Inside Pulse 12

Review: CSI: Deadly Intent – The Hidden Files (Nintendo DS)

csicoverCSI: Deadly Intent – The Hidden Files
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 10/27/2009

I’ve forgotten how good CSI used to be. Playing through the game made me go back and start watching the first season. It started out really good. This was before all of the silly love stories and weird stylistic approaches that made CSI the butt of so many jokes and parodies. Gil Grissom is a simply fantastic character from the get go.

I’m going a bit off topic here. My bad.

Anyways, I’m always up for a good detective or adventure game on the DS. I’m always looking for a new crime or mystery to solve. It was pretty much a no brainer for me to volunteer to do this game, even if it was a licensed title by a no name developer. I figured it couldn’t possibly be worse than Unsolved Crimes, and it might surprise me too!

So does this latest CSI game have the detecting chops to compete with the best in the business, or is it still lost in a licensing hell?

Story

There are four cases in the game. The first three are stand alone cases, but the fourth finds a way to connect them for what appear to be a grand finale. In each case, you’ll see how the victim was found before hopping on the scene to dig for evidence and nail down a prime suspect. As is the case with these things, there are plenty of twists and red herrings before you finally piece it all together and find the culprit. Once you present that damning piece of evidence, they always confess.

The game comes dangerously close to setting a bad precedent. In the first case, one of your first suspects comes under heavy fire by the detective. He details what he believes might be the motive, and its the silliest most shallow reason for killing someone I could think of except for perhaps, “I was bored.” Thankfully, the first suspect isn’t always for such dumb reasons.

csi2During each case, you’ll partner with different members of the current CSI staff. Catherine is pretty much the only partner who will show up in all of the cases, and characters like Greg, Ray, and Nick will appear only in the appropriate chapters. Hodges, Phillips, and Brass show up to aid you in various ways as well. Hodges processes some evidence, Phillips gives you the cause of death, and Brass brings in the suspects for questioning. Its a pretty standard setup that feels a bit like the show. Whenever a case doesn’t make sense, you look to the evidence or head back to the crime scene to find out whatever you missed. Then you come back at full force to slam the door shut on the case.

Overall, the plot of the cases are decent enough. There isn’t really any character development going on though. You’re just a new transfer in from the day shift and the CSI gang merely work to solve the crime. There’s no love stories or big personal moments to give it that human element. As stand alone plots, they work, but don’t expect anything to really sink your teeth into.

Graphics

Deadly Intent wisely breaks a trend that some adventure games are stuck in. It doesn’t present realistic models. After all, the DS just can’t handle it. In games like Emergency Room and Unsolved Crimes, the look was disastrous. Here, there is a pleasant animated look. Its almost as if there was a cartoon version of the show and you were getting to play it. Characters emote well enough, though again, without the human element, they don’t show many emotions. The lips move when they’re talking, and it all looks pretty good.

The environments are decent as well. They’re large static pictures that you can move around in order to find evidence or points of interest. There’s never any animation in these scenes, but the detail is there and it makes digging for that last piece of evidence far less taxing then it would otherwise be.

Most of the mini games go for a very simplistic approach. Games like fingerprint matching and chemical analysis don’t really push the DS to their limits. If they were the sole artistic output, this would be a pretty bad looking game.

My big complain is with the cut scenes that are supposed to mimic the show’s signature style. You know that whole thing when they discover how a bullet went through the body it zooms in to give us a close look of flesh tearing and blood flowing? The game tries to do that, but it does it through still images instead of short movies. It ends up being even more silly then when they do it on the show.

Beyond this, the game looks decent. Thank god for the animated approach.

Audio

The sound design in this game can honestly be a bit annoying.

For one, the audio is really quiet even with the volume cranked up. The music is kind of like dark elevator music. They’re decent enough tunes, but don’t really have any substance to them. They are background music only.

csi1During key bits of the story, specific sounds will heard that are supposed to heighten the tension. When a big break comes in a case, there’s a single drum beat to make sure you know that what just happened was really really important. During flashbacks of the murder, there is a high pitched screeching sound like they tend to do in things like this. Its really annoying.

Apart from that, you’ve got a bunch of little sounds to accompany the puzzles you solve and the actions you take. Paper’s rustle, machines make bleep sounds, and a puzzle piece will fall into place with a satisfying click. Its pretty standard fare, but it does add a bit of realism to the proceedings.

Overall, the sound is OK, but there’s no need to keep the volume turned up through out.

Gameplay

If there’s one thing this game does well, its keeping to a formula.

At the beginning of each case, you start at the crime scene and search for clues by dragging the stylus around and searching for points of interest. Objects you can interact with are highlighted by yellow when you pass over them, making it easy to tell if an area will yield evidence. Once you’ve tapped on an object, you’ll get a brief description of it that is meant to clue you in on what you need to do with it. Then you’ll be given three or four options. For instance, if there is a bloody footprint on the ground, the game will ask you to chose either tape roll, swab, or camera. If you chose poorly, the game will remind you that you can’t very well get what you need with a q-tip. Once you chose the correct equipment, the item will either enter your evidence file or you’ll have to complete an action. For instance, if you chose to dust for prints, you’ll need to drag the stylus across the screen to find the print and then blow in the microphone to clear the dust. There are also bits where you’ll need to use tweezers to pry bullets from a wall, plaster a shoe print, use tape to pick up a hair, and even spray luminol to search for blood. The controls are precise for the most part and its pretty easy to get things done. My only problem is that often you’ll think you’ve finished an action only to find out the game wanted you to clear the whole screen instead of just the pertinent parts. Also, every time you use an object such the luminol spray, whichever CSI partner is with you will spout of the same explanation as to how it works. Its on the top screen, so you don’t have to read it, but why does everyone say that if there is any blood that it will light up like Christmas?

After you’ve gathered the evidence, a check mark will appear on your cell phone in the corner of the screen. This signifies that you should head back to the office and process your findings. While the lab tech will handle most of the little stuff, you’ll have plenty of prints to match, chemicals to identify, and comparisons to make. There are not all that many different puzzles, but they are at least mildly engaging. For instance, when you need to identify a substance, you’ll need to place model molecules so that they fit within the structure and the colors match up. For prints, you need to select points of interest and scan them in until you find one match. There’s a timer than runs for each of these that keeps track of how long you took to finish.

After that, you’ll head to the morgue to get the Doc’s findings as well as dig around the body for any clues that can identify how the victim died. Thankfully, this doesn’t get too involved as you’ll generally check around the head or limbs. There was one bit where I was digging around in the back of the victim’s skull to grab an object. That one was a bit messy.

csi3Finally, you’ll get the detective to bring in the suspect you can question him. This adds up to you reading a lot of text before being asked to present evidence that contradicts the suspect’s testimony. It works pretty much the same way as it does in the Phoenix Wright games. You merely scroll through your evidence until you find the one you want. Then you tap a button to present it. After enough interrogating, you’ll either get a new lead or the killer will confess. If its a new lead, you’ll head to a new location, dig up more clues, process them, and find a new suspect to interrogate.

The setup works the same for each level. The controls work and the puzzles get harder and more varied as you go. It never really excels on any level, but the game is solid and engaging. Hunting down that last missing piece of evidence can keep your engrossed, while seeing the terrified face of a suspect as you present the damning proof of their guilt is pretty satisfying. Overall, its a good use of the stylus and enjoyable to play.

Replayability

There are only four cases in the game and each will last less than an hour even the first time through. The game gives you a score depending on how many mistakes you made and how long it took you to process evidence, but the scores aren’t kept track of anywhere I could see.

There aren’t multiple difficulties, and the story will always be the same. The only reason to go back through a mission is to try and get a better score. Since the game doesn’t keep track of the score, I don’t see the need.

This is a one and done kind of game.

Balance

This isn’t a game that you can lose at. At no point do you have a time limit or a life meter to worry about. At worst, you might get admonished by Jim Brass and be forced to read through some dialogue again. Patience is the only thing you need to finish. There’s a lot of trial and error in some of the puzzles, and even in the presenting evidence.

For the most part, the logic in the game is sound. You’ll always know what to present and when to present it. There were a couple of points at the end where it seemed multiple pieces of evidence could fit the bill, but the game would only accept one. I had to prove a guy used a gun. I had his fingerprints on the casings found at the scene, but choosing this was the wrong move. I just had to think like the game. Like with any adventure game, the leaps of logic can sometimes be mind boggling.

In either case, the game is pretty easy to play through. This is a game more about progression than challenge.

Originality

csi4There really isn’t anything that I saw to distinguish this game from any other detective game I’ve played on the DS. The best thing I can say for it is that it plays well, which is something a bit more uncommon. If the developers of Unsolved Crimes had been halfway competent, this is the kind of game that would have resulted.

The game is designed to offer you an experience akin to the show with some fun puzzle elements to keep you interested. It’s meant to follow established guidelines, not shake up the status quo.

Addictiveness

Since the cases aren’t particularly long, its very easy to play one straight through. Also, since you’re constantly finding new evidence and piecing together what happened, the game moves at a brisk pace that won’t bore you.

The only time I was ever bored and/or frustrated enough to turn the game off before finishing a case was when I was being a dimwit and couldn’t find a piece of evidence. Essentially, I was looking right at it about a dozen times before it finally clicked.

That being said, the gameplay itself won’t compel you to move on. It just isn’t good enough. So basically, if the story doesn’t grab you, nothing else in the game will. If the story does grab you, you’ll be hard pressed to put the game down. It won’t take up too much of your time either way.

Appeal Factor

There’s no denying how CSI is one of the true giants of television. Its had something like ten seasons already and has two spin offs both running for several years. People just get a kick out of procedurals with tons of forensic stuff in it.

For fans of the show, it should be noted that you’ll probably get your monies worth here. The gameplay is just good enough and the story is interesting enough to keep you going. As the first game with Laurence Fishbourne’s Ray Langston in it, there’s some added incentive. That is of course, if you can’t get over CSI without Gil Grissom.

For those who’ve purchased another version of the game and enjoyed it, they should take a look here as well. The four cases in The Hidden Files are all unique to the DS version, whereas the PC, Wii, and 360 versions all have the same cases as each other. So, for those looking for even more CSI fun, the DS version is an acceptable portable option.

Miscellaneous

In terms of extras, there are none. That’s kind of a big disappointment. How hard would it have been to throw in a bunch of show stills, random forensic facts, or even a bonus case with the original CSI team? Anything really would have made this game an easier sell. As it is, you have the cases, the credits, and that’s it.

Overall as a detective game, CSI doesn’t really stand out, but does manage to stay competent throughout the whole experience. At no point was I fussing about the controls, horrified by an inane plot element, or lulled to sleep. That’s a pretty big deal when you consider some of the games I’ve played on the DS. As a licensed title, it doesn’t perform any disservices to the show or to its fans.

The Scores

Story: Decent
Graphics: Above Average
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Pretty Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Below Average Game

Short Attention Span Summary
diehardjackThe score for CSI: Deadly Intent – The Hidden Files might not be all that great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get any enjoyment out of it. On the contrary, I was quite content with the game as a whole. I just can’t sugar coat it and call it better than it is. The game does a great job at managing to avoid drowning. The gameplay is enjoyable enough and the story is decent enough to keep you going, but the game just doesn’t have anything to make it special. If you’re a fan of the show looking for a good tie in on the go, you’ll get it, but if you’re looking for the next great detective game, you’ll come away feeling let down. Just don’t go in with high expectations.

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  • Julie

    I agree with everything above. I would also comment on value for money: – very very poor. I am a DS lightweight but it still only took me three and a half hours of playing time to complete this game. I seriously thought of taking it back to the retailer.

  • Yeah. Thirty bucks is a bit steep for how long the game lasts. It almost feels like they could have doubled the number of cases and still not filled up the cart.

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