Sane as we claim to be, as advanced a civilization as we’ve become, human beings are still animals that jump at the first chance to kill their friends, and of course, strangers. This is (hopefully) done fictionally under the guises of entertainment, completely allowable and condoned, then usually rewarded or otherwise celebrated. Murderous Market (80 MSP) isn’t a shy or law-abiding software. Kill all your friends, it says.
And kill you must, using deception as you navigate a sea of NPCs, either trying to sniff out a target or avoid becoming one by blending. If this seems at all familiar, that’s because it is. It’s practically Hidden in Plain Sight, which came out in late 2011 and does much of what Murderous Market does, only originally and better. Murderous Market even uses the same pieces— ninjas, knights, royalty. That’s not to say this game doesn’t have anything new to offer, only that it’s not as compelling when you’re late to the party and wearing the same shirt as the host.
While both titles are meant to be party games, best enjoyed with three friends sitting next to you on the couch, the big draw in Murderous Market is the ability to take on the AI solo (HIPS is only playable with two or more people) and hone your skills when you’re friends / victims are not around. All of the game types here come with a good amount of pre-game customization options and tricks, like costume shops that help you throw off pursuers and would-be assassins. Naturally, success in-game is directly related to your tactics. The obvious and impetuous give away their position quickly, while measured moves and takedowns will prolong your life and add to your score.
The less-adventurous modes, the game’s namesake and ‘Festival of Slaughter’, are variations on the same thing, with ‘Murderous Market’ assigning you a specific target and offering clues to their identity, and ‘Festival’ tasking you to kill everyone before being caught or assassinated. There are a few novel ideas here, though, such as ‘Black Plague Day’, a disease that spreads rapidly through the crowd until you stop it or succumb to it, and the strongest of the four modes, ‘Nights of Darkness’, which has you hugging a light source when night falls, hoping to stay alive and slay the werewolf (that has now sneakily reverted to human form) among you once it turns day.
The concept’s been done before and the art is a little less solid, leaving Murderous Market saddled with the ‘second best’ ribbon despite some unique twists. The AI extends the game a lifeline, making it something you can actually play on your own, but there’s not much to get excited about without one or more friends joining in. With a full house, however, the game is fun, if ultimately familiar.