Murder by Numbers

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Murder by Numbers Game Poster Image
Fun mystery puzzler with a logical, likeable heroine.

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

Positive Messages

The story suggests you can solve problems peacefully through investigation, analysis, and deduction. Players are rewarded for their perseverance and logical thinking.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Honor is, as her name suggests, a noble character interested in discovering the truth, exonerating the innocent, and ensuring the guilty are brought to justice. She's insightful and deductive, using her wits to solve crimes and overcome obstacles.

Ease of Play

Exploration and investigation simply involve looking around and clicking dialogue and evidence options until the story progresses. Puzzles can be challenging, but players can choose "easy" difficulty and use helpful hints if they become stuck.


Characters talk about murder and violence using words and phrases such as "bloody" and "blunt force trauma." Players sometimes see the aftermath in still images, such as a dead body face down on a desk. The player's character doesn't engage in violence.


Some characters engage in light flirtation. One case involves a man being blackmailed for having an extramarital affair. Photographs (referenced, not seen) are described as showing a man and woman naked and "wrestling" in bed.


Dialogue contains occasional light profanity, including the words "damn" and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dialogue contains references to drinks, drinking, and drunkenness. One character mentions chardonnay wine. One character holds a lit cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Murder by Numbers is a mystery puzzle game for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. The game's focused on Honor, a TV detective actress who must become a real life investigator when her boss is murdered. The tone is light (considering the subject), with plenty of colorful characters and witty banter. Violence is referenced in conversation but not shown, though players will sometimes see the aftermath, such as a still image of a dead body slumped on a desk. Clicking through conversations, carefully examining scenes, and working on picture puzzles encourages players to think logically and persevere. Dialogue contains mild profanity and some light flirtation, as well as characters discussing drinking. One of the characters is usually scene holding a cigarette.

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What's it about?

MURDER BY NUMBERS begins with Honor, an actress on a detective TV show, being unexpectedly fired. Not long after, her boss is found murdered in his office, and the local police identify her as a prime suspect with opportunity and motive. She's detained, but meets up with a strange floating robot called SCOUT who offers to help her solve her boss' murder and clear her name. The rest of the game follows a simple pattern. Honor and SCOUT pick locations to visit, then SCOUT uses his scanner to search for clues. Once a clue is found, players have to solve a gridded picture puzzle that's part minesweeper, part crossword. Numbers on the sides of each row and column show how many squares need to be filled in. Using logic and deduction, players fill cells one by one until a picture appears, revealing the object in question. Players can then show these objects to various characters to get their impressions and (perhaps) lure them into saying something incriminating, thus helping solve the crime.

Is it any good?

There's an undeniable satisfaction that comes with solving a Picross-style brainteaser, and you'll get to solve plenty in this habit-forming mystery puzzler. Murder by Numbers eases rookies in with a tutorial and lots of tips explaining how its puzzles work. It might take a few minutes for the logic to click, but once it does, you'll likely find it hard to stop playing. Working out which cells need to be filled -- in part by deducing which cells can't be filled -- takes some time and patience, but there's always a logical path forward. Guessing is never required. Should you become stuck (likely because you made a mistake) you can always request a hint -- though at the cost of reducing your total points -- to put you back on the right path. Just don't expect the final images to closely resemble the objects they're meant to represent. The puzzle pictures are as pixelated as an 8-bit adventure game.

Contributing to the fun is the story, which plays out a bit like that of a Phoenix Wright mystery. The hand-drawn characters -- presented in a variety of still poses showing different emotions – aren't particularly profound or dynamic, but they tend to have big and memorable personalities, offering up a nice mix of jokes and clues as you chat with them. And conversations are generally pretty rapid, meaning you never spend too long before getting back to the puzzles. The weak link, perhaps, is finding puzzles. Thanks to SCOUT's high tech sensors, they're pretty easy to locate -- perhaps a little too easy. A bit more diversity and challenge in how you investigate scenes and discover evidence would have been appreciated. Still, Murder by Numbers is a terrific math-based picture puzzler with plenty of heart and gridded brain teasers to spare.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Murder by Numbers is divided into cases, but each one is probably too long -- at least a couple of hours -- for a single play session, so how do you make yourself get up from a game and be more active?

  • Honor approaches obstacles with an aim to investigate, analyze, and make deductions based on what she's learned, but do you tackle challenges in your life in the same way?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love puzzles

Themes & Topics

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