We rarely get to see the rough edged, noir-style story arc executed with justice in video games. Others may have taken a crack at it in the past, but A Crowd of Monsters has blown it wide open in a gruesome and glorious manner with Blues and Bullets. Utilizing key historical figures like Eliot Ness and the infamous Al Capone to weave its alternative history crime drama, I was sucked into this universe like a black hole. Captivating the player with its serious tone and beautifully antique world, I’m undoubtedly on board for the ride.
When it seems the world has been taken over by the Telltale Games model of episodic storytelling, Blues and Bullets completely redefines what that genre can offer. Broken into 5 episodes, Episode 1 introduces us into a very desperate situation. You take on the role of a now retired Det. Eliot Ness who is living modestly as a diner owner. Long gone from the days of being a Prohibition Agent and hunting down the mafia super criminal, Al Capone. The old wounds are reopened when a strange, yet familiar man walks into Ness’ diner one day, requesting him to a meeting with a now elderly and newly freed Capone. We learn that despite their differences, Capone is seeking Ness’ assistance in recovering his granddaughter, Sophia Capone. Sophia was mysteriously abducted and only the worst can be suspected.
In between scenes of the investigation, you replay memories from Ness and Capone”s past. You begin to feel the gravity and desperation of their new reunion when you see the volatile past between the two. In Ness’ campaign to take down this crime juggernaut, he had slain many of Ness’ fellow cops. The effect it has on Ness is shattering, and you can see him struggle with the same illegal drinking he is supposed to be abolishing. Jumping back to the present day, the investigation begins to heat up when they follow a lead to one of Capone’s old allies. Reaching the residence of this ally, they uncover a grisly scene before them. Their suspect was horrifically murdered, dismembered, and put on display in a sick ritualistic manner.
Blues and Bullets allows the player to collect clues from the scene and informatively come to a conclusion using an ER diagram. I loved this portion so much. Hearing Ness’ begin to formulate an idea of the crime and his quirky little comments only furthered my intrigue in finding every clue I could. Traversing through the house it becomes clear that a murder of this gory and brute nature has to have some affiliation to the occult. Slowly the dots start to connect to Sophia’s disappearance. I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but this scene is what completely drew me in. Diving down this rabbit hole, it becomes completely clear that Blue and Bullets holds so much potential and substance.
Graphically, Blues and Bullets completely sweeps you up in its vintage style visuals. I never thought a game only using 3 colors could look so exquisite and beautiful. The landscapes are drenched in rich deep blacks, glaring whites, and piercing reds. While the character models aren’t pushing any envelopes, they are just additions to an already strikingly elegant world. Only a couple of times have I played games that attempted this presentation, but Blues and Bullets absolutely takes the crown.
The Blues and Bullets series is off to an exhilarating and twisted start. Developer A Crowd of Monsters has constructed a fantastic gameplay experience that catapulted my excitement for Episode 2 greater than most major game sequels this year. Extracting historical figures like Eliot Ness and Al Capone, and plunging them into this alt-history abduction mystery is an inventive concept that earns my high praises. All of this complimented with a magnificent world and an exceptional narrative plummet Blues and Bullets to my 2016 must-play list.
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