This is a puzzle about solving a locked room murder mystery. Players are presented with a visual novel interface and told to investigate a crime scene, interview suspects, and determine the killer and method of murder. Fully exploring the manor requires use of the entangled puzzle Remember to Hydrate! in which taking various actions with the plants will unlock passages and items to inspect - refer to the appendix of that puzzle’s solution for a full overview of how to unlock rooms and evidence in Mystery Manor.
This solution mostly covers the mystery aspect of the puzzle - discussing how a reasonable solver can deduce the killer, location of death, and murder weapon. First, location of death. When talking to Swift, he mentions that a painting in the hallway is hung upside down. That’s pretty suspicious - Swift attributes it to Crow’s lack of artistic taste, but inspecting and tilting the painting reveals a bullet hole underneath. Similarly, changing the color of the plant’s berries will reveal a bloodstain on the carpet. This strongly suggests that the true location of the murder was in the Hallway.
Next, we have several accounts of the crime which state that a scream was heard, but no gunshot. Since we suspect the weapon to be a firearm, this makes the Old Revolver the much more likely of the two candidate weapons.
The next thing to consider is the placement of the weapon - it is buried outside, near the garden, so we would expect the culprit to have been outside some time after the murder. This most directly suggests that Robin is the culprit, since everyone else is accounted for shortly after the murder - even if they are not accounted for during it - and does not have a clear window in which to ditch the weapon.
After submitting this combination to Duck, we are asked a number of questions to fill in the missing gaps in the mystery not answered by the simple combination of killer, location, and weapon.
What object explains the culprit’s motive?
What was the culprit’s motive?
Since we suspect Robin, the next question is why she killed Crow. Crow’s terminal cancer diagnosis implies that whoever wanted him dead needed him dead immediately. This makes the announcement that Crow was planning to make the most obvious reason for his death - Robin was Crow’s business partner, and it’s implied that the announcement had something to do with his business dealings. The missing papers in the filing cabinet imply that someone doesn’t want some old records to be brought back up, and that the announcement had something to do with these papers. This gives a clear motive to Robin - she killed Crow to stop him from announcing some sort of business malpractice.
Interesting! This comes to the next question. What evidence rules out the Fireplace Poker as the murder weapon?
The bloody carpet strongly suggests that the Hallway is the murder scene, so it is not a stretch to see that the bullet behind the painting was what killed Crow. Therefore, we need the murder weapon to be a firearm.
But then we have another issue... What evidence rules out the Hunting Rifle as the murder weapon?
Multiple people corroborate the story of a scream, but no gunshot. We’re therefore inclined to pick the murder weapon which is much quieter.
Where was the murderer when the body was found?
The timeframe doesn’t give the murderer enough time to escape to the woods after the corpse is found - we expect her to still be nearby. Similarly, she wasn’t in the kitchen, because Finch would have noticed her entering.
Last question. What was used to create the illusion of the closed room?
At the time when the bolt is cut, Robin is still in the master bedroom. She is simply hiding in the wardrobe - once Wren and Jay cut the bolt, they both leave without thoroughly inspecting the room. Robin sets the bolt to delay Wren and Jay and avoid being caught. Robin then uses this opportunity to escape the manor, ditch the gun, and arrive at the scene of the crime later.
Once we’re done with this, we extract by taking the first letters of the killer, place, and weapon - as clued by the splash screen we receive when we finish.
A: Some, notably the Nagant M1895, can be.
A: There are multiple reasons to discount this hypothesis: first, Wren is the only person in the manor who lacks a convincing motive. Second, there’s no reason to fake a set bolt if this is your motive - Robin does it to buy time, but Wren and Jay would merely be drawing attention to themselves. Finally, with such collusion brings a measure of premeditation, and everything from the hasty coverup to the location of the murder suggests that this crime was carried out and hidden very quickly.
A: It’s clear that whoever killed Crow was trying to hastily cover it up. Why bother to hide in the wardrobe and bury the gun if you have the cooperation of everyone at the scene? There are many more discreet and less suspicion raising ways to go about it if you have everyone else’s cooperation.
A: Why aren’t you in Wyoming?
A: Birder rhymes with Murder
Liam: Originally, we intended that the murder changed every time you changed something in the entangled puzzle - small details would change in the environment which would lead you to a different conclusion with a different culprit, and you'd extract by figuring out the culprit for each arrangement. We ditched this idea for a few reasons - first, it was really hard to construct! Making a murder mystery fair in multiple different configurations was a nightmare to write. In addition, it was hard for the entanglement to be “modular”: if you had 5 possible things whose state could change, you'd either have to lock people out of the mystery for many of them, or else figure out a way to make all possible states extractable, which would probably mean fewer states and less interactivity.
We had another idea, which required solvers to figure out what evidence needed to change in what way to make a certain outcome in the mystery happen - this was ditched for being really obtuse and “unfair” - if the evidence could always change to get whatever result you wanted, the mystery isn't so much being solved as stumbled around in.
The mystery half of this puzzle came about because I played too many mystery Visual Novels and wanted to write one of my own. I hope to revisit mystery-themed puzzles in the future, especially since I've got a bit of a better grasp on how to write one now.
Rachel: The bird part of this puzzle came about because I wanted to draw birds. I had recently played the absolutely delightful game Purrgatory and was so charmed by the art, I drew our first prototype of Mystery Manor in the same style. Later, we added the mechanic of changing the rug color to reveal blood, which meant the rug did in fact need to have color; at that point I figured I might as well color in everything and switched to the watercolor style that you see in the final version. I think that making clickable objects a very noticeable bright blood red was a good idea, but I still miss the old style and you can still see the influences :) . Go check out Purrgatory! Cute and moving and great music. No mysteries but for the ones inside oneself.