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James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D


16:0303/02/2012Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

The Nintendo 3DS is the perfect platform for games of the puzzle genre. Just a cursory glance at the success of the Professor Layton series will reveal how popular mind-teasers have become; it makes perfect sense too, given the portability of the DS Lite system, which has served to make train journeys more entertaining – and much more challenging – thanks to the bite-sized challenges on offer. Now James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes comes to the DS Lite’s successor in three dimensions, but is this budget title worth investigating or is this one crime that’s best left unsolved?

One key aspect of the game is its sense of identity; going out of its way to be cheesy, almost thriving on its own silliness. This will become an endearing quality for some, but will no doubt be off-putting for others. Unsurprisingly, everything from the setting of the bygone era, the music and hammed-up delivery of the dialogue is merely window dressing serving to set up each puzzle. The story might actually pull you in at times, but it won’t be thanks to a plethora of intriguing characters – such things are noticeably absent here. Instead, the game is so over-the-top in its attempt to capitalise on the setting that everything becomes stereotyped and (whether it’s intentional or not) fairly humorous to boot.

The looping animations and lip movements of the characters aren’t fantastic, but such things probably beat staring at a static screen. Of course, one of the main questions regarding this release is how well the 3D effect has been implemented and in this case we can only answer with the word, ‘amicably’. Everything exhibits a flat, cardboard appearance during the cutscenes (which are thankfully skippable), but it’s in the puzzles themselves that things begin to look more impressive. Cubes stand out in the foreground as they should, and moving around in a crime scene can yield results, whether it’s revealing a hidden number or a coloured pattern that must be identified. Hollywood Crimes does make solid use of the tech at times, but to say that it adds to the game would be a bit of a stretch.

The puzzles themselves (the real meat and bones of a game such as this) vary in quality and you’re almost certain to have your favourites. These range from extremely easy early on to perplexingly tough, so it’s just as well that help is on hand thanks to the welcome hint system; retain hints during easy stages to make them readily available for later use. You’re rewarded for taking your time, contemplating, working the puzzles out for yourself and pushing ahead with as little assistance as possible. Use the maximum amount of hints on a particularly fiendish puzzle and you can generally expect to be told the answer – it may be a pass, but it’s anything but free.

One moment you’ll be accumulating points on a game show, dropping balls into containers or opening the path via coloured tiles, and the next you’ll be refitting gears in a lift or solving puzzle cubes left at a crime scene. The touch screen comes into play more than the 3D screen, though to the developer’s credit both are used in tandem at just the right moments (such as in setting the scene). That said, there’s very little here that differentiates the game from a standard DS title. A good variety is provided, but the challenges do repeat and often. There’s also little incentive to return once the story is complete, though the ability to replay or attempt the games you ignored the first time means you won’t be feeling short-changed in the long run. Whether or not you’ll feel compelled to do so is another issue entirely.

It can be tough to be too critical of a game that’s available at a low price and offers enough content to warrant the price tag, but at the same time it’s a game that falls notably short of its own potential. Hollywood Crimes is not without a sense of charm and may well appeal to budding super sleuths, or anyone who’d rather sit with the stylus and a good brain teaser than take on epic adventure or blow things up. This isn’t a criminal case of shovelware, but we can’t give it a full stamp of approval either… and so whether it’s worth investigating depends greatly on how much you enjoy playing portable detective.

This review is based on a retail copy of the 3DS version of James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D provided by Ubisoft.

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