Small Town Murders: Match 3

App review by
Paul Semel, Common Sense Media
Small Town Murders: Match 3 App Poster Image
Murder mystery puzzler does an average job of solving cases.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

The game uses simple touch controls, and will be familiar to fans of similar puzzle games.


While the game's centered around some murders, and there's vague discussion of the details, there's no blood, gore, or violence shown.


Players can spend real world money to buy the hearts and coins needed to keep playing when they run out of turns or lives. But these items can also be earned by playing, or by watching ads. Players can also purchase special power-ups with real money.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Small Town Murders: Match 3 is a match-3 puzzle game for iOS and Android devices. While the game has no questionable content, it's about murder (though the murders aren't shown, nor is there any blood or gore). Players use hearts and coins to keep playing when they run out of turns or lives. These can be earned through playing, by watching ads, or by spending real money. Players can also spend money to buy special power-ups. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared, and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

In SMALL TOWN MURDERS: MATCH 3 you're a mystery writer who has to solve murders by completing a series of match-3 puzzles. For some reason, the town of Thornton Grove seems to be full of people being killed for a variety of reasons, and you need to use your logic and deduction skills, with you puzzle moves, to bring the killers to justice. Similar to other match-3 puzzles, you attempt to move three of more of the same game pieces together to clear items. There are plenty of puzzles that you'll have to solve, as well as people to interrogate as you do your investigations.

Is it any good?

While mixing murder mysteries and puzzle mechanics could've been interesting, this game's only just okay at doing either. In Small Town Murders: Match 3, you're a mystery writer who rents a room in a bed & breakfast so you can write...only to get involved in some murders that, for some reason, you solve by playing a lot of match-3 puzzles. And there are a lot of these puzzles. Every time you want to do anything -- be it question a suspect, search a room, or even just ring the doorbell -- you have to clear a board by moving three or more of the same pieces next to each other.

But unlike the TV show Castle, which this is really similar to, this app doesn't do either the puzzle parts or the mystery parts with any great pizzazz. While the puzzles get increasingly more complicated, this never adds anything new. Similarly, the mysteries aren't all that mysterious, especially since the characters are all one-dimensional stereotypes. It also doesn't help that this has some technical issues. Most notably, buttons sometimes stop working after you watch an ad, forcing you to quit and restart if you want to keep playing. Which isn't to say Small Town Murders: Match 3 is dull or annoying, or even unplayable. It's just that there's better match-3 puzzle games around...and better murder mysteries, too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Small Town Murders: Match 3 affected by the fact that you don't see any blood or gore? Would this have a larger impact if the game showed off actual conflict with each puzzle?

  • In Small Town Murders: Match 3, you can earn the hearts and coins you need to keep going by playing the game, or you can buy them in the shop, which raises a question: since they're free, why would you buy them? What does this teach you about spending money wisely?

  • At times in Small Town Murders: Match 3, you can watch an advertisement to keep playing or earn some bonus like endless lives for thirty minutes, but why do you think this has ads? Do you think it's why this app is free?

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPad, Android
  • Price: free with ads and microtransactions
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: July 1, 2020
  • Category: Puzzle Games
  • Size: 157.50 MB
  • Publisher: Rovio Entertainment
  • Version: 1.0.0
  • Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 9.0 or later; Android 5.0 and up
  • Last updated: February 22, 2021

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