Touch Detective (NDS) – Review

Touch Detective CoverWith the success of adventure games such as Phoenix Wright on the DS, other titles were sure to follow. “Touch Detective”, developed by Beeworks and published by Altus, is another DS point-and-click adventure, and while the presentation of the game is stellar, seemingly making a game aimed at a young gamer work as an enjoyable game for older gamers, the gameplay and puzzles are lacking the spit and polish that most point-and-click adventure game players will have come to expect.

Story: B+

The game centers on a young girl named Mackenzie who has inherited a detective agency from her deceased parents. To get her name into the Great Detective Society, she must solve four cases about town, which conveniently all are brought forward by her friends. With the non-help of her rival Chloe and the ditzy Penelope, as well as the assistance of her robotic butler Cromwell and her living mushroom Funghi, and the rather other unique cast of characters, she discovers the cause and the culprit of each mystery and earns her way into the Society.

Despite the obvious childhood bent, the game is actually effective in telling the story. It’s got a lot of humor in the game that’s appropriate for all ages without being too condescending. The game displays the main conversation in the touch screen display but the top screen shows a face-view of Mackenzie, and that will respond and have thought bubbles as certain aspects of the conversation occur, usually being snide and sarcastic-type remarks. The characters are enjoyable as well, with two characters with really good quirks in the game.

Touch Detective Gameplay Gameplay: C-

The game is set up as a standard point-and-click game using the DS screen to either point Mackenzie to locations to go, or to examine objects or talk to people. Some objects can be collected and appear on the on-screen inventory section, but can also be investigated further and manipulated with other objects. This aspect is generally straight forward, but the game does suffer from the problem of some spots having rather precise hot-boxes; click just a bit outside it and you’ll get a different object or investigation, but not the one you desired. You can also get stuck in some areas if you try to move to another area, and you’ll have to point Mackenzie to a different area to get her away from the stuck one. Fortunately, you can’t fail at any point and there’s no time limit on the game, so these aspects don’t wreck the game, but are more annoyances.

Much of the game revolves around conversations, though none of the conversation trees are as details as some PC games. However, it is usually necessary to explore all parts of the conversation in order to unlock the next part of the puzzle. The game has at least learned the lessons of other story heavy games as the text does appear quickly and I didn’t feel this part of the game slowing me down as much as it does in Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk.

Unfortunately, the puzzles are the weak spot of this game. It’s primarily a linear series of steps you have to complete to solve each mystery. Sometimes, the steps are obvious based on the last conversation or result, but there’s times where the next step is completely off the wall. For example, there’s a point where you use a air pump to inflate a character, but why this works is not explained until a much later case. The conversations that you have with characters when you reach these types of points are also not very useful, and I generally ended up just going to every character in the game (not a lot, but still annoying) and talking and trying every item with them. There’s also points where you need to find a certain character or object, but they won’t just appear until you complete a small discussion with another character, then it finally will appear; this again requires the “do all to everyone” approach. There’s just a handful of puzzles that I think are perfectly clued as to the next step, neither being like the above random guess but not being “use X on Y”. This poor design of the puzzles is the primary part of the game that really hurts it, and even for myself, that I consider myself usually pretty much up for a challenge in puzzle games, this led me to try to get the game over quickly if only to see all the story.

Value/Replayability: C+

There’s 4 total cases in the game, and then a ‘bonus’ episode that consists of a series of mini-cases using the same gameplay functionality after you complete the 4 cases. There’s also a “touch list” that you want to try to complete which requires you to touch several items with various touch feelings about the town. You can go back to complete any episode once you complete it, but none of the details will change, thus making the replay mostly moot. I would say the game took me about 10 hrs to complete, but I note that I would attribute at least 30% of that involved in the brute force method of trying every object with every person approach that I needed to do for some of those puzzles.

Graphics: A-

The graphic design is interesting, as some have noted that it compares well to some 1960’s anime shows. The main characters have human details, but the rest of the characters are a mixture of caricatures from Van Gogh’s “Scream” and anthropomorphic creatures. The graphics are nice and bright, with the character spirits based on 3D renderings as to help make their movements smooth.

Audio: B+

There’s not a lot of sound effects with the game but there is a good deal of nice background music that works well with the setting. Some of it gets a bit repetitive near the end of the game, but it’s still pretty refreshing.

Overall: B-

Unfortunately, Touch Detective may look and sound well, and provide some rather interesting characters, but the gameplay really hurts this title. The actual puzzles could have probably been left as they were but they only needed to work on making the conversations and other actions lead the player better to understanding why doing something would lead to complete the task. Whether it was something lost in the translation or just the way the game originally was, it could have been corrected and made this game so much more. While it’s age appropriate for all games, I feel both young and old will find the game’s puzzles too troublesome and get frustrated too easily.

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