Detective Grimoire: Secret of the Swamp
Way back in 2007, when dinosaurs walked the land, Super Flash Bros proved murder can be fun (well, for us) when they released Detective Grimoire, a point-and-click mystery adventure. Now, nearly seven years later, our scruffy, sassy investigator is back for his strangest case yet in Detective Grimoire: Secret of the Swamp, available for iOS and Android in addition to PC, Mac, and Linux. This time he's investigating a murder at a strange tourist attraction called Boggy's Bog, deep in a swamp said to be home to a mysterious alien creature. Sounds like poppycock? Maybe. But whether truth is stranger than fiction, you can be sure to have a fantastic time with this gorgeous, funny adventure.
Detective Grimoire plays like your standard adventure game. All you need to do is click to interact, and tap the walk icon in the bottom right corner to swap between movement and investigating. The game's default mode will highlight interactive areas with a flicker, and you can turn this on and off in the options. In the upper-right corner, you'll find your case notes, which keeps track of all the suspects you meet and clues you uncover... so make sure you click on anything that looks suspicious or out of place. Early on, you'll get a helpful map in the upper-left corner that can take you to any location you've already discovered with a single click.
Though much of the game revolves around clicking around and solving puzzles, you'll do a fair amount of talking to and interrogating suspects, which involves asking questions and showing the clues you've found, and getting Grimoire's thoughts in order by connecting thoughts and ideas to make a helpful statement that could unlock more options. Each character, you'll quickly find, has something to hide, and by collecting information you can unlock a special challenge topic for them that can help you get to the truth. During challenges, you'll have to pick the correct choices based on information you've gathered to catch them in lies, or even just solve puzzles to find more clues.
Analysis: With its expressive characters and distinctive design, Detective Grimoire might be one of the most gorgeous and effortlessly charming adventure games in quite some time. The artwork is full of character, and the animations (both those in conversations and cutscenes) are fluidly done, all held up by some truly impressive voice acting all around. Grimoire at one point makes a joking Professor Layton reference, but really the game is much closer to the Phoenix Wright series with its investigative playstyle and eccentric characters. Much of the game is simply talking to people, going back and forth to shove new pieces of evidence and whatnot under their noses to see what they say, so the story is really the meat and potatoes of the entire experience. Fortunately, it's a story filled with twists and turns and a quirky cast... not to mention some of the most unique, lovely art I've seen in quite some time.
The downside? On the whole, the challenge level is set pretty low, and the whole thing will be over too soon for most players. Detective Grimoire has the sort of gorgeously immersive design and engaging writing that makes it extremely easy to sink into, and it feels like you're just really getting invested in everything and everyone before it's over. You'll never really feel like the game offers any real difficulty, and it would have been nice to really have to stretch our brains a little. A lot of the "puzzles" are so simple and easy they almost feel like afterthoughts. It makes for the sort of game you'll set an afternoon aside for, and its unique presentation and stunning production values make it stand head and shoulders above games that might be longer or harder. Though chances are you'll find it over too soon, you'll love the time you spend with this beautifully styled and charisma-packed adventure. Let's just hope we don't have to wait quite so long for the next one!
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