Unsolved Crimes (DS) review
"This night seemed to beg for a horrific murder. The power had been knocked offline for a couple of hours, and the storm was still raging. Rain had blown inside through the broken window – the killer's alleged escape route – and drenched the victim's dress and shoes. They were the only solid remnants of the young woman left in the dingy motel room. Her naked corpse had already been taken away, or at least, the mutilated pieces of it. Scattered chalk markings showed where each of her limbs ha..."
This night seemed to beg for a horrific murder. The power had been knocked offline for a couple of hours, and the storm was still raging. Rain had blown inside through the broken window – the killer's alleged escape route – and drenched the victim's dress and shoes. They were the only solid remnants of the young woman left in the dingy motel room. Her naked corpse had already been taken away, or at least, the mutilated pieces of it. Scattered chalk markings showed where each of her limbs had come to rest, and a solitary round outline sat halfway between the door and the bloody axe, still lodged in its final gash in the floorboard. Yeah, this was the perfect night for a murder like this. Now, it's time to figure out what the hell happened here.
As a nameless rookie in the New York City homicide division, that's your job. The aforementioned killing is by far the grizzliest crime, but you'll have to solve a handful of other murders to clear your case load. That includes unraveling some strange twists, like figuring out how a doctor can inject his patient with poison, seemingly unaware that he's killing instead of curing. There's also the standard conundrum of a man dying alone inside a locked room. Since Unsolved Crimes is set in the 70's, though, you can't rely on DNA, CSI, or other scientific breakthroughs. This is fundamental, no-nonsense detective work: observing the scene, interpreting physical evidence, verifying witness statements, and constructing timelines.
You won't have to be Sherlock Holmes to crack this game's logic, but its methodical nature should endear it to armchair sleuths. Each investigation begins with a rundown of the crime and profiles of the parties involved. After the overview, you head out to the scene. The area is generally just a room or two, and you must scour the 3-D environment from a first-person perspective. The objects are understandably a little rough, but this ambitious setup provides freedom to view the site from a multitude of angles. Everything is controlled through the touch screen, so you move by pressing on graphical arrows. Head orientation is changed by swiping left, right, up, and down, meaning you can glance towards the ceiling or peer between furniture and the wall. You can also change the elevation; stand on tiptoes to examine the top of a cabinet or get on your hands and knees to peek under a bed.
Almost all the items are clickable, but when you hit something important, in chimes your level-headed partner. Her name's Marcy Blake, and she's sporting a hip white pantsuit. (Gotta be polyester.) She'll ask you a series of multiple-choice questions, and you need to provide the correct answer, plus the proof to back it up. That's where your analysis of the facts enters into the equation. If you're off in your deductions, then your detective score plummets, and eventually Marcy boots you from the force. Continues are unlimited, but you'll want to be thorough anyway. A menu displays slots for all of her possible inquiries, however, you can occasionally advance without filling in all the blanks. In at least one case, it's possible to catch the actual killer without bagging some nefarious accomplices. Attention to detail ensures complete justice.
All of the murders take about an hour to resolve, and they're self-contained affairs. Eventually, you're looking for the mystery solving to jump to another level, but Unsolved Crimes never seizes its chance. It definitely has one. Early on, Marcy's sister, an aspiring model, is kidnapped by persons unknown. Interspersed between the regular episodes are updates on her disappearance. This would make for a gripping, overarching case, requiring a web of logic larger than any of the regular offerings. Instead, the entire time is devoted to minigames.
You'll have to toss a suspect's grubby apartment, looking for any trace of the missing girl amongst the trash heaps. Later, there's a car chase, and you simply have to swerve left or right around dumpsters lining an otherwise perfectly straight alley. Then there's a shootout in a warehouse, and you tap bullets at the generic outlines of assailants as they pop out from behind their crates. Finally, there's a harrowing escape from a collapsing parking structure. The building shakes, and you'll get knocked down and turned around in the maze-like surroundings; the first-person perspective is really frustrating when you lose your bearings. These don't even match the excitement of navigating through the regular menus.
In the end, the culprit is simply handed to you, like a gift for finishing the rest of the game. Not one deduction required. It's an anticlimactic conclusion to what should be the most important plot element. With otherwise stock scenarios, this is a game that needed some punch to stand out. We're left with a solid detective adventure, anchored by clear, deliberate analysis. Despite its shortcomings, those who enjoy a nice little mystery should want to close these Unsolved Crimes.
Community review by woodhouse (March 18, 2009)
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