Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in the Hotel Lisbon
Publisher: Nerd Monkeys
Developer: Nerd Monkeys
Release Date: 07/17/2014
Detective Case makes no secret of the fact that it is a throwback to adventure games of yesteryear. It wears its nostalgia factor on its sleeve proudly. However, whenever you’re dealing with a game like this, you have to be careful. Sometimes developers use nostalgia to hide deficiencies. They hope the problems with their game will be seen as intentional throwbacks instead of frustrating bugs. Nostalgia factor or not, Detective Case needs to be a good game in its own right to cut the mustard in the present.
Detective Justin Case is a private dick down on his luck when a series of strange events unfolds. Firstly, a clown robot shows up on his doorstep. Said robot was bequeathed to him via the will of a long lost Mexican relative. The robot has aspirations to be a comedian, but must stay by Case’s side. Then, Case gets a commission from the police to help solve an apparent suicide. Of course, the fact that the guy supposedly killed himself by stabbing himself fourteen times in the back is a tad suspicious.
As you might have guessed, the game is far from serious. In fact, it’s a comedy with a few more serious elements that pop up now and again. The game is also run like a stage production. Shadowy audience members will pop up and laugh at something particularly funny. The robot spends half of the game breaking the fourth wall, leaving Case bewildered. For example, when you beat one of the side-quests, Case remarks that it was a bit easy. The robot responds that the first mission is always the easiest, so as to have a nice difficulty curve. You get where it’s going.
The story can be amusing at times for sure. They throw so much jokes out there that some are going to land. The ones that don’t tend to be either running gags that get old or rely on your knowledge of Portuguese culture. You see, the game lost a few things when it was translated from its native Portuguese. It can still be entertaining, but it just feels like it could have been more.
This is game meant to recall your nostalgia for old school point-and-click games. As such, it uses large pixels and wacky animations to its fullest. The world of the game is brightly colored and well detailed. A few of the more old school tricks fall flat though. Many objects hang askew, such that half of the object hangs lower than the rest. It looks terrible, and makes it hard to tell what some things are supposed to be. The choice to use a low pixel count also makes it harder to discern facial features. Interview scenes fix this by going close up, but the models used while you walk around just aren’t acceptable.
To keep with the old school vibe, the game uses a jazzy soundtrack. I actually fell a bit in love with the music. It feels like you’ve been transported back in time to cigar smoke-filled lounge. I can definitely see it rubbing some people the wrong way, but it adds a touch of class to the game. The effects are standard for the genre, and there are no voices in the game. The music is all there really is to talk about here. You’ll either love it or you won’t.
The game’s interface couldn’t be any simpler. You click on an item, and a couple of options will pop up. You can either observe the item to get Case’s opinion on it, or pick it up. Items go into your inventory, but don’t need to be pulled back out in order to solve puzzles. You can also talk to other characters, or even get the clown bot to tell you a joke.
So, if items are used to solve environmental puzzles, what are they good for? Well, when you’ve found the items you need, you can interrogate a suspect. This involves a series of prompts where you have to choose both the right question and the appropriate piece of evidence. For example, you might need to ask about the murder weapon, and present said murder weapon to the suspect. The questions you have to pick from will usually clue you in as to what item you should use. If all three questions mention the wig you found, you should probably show the wig.
Interviewing someone is a tricky business. If you choose the wrong question and/or wrong item, you’ll have to restart the interview from the beginning. You’ll have to get three in a row right to win. Also, you have to decide if Case or the robot will be doing the questioning. Case is more direct and accusatory, while the bot is cold and calculating. Suspects will only respond to one approach, so you may need to switch things up. Thankfully, the game usually lets you know if you’re using the wrong person.
That’s pretty much it for game mechanics. It’s about hunting for evidence, talking to suspects, and interviewing them when you’ve put the pieces together. You can call a taxi to fast travel, but the game world is pretty small to begin with. You can also feel free to explore in order to find side missions and Easter eggs.
Beating the game will take you about three to four hours, depending on how often you get stuck. Once the main story is done, you can still finish up the three side-quests if you so desire. You can even perform a stand up routine in a score based mini-game. The developer is also promising additional cases that will be added free of charge. If and when that happens, the game will have plenty of value. It might be a good idea to hold off until then though.
Short Attention Span Summary
Detective Case is an interesting case. It’s loaded with personality, but that personality may rub you the wrong way. The throwback gameplay style is done well, but it’s not very deep. There’s a decent amount of potential value down the road, but early adopters might have to wait a while. It’s amusing enough, to be sure, and may be worth it to those looking for a light-hearted romp. My advice would be to watch a few trailers to see if the humor is your kind of thing. If it is, you’ll probably enjoy the game.
Tags: detective case, nerd monkeys, PC