in the title sequence, Becky doesn't appear again after the second case, and K.C. never appears in the fourth case until the epilogue.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Two, one for SCOUT's backstory and one for the proper plot of the game.
    • In SCOUT's backstory, during a test of his weapons, a misfire caused him to kill the lead hardware engineer Tom, prompting SCOUT to realize he broke one of the laws of robotics and erase his own memories in guilt. He was halted from erasing everything, but believing the project was over, he was thrown in the trash.
    • For Honor's own story, Blake's death prompted her to start investigating murders.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Though Honor passed her audition for Miss Terri Mysteries on her own merit, Ryan's connections were what landed her the audition in the first place. Becky is quick to point this out whenever she wants to take a jab at Honor.
  • Reluctant Retiree: Detective Cross is being strong armed into retirement at the start of the game. Honor and SCOUT manage to get into his good graces by providing much needed manpower for his investigations, as his station is slowly cutting back on the resources available to him in the hope that he eventually caves. By the end of the game he's been promoted to Captain, thanks to his success in solving a string of very high profile cases over the summer of 1996.
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with a SCOUT prototype disappearing from the lab, and Jack vowing revenge.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: While SCOUT's still around to provide laughs, his dramatic storyline crosses over with the investigation in the final chapter. KC does not participate in it either.
  • Spoiler Opening: A pivotal moment in the third case, in which SCOUT is shot during a standoff and suffers a literal Heroic BSoD, is depicted in full in the opening sequence.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Honor finds in every single case after the first one that her reputation as an amateur sleuth has proceeded her. Far from impressing others, she's seen as impulsive and irresponsible, and one of her snap decisions results in her wrongfully accusing a suspect of murder, which ultimately ruins everything he's worked very hard to achieve. A depressing example of Truth in Television.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Kathleen was abused by Dick for decades, while Fran wanted to pay her mortgage and wasn't intending to kill anyone.
  • Tap on the Head: Blake was killed by being struck on the head with an award.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Detective Cross has trouble working new technology, with a sole exception being a GPS.
  • Telescoping Robot: SCOUT's Assault Mode not only changes his color palette, but also causes a bunch of sinister-looking robotic limbs and weapons to sprout from his body; Far more than could reasonably fit in his small chassis.
  • Titled After the Song: The game takes its name from a song by The Police.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: Eirin Kino's method of smuggling diamonds is to hide them in hundreds of earth filled (fake) skulls.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Honor's mother goes out of her way to stop Honor from doing further sleuthing after her first case, as she recognizes that Honor shares a lot of traits with her late father - traits that directly contributed to her father's death in the line of duty.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Most characters seem relatively unphased by the fact that SCOUT is literally a flying robot. While Honor seems pretty shocked when she first meets him, most other characters do little more than ask what he is, assuming they even acknowledge him at all.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Mal Cruz is killed by being smothered with a pillow in the last case. Other characters mention how it's simple, but effective and quiet.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The question of SCOUT's autonomy and sentience is raised repeatedly throughout the story.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The credits show pictures of what the characters are doing after the events, including the culprits in prison.
  • World of Jerkass: At the start of the game no one except K.C. and SCOUT are on Honor's side, and a big part of the first three cases revolves around Honor either proving herself or cutting toxic people out of her life.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: In the first case, attempting to accuse Tully of murdering Blake, with the hair dye and ID as your proof, will cause Detective Cross to tell you that the evidence isn't enough. Tully/Frank Pritchell does turn out to be the true murderer by the end of the case; he used the hair dye to disguise himself, and the ID is either fake or stolen.

Alternative Title(s): Murder By Numbers