Rovio's Small Town Murders is a story-based match-3 puzzle game

Rovio’s Small Town Murders is a story-based match-3 puzzle game

Rovio continues its quest to diversify beyond Angry Birds with Small Town Murders, a match-3 mobile puzzle game. The free-to-play title comes out on Wednesday iOS and Android.

The Espoo, Finland-based company hopes to stand out with its story-based gameplay, said Rovio’s game manager Alex Pelletier-Normand in an interview with GamesBeat. Match 3 matches are most of the us mobile game market, according to the market analyst firm GameRefinery.

This game combines the serious subject of murder resolution with a light sense of humor and cartoon characters. The resulting tone is something like the Clue board game.

“We want to diversify our portfolio,” said Pelletier-Normand. “We saw a chance to tap into the genre of the murder mystery and combine it with match-3. We don’t see anything else on the market like this. “

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Murders in a small town

Above: Small Town Murders is from Rovio’s Puzzle Studio.

Image credit: Rovio

Small Town Murders is new intellectual property located in the hamlet of Thornton Grove. The players discover that everything is not going as it seems, because a recluse widow does not find an answer in her house. You take on the role of an aspiring writer, Nora Mistry, to uncover the truth with the help of quirky characters along the way, such as the passionate assistant Shanahan and the local busy person, Ms. Musgrove.

In the theme “solve the puzzle, solve the case”, players complete the puzzle matching levels to collect evidence at crime scenes, follow the tracks and target suspects. At the end of each scripted case, the killer is revealed.

Lots of content

Above: a story takes you into Small Town Murders.

Image credit: Rovio

To advance the story, you solve match-3 puzzles. Pelletier-Normand said the game will be launched with more than 1,000 puzzles and eight different crime stories. The company will launch updates every month, with approximately one new crime story per month.

It sounds like a lot of content, but Pelletier-Normand said that one of the things that makes it possible is automated testing. (It’s not that different from what we heard from Jennifer Bonine, CEO of, an AI-based testing company from our GamesBeat Summit 2020 event.)

In this case, Pelletier-Normand stated that the company did not necessarily use this solution. But he said it was possible to use AI to test the levels to see if they were well designed. He said that the levels must be difficult, but not too difficult so that no one can beat them. AI allows it to be tested more rigorously than a human, but it does not completely replace human testers.

“We have algorithms that try to solve the puzzle themselves and assess how easy or difficult they are,” said Pelletier-Normand. “It really helps to balance the levels and improves the quality of each level.”

Puzzle Studio

Above: Small Town Murders is a narrative match-3 game.

Image credit: Rovio

The game is from Rovio’s Puzzle Studio, which previously directed Sugar Blast (released in September) and Angry Birds: Dream Blast (released in January 2019).

“The idea is mastering the genre,” said Pelletier-Normand. “We have been doing puzzle games for a while, and switching to a narrative match-3 game made sense. It is a logical iteration of what we were already doing.”

Match-3 games have become the bulk of the mobile game market, where King’s Candy Crush Saga dominates, but challengers such as Playrix’s Gardenscapes have emerged in their own niches of decorating game subgenres. “What we are trying to do is make the story meet match-3,” said Pelletier-Normand.

User acquisition

Above: Small Town Murders is brand new intellectual property.

Image credit: Rovio

Pelletier-Normand said that this type of game can hook players with its natural mystery, which makes it easier for players to be attracted and engaged for longer periods of time. “It’s good for user acquisition because it lowers the cost per installation,” a reference to the cost of advertising for a new user to install the game, said Pelletier-Normand. “We are doing a very targeted user acquisition.”

Fortunately, games are more popular during the pandemic, and players who could be entertained with other things like movies or sports are now playing games. It also makes it easier to acquire users, as players are more willing to try things out now. “We have seen an increased engagement of people in our games,” said Pelletier-Normand.

But the competition is still fierce, and so Rovio will still have to advertise the game.

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