03/08/2018

๐Ÿค–๐Ÿ”Ž Review: Detective Case and Clown Bot in "The Express Killer" "A Deeply Flawed 'Comedic' Murder Mystery" ๐Ÿค–๐Ÿ”Ž #GameDev #IndieGame #PointnClick

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Developer: NerdMonkeys

Platform Reviewed: PC (Steam)

Rating: Melted

"A deeply flawed comedic murder mystery"

I’ve played quite a few graphic adventure games in my time, some I’ve loved and some that had their issues but Detective Case and Clown Bot in: The Express Killer (DCCB) could well be the worst point and click game that I’ve ever played.
I don’t tend to rag on games too much as I understand that small teams dedicate months and even years of their lives to projects that may not work out successfully for myriad reasons, but with DCCB I must admit that it’s difficult to find a positive amongst the many issues that the game has.

The story of DCCB is that you, as the titular hard-smoking Detective Case have been asked by the police to solve the case of a serial murderer on a train, with the assistance of your sidekick, Clown Bot who is literally a floating robot that tells jokes and also acts as an inventory.

I’ll start off with the positives, the graphics are chunky and pixelated, nostalgically reminiscent of graphic adventures from the PC era of the early 90s. Whilst they are mostly functional here, there are various things that make them unwieldy in that sometimes characters can stand in front of an item that you need to collect and so you need for them to move out of the way, dialogue boxes can block interaction and, due to the blocky imagery, it can be difficult to see what is an item and what is just background. An issue I also found was that the circle that you use to hover over interactive objects sometimes lights up and sometimes doesn’t (it’s also oddly finicky and precise) making it a bit of a crap shoot in general.

The audio in the game consists mainly of jaunty light jazz that isn’t particularly memorable but does set the mood of a noir-ish murder mystery with a somewhat light-hearted tone. I’ll also say that the initial setup and premise is interesting and the twin-thumbstick controls (the left moving your character and the right moving the cursor) was a nice touch.
Now the bad parts.

The writing in the game is absolutely abysmal. As the game is made by a Portuguese developer, I initially wondered if it was mistranslated but no, it’s just very bad. There aren’t too many spelling errors or odd sentences that are usually the hallmarks of a lazy translation, it’s that almost all the dialogue in the game is superfluous, trite and loooooooooong. 

You’ll spend MINUTES clicking through tedious conversations with flat gags, slightly racist, unpleasant barbs and repetitive in-jokes all done with a sort of ‘nudge-nudge, we’re only having a laugh’ attitude that completely didn’t work for me (we’re talking ‘black people eat fried chicken and die first in films alongside fat gags’ sort of level). 

Imagine a game where someone is introduced with a name that the protagonist humourously mishears and never gets right. Now imagine that joke taking about twelve dialogue boxes to get through (before the main conversation even starts) and now imagine that the same joke happens for about half the characters in the game. 

Clown Bot tells ‘bad’ jokes but that aspect doesn’t work because all of the jokes are bad, thus his are no worse. There’s also an awful, awful mechanic whereby an audience will pop up on screen and provide a laugh track but this happens seemingly randomly when no jokes are even being attempted and other times they won’t appear for ages (thankfully) as if the developer had forgotten about them (I will say that I liked how they scrolled past in the train scenes, though) I could go on and have many examples about this aspect of the game but I’ll leave it here, just take my word for it, it’s not good.

There are other parts of the game such as mini-games which are very basic, adding nothing and sections where you have to interview suspects by catching them out using evidence that you’ve collected on the train which is the most interesting part of the game and a section I wish more time had been spent on as it feels like it could be quite well-implemented but ends up feeling clunky.
Summary
I’ll stop here as I feel like I’m kicking a dying man as he’s taking his last, ragged breaths but it all boils down to this, if you are playing a dialogue heavy comedic graphic adventure game that has weak, lowest-hanging-fruit aiming humour, badly-written, lengthy dialogue and a cumbersome interface… it’s not good. 

There have been some great games out of Portugal recently (Greedy Guns springs to mind, my co-op game of the year 2017) but this is unfortunately not one of them.

The biggest surprise of the game for me was discovering that it was a sequel.

๐Ÿ’ง RATING: MELTED ๐Ÿ’ง
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)
Review By Britt