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Touch Detective (DS) artwork

Touch Detective (DS) review


"Personality. That’s what the heroine and her fellow members of Touch Detective lack. Despite living in a quirky world embroiled in fanciful mysteries, these inhabitants dribble through lifeless dialogue and muddle toward anticlimactic case resolutions. Of course, such behavior could be expected when some of the residents appear dead. The game establishes a unique combination of dainty and grim, but it’s not the only DS sleuthing adventure. With natural comparisons to the charismatic <..."



Personality. That’s what the heroine and her fellow members of Touch Detective lack. Despite living in a quirky world embroiled in fanciful mysteries, these inhabitants dribble through lifeless dialogue and muddle toward anticlimactic case resolutions. Of course, such behavior could be expected when some of the residents appear dead. The game establishes a unique combination of dainty and grim, but it’s not the only DS sleuthing adventure. With natural comparisons to the charismatic Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, this title’s dispositional shortcomings loom large.

Touch Detective possesses its own style of play, though, and it’s centered around one predictable action: touching! Prim and pale Mackenzie is still a little girl, wearing a proper sailor suit and a precious cap over her blond locks. However, she’s intent on continuing the family business in place of her recently deceased detective father. Here she has four opportunities (plus some unconnected bonus missions) to prove her skills, with ordeals involving stolen dreams and melting ice fairies. The bottom screen manages all control; just tap on a person, place, or thing to talk, move, or examine an object. Investigations are driven more by collecting, combining, and utilizing items than uncovering clues through questioning witnesses. There’s even a huge, persistent touch list to make sure Mackenzie lays her hands on every article throughout the game.

But since characters have little to say, you’re left to discover the next step for yourself. At times it deviates from established logic, which results in long bouts of futile poking and prodding. For example, in the first episode, Mackenzie finds a busted butterfly net. I presented it to everyone and searched everywhere to locate something to mend it. Rope. Thread. A needle. Anything. And I found nothing obvious. Turns out only a fragile spiderweb can plug the hole. Each case includes similar challenges that stretch your ingenuity and test your observational skills.

At least the search area is limited to just a small, lively town. Actually, change that to “interesting,” because the place exhibits a morbid and crazy brand of cuteness. Indifferent bystanders are slack-jawed skeletons, and the local clothing boutique is aptly named “Naked Bones.” The rundown skating rink is owned by a walrus who hates cold weather. And a (literally) puffed-up parakeet serves as a lazy landlord; she perversely enjoys being inflated by an air pump inserted [where?!]. As colorful as these characters sound, though, none has anything comical to say. One bony carcass’ final joke is to admit he’s blathered about nothing the entire game.

The tone only picks up when Mackenzie’s two friends burst into a scene. Playful Penelope has puffs of pink hair, and dreams like a kid with a similarly fluffy brain of cotton candy. Chloe is more hard-boiled and an aspiring detective in her own right. As a self-proclaimed rival, she’s usually getting underfoot, spouting nonsensical theories, and suggesting outlandish schemes to crack a case. They both possess great energy and are really the only characters with exaggerated expressions and gestures. Mackenzie herself is wholly different from the pair, which puts her exactly nowhere. Her awkward movement is more mechanical than her robot butler’s, and she says as much of substance as her mute mushroom assistant.

She’s a blank slate, and it kills a decent foundation. The entire upper screen is continuously devoted to a closeup of our lead investigator, ostensibly so we can bask in her emotion and indulge in her innermost thoughts. It’s the perfect opportunity to shower us with wit and wisdom! Except her dull, black eyes only occasionally widen with slight surprise, and her most frequent consideration is some variation of, “I don’t get it...” I certainly don’t understand why the developers would present such an empty-headed heroine. The scenarios lack flow because she never reacts to anything. She’s never truly shocked, so revelations don’t seem important. She’s never excited, so there’s no urgency or build to a final climax. In fact, the cases end unsatisfactorily, without any real repercussions for the culprits. The entire adventure ultimately feels pointless.

Rating: 4/10

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Community review by woodhouse (November 11, 2006)

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