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Cause of Death - A Murder Mystery Inside Your iPhone

written by: Kyra Lennon•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 7/26/2011
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The Cause of Death iPhone app is packed with mystery and suspense. You become the detective and try to solve a series of murders in San Francisco. This review explores both the positives and negatives of the game, and shows some handy screenshots so you can see how it looks!

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    EA Games is a company well known for making excellent games that can draw you in and keep you entertained. Cause of Death is certainly not an exception to that rule. The game is aimed at adults, due to the graphic nature of the plot and occasional sexual references.

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    What to Expect

    Cause of Death Home Screen 

    Cause of Death is a murder mystery app for people with a passion for gritty storylines and fast paced action. You will need to keep your wits about you as you investigate crime on the streets of San Francisco. Playing as Detective Mal Fallon and FBI Agent Natara Williams, you have to solve numerous murders, and try to get through the game without getting killed. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

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    Volumes and Episodes

    Much like every television crime show, the Cause of Death iPhone app is presented in volumes (a volume is the equivalent to a series) and episodes. The first full volume comes with the app download, and is broken up into numerous episodes. There have been three more volumes released since, though the fourth isn’t yet complete. You can buy the completed volumes from within the app if you want to catch up on everything you missed, but it isn’t necessary to do so. Each week, a new episode is released which you can download for free, but it isn’t for keeps unless you want to pay $0.99 per episode. If you want a particular volume to play over again, I strongly recommend waiting until it has ended so you can purchase the bundle for $3.99, rather than eight individual episodes at $0.99 each.

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    Playing the Game

    An example of one of the in-game choices The app’s first crime is called “The Maskmaker." It begins with a prologue showing a young girl named Sophie in a dark room, waking up. She doesn’t remember how she got there, but is startled to find a masked man in the room with her. Without giving too much away, the narration explains how the Maskmaker claims the lives of his victims. You are then transported to a bar to meet Detective Mal Fallon. For most of the game, you play as Mal, or his partner Natara Williams.

    Throughout the game, you are given options on how you want the story to play out. It’s a bit like the “Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but on the iPhone. The options you choose take the game in different directions. At the end of each episode, you earn a Detective Score. It ranks you at different levels depending on how well you play the game. If you score enough points to reach the level of Detective, you unlock a bonus scene at the end. The bonus scenes aren’t usually filled with any extra clues; they are usually just short scenes which show something about the story you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It isn’t vital that you see them all, but it does give you a sense of achievement when you manage it.

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    Best Features of the Game

    Menu of dowloaded episodes 

    The free weekly downloads are great. If you enjoy the game, but don’t want to pay anything for it, you can easily do so because each new episode doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s yours for a week until the next one is released. The flip side to this is that if you don’t mind paying, the previous volumes are archived in the game so you can catch up if you want to.

    The storylines are incredible. With each new volume, you can never quite predict what is going to happen next. Will it be a car chase, or an unexpected twist that turns all of your previous suspicions upside down? There is some clever writing in this game, and in spite of the serious nature of the crimes, there is also a lot of humor throughout.

    The characters in Cause of Death have been created very carefully. Each has their own backstory, which is slowly revealed during game play, but it isn’t invasive enough to interfere with the murder mystery aspect. Most of the time it is quite subtle. Mal Fallon is the old-fashioned detective who combines his gut instincts with the facts to solve crimes. Natara Williams is the FBI Agent who is skilled at profiling and uses logic to answer questions. Other characters with big personalities include Captain Maria Yeong and Detective Ken Greene.

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    Worst Features of the Game

    Every week when a new episode is released, there is no alert to remind you. When you are as addicted to the game as I am, you may not need an alert, but for those with busy schedules who enjoy it, but forget to check, it would be a useful feature.

    In-game ads are one of my personal peeves in iPhone apps. If you buy an upgrade, those ads usually disappear but Cause of Death doesn’t have that option. There doesn’t ever seem to be any pattern in the number of ads either. Some weeks there are one or two, other times there are more. It is a really annoying thing to have a scene interrupted when you are really into it, but unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to fix it.

    There are occasional download problems with weekly episodes. Sometimes the screen will just say “downloading" until you give up and turn it off. It is not such a regular occurrence that it would put me off forever, but it happens enough for it to be worth mentioning.

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    Is it Worth Downloading?

    Rating Average

    The first scene of The Maskmaker 

    If you love a mystery, there is a good chance you will love Cause of Death. The problems with this free, addictive game are few, and aren’t a big enough deal to ruin it completely. It's very easy to play, and because of the many different options within each episode, there is excellent replay value.

    It is probably best to avoid it if you are easily scared. There is very little shown on the screen that will give you nightmares, but the descriptions of the state of the murder victims, and the some of the crimes committed are not for the faint of heart! However, if a little bit of gore doesn’t faze you, give it a try!

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    Resources

    Cause of Death on iTunes, http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cause-of-death-free-can-you/id404195897?mt=8

    Screenshots taken on reviewers iPhone