The 3DS has been out for a while now and the titles available to buy pretty much all fall into the standard genres. It’s refreshing, then, that Ubisoft have provided a game that is both a murder mystery and puzzler, and one that integrates fully the 3D functionality of the 3DS to boot. It’s a bold move, but, for the most part, I believe James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes pulls it off.
Its 1961 and you’re in Hollywood, a contestant on the Incredible Puzzle Masters game show. The show asks the players to solve puzzles and to beat the high scores of the previous week. After the first week of the show a former roommate, who is a hot shot FBI agent, comes to you and asks for your help in solving a murder mystery. It turns out that the killer leaves puzzles at the scenes of their murders as clues to where he/she will strike next. It’s up to you to solve these and gain insight into the location of the next murder. What he doesn’t tell you, is that everyone, including you, is a suspect in the crimes, so as you are happily solving the puzzles, you’re actually making yourself a bigger target. It’s actually a very clever story and, as you might hope there are lots of plot twists involved on the way to its conclusion.
When you begin the game, you have to take an initiation test to qualify for the show. You first take a pic of yourself with the 3DS camera and then meet your fellow contestants. Things begin with a simple puzzle after which you return home and get the phone call confirming that you passed the test and they want you for the show. After meeting a rival and learning of his score last week, your goal is to beat that score by solving puzzles that range from moving blocks to aligning items to various maths and physics-based logical puzzles. Once you manage to beat your rival’s score, Hollywood Crimes’ main story begins.
The gameplay goes in cycles as you first take part in the show then help your FBI friend solve some clues before going back to the show again. All of this is to get closer to the killer and reveal their identity. The puzzles themselves have a good range from simple to very hard. The nice thing about them is that you get hints and tips from your fans (of the game show) which help you solving them, and trust me, sometime these hints are incredibly helpful. You can also choose puzzles of increasing difficulty to get higher amounts of points, for example, for 20 points you can join matches together to reveal a number, for 35 points you need to fill a grid by drawing a line to connect all the identical numbers.
The way Hollywood Crimes uses the 3DS hardware is very clever. You use the 3DS to move around and look at objects with the circle pad in the top left used to change the view of what you’re looking at. The 3D graphics are very pretty, and the 1960’s art style and environments you’re playing in arejust perfect. The way the different 3D layers jump out at you and the all-round quality of the 3D is quite beautiful. You can see that the designers have really tried to push the 3D aspect of the puzzle design a lot, but even when you turn down the 3D slider to 2D, the game still looks good.
The music is pretty cool and the saxophone solos and swing music add to the 1960’s Hollywood feel. The voice acting is good and the script is actually pretty decent, it’s just a shame that words spoken are not in sync with the lip movements of the characters on screen. The game does suffer from some bad points, with the most obvious amongst these being the way some of the puzzles getting repetitive. It can be frustrating enough getting stuck on a puzzle, but when it’s a puzzle that’s just a more difficult version of one that’s extremely similar to others you’ve solved a number of times before it makes it just that bit more irritating.
Overall, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes is a great little mystery/puzzler game. It offers over 140 puzzles that will keep you busy for a good long time. The story is well thought out and equally well implemented. There are moments of frustration, but also lots of moments of fun and as you use the 3DS more and more you begin to actually get slightly addicted to this game. If you are a fan of puzzle games that use logic, maths and reason, then this is for you. It gives your brain one hell of a workout, but, because of this, it’s pretty much a marmite game that you’ll either love or hate. That said, if what I’ve said about Hollywood Crimes has inspired you to investigate it further, I’d definitely advise you to get that pipe out, put on your mystery-solving coat and get sleuthing.
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