I’ve been much pickier with indie gaming bundles as of late, even passing up on the recent one from those Humble Bundle bastards based around one of my favorite tabletop gaming mediums–cards. Oh well. I did end up downloading free copies of Card City Nights and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, though, so far, that’s all I’ve done with those titles. Both are of the print-and-play ilk; I need to sift through the rules a bit and see if these games are easy enough–and silly enough–to jive with my gaming group. We recently tried to play Nuns on the Run, only to get bogged down in the rules and lose interest before even playing a turn.
Hey, speaking of bogs…Detective Grimoire. Yeah, you like that transition. It is just one of the many names included in the Humble Weekly Bundle: Adventures! promotion currently happening over you-know-where. I’d directly link to the topical page, but it seems that website is constantly changing, and nothing lasts forever, so make good with your Googling skills if you feel the need to see more. Of the many point-and-click adventure games added to my Steam library from this recent purchase, it seemed like the easiest and most inviting of the bunch.
Here’s the story, right out of an episode of everyone’s favorite American animated cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo. Detective Grimoire has been summoned to investigate a murder. The owner of a small tourist attraction, called Boggy’s Bog, has been found dead outside his office, with many believing the key suspect to be the very mythical creature the attraction is built around. Dun dun dunnnn. Of course, something else is surely afoot, and it’s up to Detective Grimoire–now hatless, but not hapless–to rattle the locals for clues into what really happened in this lackluster swamp.
Gameplay involves going from scene to scene across the swamp and clicking on the obvious parts of the screen, especially the ones that flash until you click on them. Sometimes this reveals a clue, and other times it leads to a mini puzzle, like moving papers out of the way on someone’s desk to see what was beneath them. You’ll also come across a small cast of eccentric characters, and you can speak with them, as well as toss clues or other character profiles in their faces to get a reaction. The clues act as your inventory, and through talking to the locals, you’ll gain more tidbits about each one. You’ll also unlock the ability to challenge someone, so long as you have the right logic and clues to back it up–for instance, piecing together why Mr. Remington went home early from the cafe on the night of his murder.
Detective Grimoire‘s two best qualities are how it looks and how it sounds (minus one thing, which I’ll get to in the next paragraph). Generally, I have no interest exploring swamps, but the digitally painted screens here are quite lush and inviting, and the characters, along with their dialogue animations, are unique and a joy to behold. I think the cutscenes could’ve used more polish, but everything else is nice to look at, especially the user-interface. All clues get their own drawings, which is much more gratifying to look at than simply a list of words. Sound-wise, the orchestral soundtrack swells and dips in all the right moments, and there’s this lofty, soft voice that reminds me of a religious hymn echoing around in some grand chapel. It’s easy to listen to and not distracting.
That said, there are a couple things I didn’t like about Detective Grimoire. First, it was too easy. So long as you exhaust your options, you’ll eventually get to the end of this mystery, and the only part that gave me pause was the challenge against Echo, as its wording was more confusing than anything else. Second, every time you get a new clue or a clue in your notebook is updated with additional information, a chime sounds, and it is a really goofy, extra loud, and out-of-place sound effect, often playing over-top someone’s dialogue. Lastly, the end credits whizzed by at an alarming speed; I understand the developers wanted to get to their post-credits sequel tease, but it shouldn’t have been at the cost of crediting the people that made and worked for the game.
Overall, Detective Grimoire was an okay sliver of adventure gaming, though nothing that will stick with me for a good while. I figured out what was going on much sooner than our titular hero did, which lead me to believe there might’ve been a twist, but nope, everything worked out as expected. It makes a jab at Professor Layton early on, but has a long way to go before it can even consider itself a passable clone, let alone a better game. Think I’ll try A Golden Wake next from the bundle.