CIS: The eight best classic crime adventure games for iPad

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•button-150x150Books, films, television… there are lots of ways to enjoy crime fiction. One of the most immersive methods of savouring a mystery, however, is with a good old computer game. We’re not talking about entering war zones and blowing people away with grenades, or stealing cars and running them down. For crime fiction lovers, the best games are the classic adventures that were developed in the early 1990s when CD-ROM became the standard medium for computer data. Games began to tell involving stories, augmented with video, animation and stunning sound tracks. People even talked about interactive movies. While we wouldn’t go that far, the point and click adventures of that period were thrilling and captivating. They were just like good novels and the best part was that you could take part by solving the mystery yourself. The great news is you still can. Many of the best ones have been ported over to iPad, and some of them have even been improved. Here are our recommendations.

samnmaxbeyondspaceandtime3008 – Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space
OK, maybe this is an unfair entry, which is perhaps why it’s not higher up the list. This is not the original Sam & Max Hit the Road, but a more recently produced series of episodic adventures. Sam is the trench coat wearing dog detective that you control, with Max as your partner. Max is a psychotic bunny. They’re derived from a 1989 comic book by Steve Purcell, one of the game’s producers. The first episode involves the Freelance Police, as they call themselves, on a mission to foil the plans of a pagan god called Santa using their detective skills and, probably, a bit of violence. Further episodes take them to Hawaii and even Hell.
Buy on iTunes

laytonbrothersmysteryroom3007 – Layton Brothers: Mystery Room
The other games on this list all originated on desktop computers, but this one comes from the world of the Nintendo DS. The Professor Layton series of games sold in their millions, with a main character based on Sherlock Holmes, but with a bit of a Japanese twist. Layton Brothers: Mystery Room continues the story on iPad with the Professor’s son, Alfendi, working for Scotland Yard’s Mystery Room unit. You’ll investigate crime scenes, and then interrogate suspects, as you try to solve the case of the Hand Sandwich, and the Bungled Burglary. Further add-on mysteries are available via in-app purchase. Like Sam & Max, it’s not the classic game but a derivative of one, but it takes seventh position because players do love these mysteries.
Buy on iTunes

myst4006 – Myst
Released in 1993 for Mac, and later for PC, the original Myst was a big hit thanks to its immersive rendered world. As its name suggests, it is a mystery. And, everything in the distance is shrouded in mist. Playing The Stranger, you find yourself on an island. By exploring, reading the journal you find, and solving puzzles, you make the story unfold around you. Eventually, you can visit other ‘ages’, and unravel the mystery of what happened to a possibly alien character called Atrus, and his sons Sirrus and Achenar. It can be a lonely and slow-paced affair, and although it has a sci-fi underpinning, Myst is an otherworldly adventure many mystery fans will enjoy.
Buy on iTunes

7thguest2005 – The 7th Guest
The 7th Guest was mind-blowing when it came out in 1993, and you can still play it on iPad today. Basically, your character awakens in the house of Henry Stauf. The place is strangely abandoned and downright spooky, and your task is to explore the rooms and solve various logic puzzles. You know, shifting letters around to decode notes, mazes, chess puzzles, and there’s one like the game Othello as well. With each puzzle you crack, further areas of the house are available for you to explore, and episodes from Stauf’s dark background are revealed. He was, after all, a notorious… Well, play the game and you’ll find out what he was but it’s suitably criminal, trust me. It’s a pity the sequel, The 11th Hour, hasn’t been released on iPad as yet.
Buy on iTunes

maxpayne2004 – Max Payne
Here’s the classic crime game that fans of hardboiled detective fiction will love, and it was even released as a film. Originally published in 2001, it’s more of a 3D shooter than a point-and-click adventure. Converted for the iPad, you’ll move Max around a three-dimensional city interacting with people and certain things in the environment which may or may not provide clues. Clues as to just why his wife and daughter were murdered, who did it, and how he can perhaps stop them from killing again. The plot line is complex, with a decent cast of characters including a femme fatale and one or two Judases as well. So watch your back if you play Max Payne. Navigating in 3D on the iPad takes a bit of getting used to.
Buy now on iTunes

gabrielknight8753 – Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Here’s another classic from the height of the CD-ROM era. Gabriel Knight is a New Orleans writer researching a book on voodoo at a time when voodoo-inspired murders are occurring around the city. Putting aside some of the cheesy dialogue, the mystery here is pretty compelling as Gabriel tries to get involved in the murder enquiry. It turns out that what’s happening could have links to Gabriel’s own family history and dark events that occurred back in the 17th century. The game includes a short but beautifully illustrated graphic novel (one of the clues) and was revamped for its iPad release in 2013 – the 20th anniversary edition of the game.
Buy now on iTunes

brokensword4002 – Broken Sword: Shadows of the Templar
After the success of Beneath a Steel Sky – which had strands of noir along with a sci-fi distopia – game creator Charles Cecil became fascinated by the Knights Templar and the story of the Holy Grail. So, he put together a game in which an American patent lawyer and a French journalist unwittingly stumble into a plot that’s all to do with holy artefacts, and people who’ll kill to get hold of them. It begins with the bombing of a French cafe, continues through chapels and ancient ruins in the UK and abroad, and ends with the secret order of knights trying to gain a whole new level of power. The game predates Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code by seven years. Yes, it gets a touch supernatural but the crime solving and puzzles along the way are a delight.
Buy now on iTunes

lastexpress4001 – The Last Express
There’s a touch of Murder on the Orient Express about this well-written mystery. It also has hints of The Thirty-Nine Steps about it. The Last Express was developed by Jordan Mechner, the games guru responsible for the Prince of Persia franchise during the 1980s, but in this 1997 mystery he slowed the pace and produced an atmospheric adventure that takes place entirely on the Orient Express. It pulls out of Gare de L’Est, Paris heading East and, playing Robert Cath, the first thing you discover is the friend you were supposed to meet dead in his cabin. Assuming his identity, you’ve got to figure out what he was up to before being apprehended for his murder. There’s a cast of 30 including a Russian anarchist, a German arms dealer and a shady prince from the Near East. It is 1914, and naturally the backdrop to WWI is woven into this story – even Serbian nationalists! This is the one classic crime adventure game crime fiction lovers will adore.
Buy now on iTunes

Also see our article Five of the best crime and mystery apps. Classics in September 2016 is sponsored by Bloomsbury Reader.

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