Bohemian Killing – Review
Follow Genre: Visual novel, adventure game
Developer: The Moonwalls
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Bohemian Killing – Review

Site Score
5.5
Good: Unique premise with a multi-layered story
Bad: Dated graphics
User Score
7.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)

Marcin Makaj’s murder story in reverse, Bohemian Killing, has found its way onto Switch. In Bohemian Killing, you take the stand in the courtroom to prove your innocence…  except you are in fact very guilty. Stepping into Alfred Ethon’s shoes, we tried to escape the guillotine. So what’s the verdict?

Story

Set in 19th century Paris, Bohemian Killing is centered around the brutal murder of Marie Capet. As the opening section of the game shows, the poor woman is killed in cold blood by Alfred Ethon, our protagonist. Fast forward to the courtroom where Ethon is on trial, and where it is up to him to prove his innocence. Bohemian Killing is a game about getting away with murder, by lying and deceiving the judge and crafting a reconstruction of that fateful night that supports your supposed evidence. It’s an original take on the classic trope where you are usually supposed to prove your actual innocence.

The premise lends itself to a rather unique way of storytelling. Almost every action Ethon takes is accompanied by his own narration as he recalls his version of what happened. Cutscenes appear very rarely, either while the game takes you back to the courtroom or while the judge questions your testimony. This take means that the flow of the story depends on how you play the game. Although the game offers branching paths, each leading to a different ending, the only freedom of choice you get is through your actions. Any questions asked in cutscenes play out in the same linear way, and you never really get any choices in your answers, or even in your actions: you either do something or don’t. Adding more choices in your actions would have added another layer of nuance to the game.

With nine endings, there’s good reason to replay Bohemian Killing too, although Bohemian Killing does suffer from a few flaws: You don’t learn Ethon’s true motivation for the murder of Marie Capet, for example. Also, while Bohemian Killing is completely told from Ethon’s point of view, and gameplay takes place inside Ethon’s testimony, not all evidence is present at the start of the trial. Instead, additional evidence, both material and immaterial can be found during Ethon’s testimony, after which it suddenly materializes in court. Uncovering evidence like this adds a strain on Bohemian Killing’s suspension of disbelief, but overall, Bohemian Killing offers a well-written, multi-layered story. While Ethon might be guilty of murder, Marie Capet isn’t as innocent as she appears at first glance. Uncovering her fell deeds is part of Bohemian Killing’s plot, so we won’t spoil them here, but rest assured, there’s a multitude of secrets to discover. 

Graphics

The Switch version isn’t Bohemian Killing’s first outing. The game was originally released in 2016 and even then the graphics weren’t top-notch. This is one of Bohemian Killing’s major flaws: everything looks dated, especially the off-putting character models, that look like they came straight from the PS2 era. Fortunately, these character models appear as little as possible, with most of the game in the first-person view as you navigate the environments. The limited bit of Paris that you can explore could’ve used some extra polish too though. Textures often look muddy and the darker areas of the game are often impossible to navigate properly. 

Sound

The voice acting in Bohemian Killing is one of the highlights of the game. Famed French actor Stéphane Cornicard really brings Alfred Ethon to life, and the other characters -especially the judge- do a serviceable job as well. Although the game is in English, it is still set in Paris, and as such, French words make an appearance in the characters’ vocabularies. Having native French speakers perform these characters adds a degree of realism simply because their pronunciation of French words is just right, and their accent feels natural as well. Ethon’s testimony is accompanied by a somewhat understated soundtrack that adds a feeling of authenticity by including accordion tones. For the most part, the soundtrack sounds very generic and exactly as you’d expect from this kind of murder mystery game, but the accordion accents make the game feel more fitting for 19th century Paris, even if they are a little cliché. 

Gameplay

Although billed as an adventure game or a visual novel, Bohemian Killing is a rather peculiar game that doesn’t fit either mold, as you start the game already knowing you are guilty of the crime you are accused of. Your task is to lie your way to freedom, by finding flaws in the prosecutor’s reconstruction of the facts and by bending them to fit your own version of the narrative. Most of the game takes place inside Ethon’s falsified reconstruction of what happened between him and Marie Capet. It’s essential to make sure that your version of the facts fits both the timeline as well as the evidence that cannot be disproven. If you’re able to craft a narrative that gives a plausible explanation of your innocence, you can literally get away with murder. You have a variety of tricks at your disposal to do so. For example, you are free to look at the timeline and available evidence while testifying, and several actions allow you to skip a period of time so that you can match your actions to witness statements.

The best way to convince the judge of your innocence is to match undeniable evidence as closely as possible to what the court believes happens, then go off-script for the parts that aren’t as easy to prove. If a witness says they saw you walk by covered in blood, then you better make sure that you are at the proposed location at the right time and that you are in fact, covered in blood, but it’s up to you where the blood came from. Perhaps you got caught up in a bar fight, or cut yourself shaving? Bohemian Killing offers a surprisingly broad range of possibilities to twist the story to your advantage, and at the end of each run, you receive a score based on how well you managed to deceive the court (or not). These variations encourage replaying the game, although they also expose a major issue: you’ll spend a lot of time repeating the same parts of the game over and over trying to unlock different endings. Dialogue can be skipped in theory, but it’s a tedious process and you gain very little time from this. 

There are other flaws that hurt Bohemian Killing as well, including a game-breaking glitch. When we attempted to escape from prison, Ethon literally got stuck in a wall and we were forced to play the game again from the start. A quick Google search taught us that this glitch was present in the original 2016 version of the game as well, so it’s disappointing to see that this wasn’t patched out. Another issue plagues the loading screens. Not only do these take quite long, you’ll also need to press A to confirm after they finished loading. This becomes especially frustrating when you uncover multiple pieces of evidence in the same room. After each piece, the game cuts to the courtroom so your lawyer can detail the evidence. Doing so only takes a few seconds, but the game needs to load the courtroom, show you a couple of seconds of a cutscene, load again to take you back to the room you were in and then the same happens for the second piece of evidence right next to it. 

Conclusion

Bohemian Killing offers a unique and interesting take on murder mystery games by reversing the main setup and having you play as a killer. Unfortunately, the game suffers from major flaws in both graphics and gameplay (including at least one game-breaking glitch), even though the story is well-written and voice acting is top-notch. This is a game that could have been so much better if it had spent more time in development, ironing out the kinks and polishing the graphics. As it stands, Bohemian Killing deserves a look at, but curb your expectations. 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Bohemian Killing - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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