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Visual Novel / Murder by Numbers (2020)

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Use your CPU, look at every clue
Make the right connections and we'll find what's true
Together, we will work it out
I'll protect your honor if you'll be my scout
'Cause what's out there is a mystery
We'll shine a light of truth and make it clear to see
That murder's never far away
We'll put our heads together and we'll save the day
We might not know what the future holds, but just
Stick with me, and we'll face what comes together
Honor's Theme (Vocal Ver.), the game's Thematic Theme Tune

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 any movie with the same title.

This game contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • Tully/Frank was only out to blackmail Blake, and killed him in a panic.
    • Fran wanted to collect insurance to avoid going broke, but in her attempt to stage a crash ended up running someone over.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: After being locked inside Gridmoore Studios' break room by Det. Cross while his team investigates the Blake's murder, Honor and SCOUT escape via an air vent into Blake's office. Obligatory comparisons to John McClane were made by Det. Cross once he finds out.
    Narration text: (air vent is opened, they climb inside)
  • All There in the Manual: The official artbook reveals the surnames for characters Bill Clubb and Jena al-Jazaria, which are otherwise not mentioned at all in the game.
  • 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.
  • Anaphora: When Honor's mother Sharon praises Rick Stanford, she starts her sentences with "He's got":
    Sharon: He's got style. He's got flair. He's got...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: This exchange between Honor and her mother, when talking about the latter's obsession with Dick Stanford:
    Sharon: You know how I feel about modern television. All style, no substance!
    Honor: What about Dick Stanford? He works in TV and you're his biggest fan.
    Sharon: That's completely different! He's got style. He's got flair. He's got...
    Honor: A huge stick up his—
    Sharon: Class! That's what sets Dick Stanford apart from the rest.
  • Bad Mood Retreat: Case 2: When Becky is angry and distraught from not getting the Starshine Award, she locks herself in the women's restroom, making this overlap with Bathroom Stall of Angst.
  • Basement-Dweller: Case 1: When meeting K.C in the Parking Lot, he calls John this, saying that a jail cell will remind him of his basement.
  • Book Ends: The first and last cases both end with everyone gathering at Honor's apartment to watch Casablanca.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Tully talks about his job:
    Mom taught me three things: "Take care of your body," "Don't cuss," and "Don't listen to Pa, 'cause he's a goddamn drunk."
  • 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.
  • The Butler Did It: Played with. The game opens with Honor and Becky filming a scene for Murder Miss Terri, where it was revealed that the murder weapon thought to be missing was actually hidden inside the butler.
  • Canine Companion: Discussed. After Blake fires Honor, the latter asks about what would become of the show if it loses one of its main characters. Blake mentions that the network had suggested having a talking poodle as a main character, which he says he might try out because animal companions are trending at the moment.
    Honor: Right. Replaced by a dog. That's dignified.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: In case 1, 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 2. 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.
  • Dream Sequence: In Case 4, Eirin's Sleeping with the Fishes script has at least four, since after that, Honor got really confused.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: After Honor escaped the break room and entered Blake's office via the air vent, Detective Cross berates Bill for not guarding the crime scene properly. Bill reasons that technically, Cross only told him to guard the door, but not the air vent.
  • Frustrated Overhead Scribble: In the credits sequence after finishing the game, Becky is emitting a squiggle and looking annoyed while K.C does her hair.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: After leaving SCOUT on the Anemone in Case 4, it's possible to return directly to the Anemone's Deck and Investigate with SCOUT, leaving "the Honor retrieving SCOUT on the Deck" cutscene to a point after Honor used SCOUT, without somehow retrieving him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lame Pun Reaction:
    • In the first memory unlocked by the SCOUT's Memories section, "Hypotheticals", Jena and Tom are talking about SCOUT's ability to detect humor and Tom drops in with a joke about the fiery hypothetical, which doesn't land, and Jena criticizes it.
      Tom: Sounds like a hot topic. Something he can really get FIRED UP about! Ha ha ha!
      SCOUT: Yes, the building is on fire.
      [Tom sweats]
      Tom: That sense-of-humor subroutine still needs a few tweaks, huh?
      Jena: The code's fine.
      Your material on the other hand...
      [Tom has a Sweat Drop]
    • In Case 4, Honor gives a Sweat Drop at SCOUT's Bee and Sting pun, when they're infiltrating the Lethe offices.
  • 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.
  • The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: In Case 2, Honor finds letters from Dick Stanford's lawyers at Saez & De Cyste LLP.note 
  • 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.
  • 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's name, "SCOUT's Honor", made by "Honor" + "SCOUT", a phrase said when you're telling the truth.
  • Mood Whiplash: No matter how serious the scene that preceded it, solving puzzles usually have a bouncy, upbeat theme. But some, like the Cargo Hold of Case 4, bearing "A Dark Turn", use other themes.
  • 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.
  • My Name Is ???: People who talk from off-screen and surprise the characters on-screen get called "???" until they appear on screen.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Though Honor passed her audition for Murder Miss Terri 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.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • According to Honor, apparently a couple of years ago the Gridmoore Studios offices were set on fire by a guy from accounting.
    • There's also this exchange between Honor and Det. Cross while discussing Case 3 (a shoe-shaped float crashing into a drag bar and killing someone):
      Honor: This your first death-by-stiletto?
      Cross: You don't want the answer to that question. Trust me.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: When SCOUT's networking abilities are reactivated in Case 1, there's glitching before a flashback occurs.
  • One-Word Title: Case 4: The Clapperboard is for a production called "Radio," directed by Eirin Kino, which is actually a hint that the Scene and Take numbers written on it are the decryption key for the radio message.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Case 3: Fran's office is accessed for the final confrontation, by Roz Mosis kicking the door down.
  • 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.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In Case 4, Det. Cross decides to join Honor in infiltrating a yacht party by coming up with a fake identity of being an out-of-town actor. The problem is that Cross forgot to take off his police badge before attending. Although Honor excuses that the badge was a prop from a previous scene shooting, the yacht owners Eirin and Ray very quickly saw through the ruse.
  • Permanently Missable Content: 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 the missable Speaker 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. It's available right after you meet Crispin for the first time.
  • 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.
  • Point of No Return: Case 1: After finding her car key and returning to the break room, Honor says it's the last time she'll be in the room, as a hint to the player to finishing any Investigating they have left there, since it's near the end of the Case.
  • Pun:
    • Case 2's Bow Tie Flavor Text:
      Could this clip-on bow tie be a useful clue? Probably knot.
    • Case 3: When K.C and SCOUT meet again at the giant shoe, and getting a Dude, Not Funny! due to it being a murder scene by giant shoe:
      SCOUT: What the heel happened here?!
      K.C.: SCOUT, babe...
      If you're going to start making quips, we need to have a talk about timing.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • The Show Within a Show Murder Miss Terri.
    • The "Rhyes and Shine" magazine discussed in Case 2 when explaining where SCOUT got his knowledge of spirits from.
  • Punny Name: The game has this in spades.
    • Becky Call: Beck and call. There's also her titular character in the show Murder Miss Terri.
    • The drag queens at Magellan's, Fran Tasia and Roz Mosis; justified since it's their drag names.
    • The eccentric movie director Eirin Kino. "Kino" is slang for sophisticated cinema, which she specializes in; while "Eirin" sounds like "airing" — as in a film airing.
    • A few names stand out for being puns related to nonograms (the type of puzzles featured in the game), such as Honor's workplace Gridmoore Studios and Detective Cross. In Case 2, there's also a quick mention of an actor named Graham Nonna — "nonogram".
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with a SCOUT prototype disappearing from the lab, and Jack vowing revenge.
  • Sexual Euphemism: The final piece of evidence in Case 1's described in the Evidence section as:
    Photos that show Blake involved in "nocturnal activities" with an unknown woman.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The film Casablanca is repeatedly mentioned throughout the game:
      • Honor riffs on Rick Blaine's line, "I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship," referring to her and SCOUT. SCOUT does not get the reference, however, prompting Honor to promise him that they'll watch the movie together once they get back home.
      • SCOUT mentions that Casablanca ended up becoming his favorite movie out of all the ones he and Honor watched.
      • At the end of the game, Honor, SCOUT and their friends watch Casablanca together at Honor's place.
    • The game's director and co-writer Ed Fear confirms that Honor's surname of Mizrahi is a reference to Juli Mizrahi from Xenosaga.
    • Honor warns SCOUT that she'll leave him if he goes "all HAL 9000" on her.
    • Detective Cross makes a lot of them in Case 1 after Honor leaves the break room:
      • When he finds out that Honor and SCOUT escaped from the break room via the air vent, he berates her and asks, "Who do you think you are, John McClane?"
      • After SCOUT introduces himself to Det. Cross, he mentions that the former looks like something out of Buck Rogers.
      • He calls Honor Miss Marple when talking to Bill:
        Care to explain how Miss Marple over there managed to get in?
      • Nancy Drew: After the CCTV tape is shown:
        Listen, Nancy Drew — you got lucky with that CCTV, but that was all it was. Luck! Now go home and let the professionals handle this.
      • WrestleMania: After he lets those in the break room out, to the studio lot:
        I mean it! Any of you try anything and I'll have you tackled by a patrolman faster than you can say "Wrestlemania."
    • One Loony Fan who sent hate mail and death threats to Gridmoore Studios uses the alias "ShowMaster66", which might be a reference to "NoobMaster69" from Avengers: Endgame, which came out one year before the game.
    • MC Hammer: Tully fails to make the reference when talking to him in the office about what he does at the studio:
      Uhh, who's that rap guy? MC Ham-somethin'? Hamper?
      Point is, I'm whatever you need me to be!
      ...Except weekends, evenings and every fourth Wednesday — that's when I do bodybuildin'!
    • From Case 1: Peter Pan: Lost Boys and Neverland. When talking to K.C in the parking lot about John's innocence:
      You two had better go free your little Lost Boy. If he is innocent, he needs someone like you on his side to show him the way back to Neverland.
    • From Case 1: Justice League of America: Showing the Car Key to K.C while in the Parking Lot:
      K.C: Now you can go be all "Justice League" and save the poor innocent victim!
      Honor: Justice League? Isn't that something from a comic? Maybe John wasn't the real nerd after all...
      K.C: What?
      I just like Wonder Woman, okay?
    • In Case 1, when Honor mentions how ironic it is that Blake was killed by the award granted for the show he ran, K.C. ranted for a bit about people "ganging up on poor Alanis" regarding her depictions of irony in her song, "Ironic".
    • Case 2: A speech from Becky about hate has K.C making a reference to Sally Field's speech commonly misquoted as "You like me! You really like me!, with K.C replacing "like" with "hate".
    • Case 2: Dressing Room: When Honor and SCOUT discover liquor spills, SCOUT relates it to Philip Marlowe and his obsession with alcohol.
    • The item description for the crowbar in Case 2 reads that it's very popular with construction workers, burglars, and theoretical physicists.
    • At one point in Case 2, SCOUT compares Honor and himself to Holmes and Watson, Cagney & Lacey, and Shaggy and Scooby.
    • Case 3: When Fran appears, after making a hypothesis for Detective Cross, a Barbra Streisand reference is made:
      K.C.: Fran! Oh, it's terrible!
      Thank Streisand you weren't in there!
    • Case 3: When talking to Roz about the Plane Ticket, Whitney Houston. She says "The power of Whitney compelled me!" to accidentally break a table.
    • Case 3: Sesame Street: After hacking open a safe, Scout mixes up "Open Seseme" and the show:
      SCOUT: Open Sesame Street!
      Honor: That's what I get for restricting you to PBS...
    • Case 3: K.C getting Fran to come out, using Luke Perry and his role on Beverly Hills, 90210:
      Oh my God, Fran, you're never going to BELIEVE who just walked in! It's only bloody Luke Perry — you know, the one you like from 90210!
    • The item description for the pocket watch in Case 4 reads, "An elegant timepiece for a more civilized age."
    • Post-credits, K.C says that Mannequin is better than Casablanca:
      K.C: It was good!
      I mean, it was no Mannequin, but it was good.
  • 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 preceded 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.
  • Take Your Time: Multiple characters note when there's some sense of urgency and yet Honor is talking to them:
    • Case 1: When taking the time to talk to K.C after unlocking the Precinct on the City Map:
      • When selecting him as a conversation target the first time, he references the strangeness of taking the time, saying something like "I thought you were running off to free John.".
      • When showing him the important Polaroid evidence:
        Yeah, you're right — this is important. Go on, then! Stop hanging around here and go rescue the poor sod!
      • When showing evidence he doesn't have specific dialogue for:
        I thought you were in a rush to get to the police station?
    • Case 4: Jena at the Apartment says:
      Didn't you say you've got a murder to investigate?
  • Tempting Fate: Seen in Case 2. When presenting the Starshine Awards, Dick Stanford boldly proclaims to his fans that even though he's retired, "Dick Stanford is not dead yet!" Shortly after, Dick was found dead in his dressing room.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The account SCOUT finds in Case 4 has a really simple password, and Honor seems to have a similar password:
    SCOUT: I'm almost disappointed by military security — I found a administrator account with the password "Password123."
    Honor after some surprise and sweating: Ha ha!
    Right, what kind of idiot would have that as their password...?
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The first of the three laws was briefly seen in SCOUT's ethical violation error message after he accidentally killed Tom.
  • Timed Mission: When getting the fingerprint database in Case 1, 3 puzzles must be solved before time runs out.
  • Titled After the Song: The game takes its name from a song by The Police.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity:
    • At the start of game, Honor and Becky were filming a scene where Miss Terri finds a murder weapon hidden inside the butler.
    • 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.
  • We Need a Distraction: In Case 1, Honor and SCOUT plan to get out from the room they're locked in through the air vent, but Becky notices and threatens to tell Detective Scout if they try to escape; thus, Honor mentions that they need to distract Becky. The player can find a Murder Miss Terri figurine on the floor and present it to Becky, prompting her to rant about having to work on the show, which causes Loony Fan John to argue with her, creating the distraction needed.
  • 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