True crime stories are fascinating, particularly grisly tales of murder and revenge. Many cities even offer walking tours, regaling tourists with accounts of their most notorious residents. Likewise, mystery games have long taken historical events as inspiration, casting players as the detective charged with at untangling these unsolved dark deeds at long last. The aptly named Australian developer True Crime Games may be the first to combine the two into augmented reality (AR) mobile experiences, bringing their characters to life in real-world locations and putting us both physically and mentally on the criminal's trail.
Set in Melbourne at the turn of the 20th century, the newly released Eastern Market Murder is the second entry in the series, following 2019's Misadventure in Little Lon. In 1899, the titular Eastern Market was the scene of a bitter rivalry between a phrenologist (who assessed people's abilities based on the shapes of their skulls) and a fortune-telling couple, Frank and Annie. This culminated in Annie being brutally attacked, killing Frank in the process. All evidence pointed to the phrenologist, but he put up a robust defence that came very close to succeeding. It falls to you to discover what really happened and obtain justice for Frank, Annie, and their family.
Players actually based in Melbourne can walk the streets and lanes where the events really took place, with their phones providing a "futuristic window onto the past", enabling them to interact with its characters in AR as they gather clues, question witnesses, and assemble the evidence needed to incriminate the killer. That doesn't mean outsiders are left out, however: the rest of us can still play along and even save on shoe leather, as the AR characters will appear anyway, even if their new surroundings might be a bit incongruous. The whole experience is intended to last about an hour, or more (including a 2.5 km heritage walk) if played locally.
The game features full voice acting and an original score, and to ensure everything is historically accurate, the developers worked with both historian Carly Godden (better known for the Dead and Buried podcast) and the descendants of some of the main characters involved. They also used old articles, photographs and descriptions of the area to help recreate the related locations.
Eastern Market Murder is out now on Google Play for Android and the App Store for iOS devices. To learn more about both games in the series, you can also visit the True Crime Games website for additional details.