“ALEXA, WHERE WERE you on the night of the murder?”
While that might sound like a line from some dystopian sci-fi, it’s actually a common question for would-be gumshoes on the seedy streets of St. Noire, the fictional town of the eponymous A.I. murder-mystery from X2 Games ($40, amazon.com) that integrates Amazon’s virtual assistant.
Within the game, players take on the roles of inquisitive private eyes in St. Noire—the kind of perfectly crooked burg found in hardboiled Raymond Chandler novels—to determine which denizen is behind a recent killing. Rather than roll dice or draw cards, however, you can ask Alexa to “examine” locations like Black Saint Bar or the Greasy Spoon, or to masquerade as a suspect during interrogation. Alexa, required to play, answers queries by replaying campy but clever recorded dialogue between a sarcastic, world-weary detective and the shifty townsfolk.
Much as in “Clue,” you narrow your probe through a process of elimination, determining the who, where and with-what of each crime as you discover weapons and verify alibis, ultimately accusing one character in the town’s seedy underbelly.
“St. Noire,” created by Atari video game founder Nolan Bushnell, is just one among a murderer’s row of recent games that integrate smart devices. “Escape Room: The Game” ($25, identitygames.com) uses smartphone-enabled VR headsets to cram the trendy escape-room experience into a portable package.
Share Your Thoughts
Have you tried playing games with voice assistants? How was that experience? Join the conversation below.
Meanwhile, Mattel recently launched “Pictionary Air” ($20, target.com), a digital twist on the family-room mainstay. It lets players use a special pen to draw each picture in mid-air, where it’s only visible to players who look through a smartphone camera. (It seems gimmicky until you try to hunt down an easel’s worth of paper on short notice).
While digital devices are seen as isolating, these games are social to the core. In “St. Noire,” players work together to find a suspect in a limited number of turns, collaborating in their race against the clock rather than competing against each other. The real fun comes from planning (read: arguing) with friends about which steps to take next. And since Alexa manages each play-session’s randomized plotline, nobody has to keep score or track which character was where on the night of the crime.
There’s no limit to how many detectives can join in, although you’ll want to set ground rules for building consensus before prompting Alexa’s assistance. One-player games are possible, but if buddy-cop-flicks have taught us anything it’s to never underestimate that irascible partner you have in tow.
The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8