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Chinatown Detective Agency

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Chinatown Detective Agency free demo is currently on Steam. Hurry up and check it out.

Chinatown Detective Agency is a Carmen Sandiego inspired indie game spiced with futuristic cyberpunk elements and somber noir energy. The project is currently on kickstart, and not only managed to achieve 100% of its crowdfunding goals and some nifty objectives, it is pretty close to reaching the “Nintendo Switch Port” mark.

A free demo version is currently available for on Steam, sadly for just a couple of days. So I highly suggest you hurry and grab it in order to have a glimpse on what is yet to come. Spoiler alert: it is an alluring captivating experience that will leave you craving for more content. The game is being produced by General Interactive Co. - a game development team responsible for the release of Terroir, a game that has mostly positive reviews so far, which gives me hope Chinatown Detective Agency will follow the same steps with equal levels of entertainment and polished finish.

Plot wise, as a Carmen Sandiego of sorts, Chinatown Detective Agency is all about crime solving detective work by following fugitive lawbreakers around the world, searching for clues and unraveling mysteries. Personally, I think this game masterfully manages to achieve spiritual successor aura and makes justice to its claim to recreate the genre. Nonetheless, it manages to brilliantly expand the formula with the addition to much needed modern elements, showing a lot of personality and leaving a refreshing aftertaste.

The gameplay revolves around an intuitive point-and-click system that has become a staple mechanic for detective adventures, with the additional challenges of resource management and puzzle solving. Classical time sensitive quests, map exploration and travel are presents. Personally, I feel that the icing on the cake is the gorgeous pixel art. Not only it shows vivid believable environments with consistent charming color pallets, it also beautifully wraps the game thematically, displaying marvelous cyberpunk setting and invites exploration. Sightseeing these artful scenarios is an experience in itself.

Needless to say that as a demo version the game isn’t perfect and it is obviously far from achieving its full potential. As a disclaimer I loved this game. The premise is eye catching and the execution topped my initial expectations. Criticizing it at this point may sound a lot as a futile exercise of nitpicking. Yet, I hope to make some useful and constructive appointments.

Flaws are still there, and while they do not weigh enough to make for a disastrous fiasco and break immersion, they are still mildly irritating. Some dialogues are tiresomely excessive expositional that receives no help from artificial tonacity. For example, when the protagonist enters she always gives some bits of description, and while it is well handled in some cases as an opinionated insight, on other occasions it goes out as a random talking outloud to no one regurgitation of encyclopedic knowledge. It is just a hard to believe “fun fact” moment that doesn’t quite fit a natural human behavior.

Voice acting is the lowest point, feeling almost cringe inducing at times. On some occasions it sounds as if the script is being read directly from a piece of paper, like someone is practicing to an early stage of a theatre rehearsal. The worst example comes from one character that talks mechanically in a computer-like rhythm terribly combined with an even more awkward accent that reminds me of “google translation” voice or some weird GPS mod. It is passable for most of the gameplay time, but it is always too close to be soulessly inexpressive. It is one of the aspects that feels completely out of place and lessens the overall experience. I honestly prefered silent moments to exercise my imagination with my inner reading voice on my own terms. It is not a deal breaker, but I wish they would invest some efforts to improve it fiercely. Even an Animal Crossing’s animalese-like gibberish is more soothing to my personal sensibilities.

Finally, I wish I received some ending cutscene to the demo to give me some sort of closure. It ends abruptly, and I am not sure it was intended to be this way, or if my gaming experience was affected by some glitch. Anyway, it is very forgiven in this stage of production and the demo was revealing enough to leave me wanting more. It is certainly one of my most anticipated wishlisted games by now and I hope for its success.

 

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Thiago Villar

Carioca, cinephile, chocoholic. Juggles between finishing law school and pop culture critique. Loves movies, comic books and games. Avid switch player. Indies ftw!

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