Game: Art of Murder: FBI Confidential
Developer: City Interactive
Publisher: City Interactive
I’m ever optimistic about point and click adventure games. Of course, the majority of games to come out in the genre recently have been dreadful, but I keep on playing, just waiting for that rare Longest Journey or Gray Matter to come along to make it all worthwhile. On the other end of the spectrum, I end up playing a disproportionate amount of games like this. Games that seem to have been made with a great deal of enthusiasm, but with no real skill or understanding of what makes the genre work in the first place. FBI Confidential goes so far in this direction that it almost strays into the “so bad it’s funny” category. It would have made it if it wasn’t so irritating to play.
Art of Murder: Generic Subtitle follows Nicole Bonnet, an FBI agent ineptly investigating a serial killer terrorising New York. (It’s interesting how The Longest Journey changed the genre. Before that game, it was rare to have a female protagonist in an adventure game. Ever since, every game seems to want an April Ryan clone in the starring role.) Anyway, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the plot. There aren’t any exciting twists to the formula, simply a standard serial killer investigation plot with so many holes it’s a wonder the characters haven’t fallen out of the game. Things that are mentioned as being important early on are forgotten later in the game and never explained. The plot that is there is almost instantly forgettable, leaving you just with the memory of all the hilariously stupid moments that make up the bulk of the game.
Agent Bonnet is the single most useless agent ever to exist. If you created a crime solving trio consisting of Maxwell Smart, Inspector Clouseau and Johnny English, they’d still bungle their way through the investigation quicker than Bonnet on a good day. Anyone who’s watched a single episode of any police or detective show on TV could do a better job. She refuses to pick up a pair of gloves from the supply cupboards at the station because she has “no idea what to do with it.” She then proceeds to grab evidence from a crime scene without gloves, destroying any hopes of getting useful clues such as fingerprints from them, before getting told off for doing so. Maybe if she’d listened to me she wouldn’t have made such a stupid mistake. On the other hand, she finds a pair of scissors in an evidence deposit box in the station relating to an entirely different case, and simply picks them up and walks off with them because she needs them, and apparently there are no other scissors anywhere in the world. How has she not been sacked yet? And she does the whole lot in the same cheery overly enthusiastic manner, since either it’s all the voice actress is capable of or the director is insane. Or possibly both.
The rest of the voice acting doesn’t really fair much better, and often is much worse. It doesn’t help that the writing in the dialogues is often long and dull and full of irrelevant inane chatter. That’s when it actually makes sense. A huge amount of it is complete nonsense, possibly due to being translated from the original Polish. Nicole often comes out with comments that are completely random and/or out of context and quite often contains random cultural references that don’t make any sense.
“But it makes up for it in the puzzles, right?” Who asked that? I’m afraid not, anonymous questioner. An annoyingly large number of the puzzles rely entirely on trial and error. (The following can hardly be considered spoilers since there’s no actual effort involved in them.) For example, at one point you find a box full of keys, and there’s a locked door. That’s the ideal place to have a puzzle involving working out which key is the correct one! Instead, there’s absolutely no way to work it out, since it’s randomly chosen each game, and the only way to find the right key is to try every one in turn. Extremely tedious. Then there’s a darkened basement with a set of switches that turn on and off various lights around the room. It’s a bit unrealistic, but a standard setup for a puzzle. Except again, there’s no real way of working out the right combinations since the effects of the switches occur randomly, meaning it’s again just trial and error, involving flipping random switches until you finally get the area you want lit up. The entire game is full of long boring moments like this, involving no skill and apparently designed to pad out the games short (under 8 hours) length.
When the puzzles aren’t trial and error, they’re fairly standard adventure game stuff, though generally of the worse excesses of the genre. It often requires convoluted solutions for things where something much simpler would surely be available. The game generally limits the inventory by keeping each section of the game separate. Generally, when you go to a location, you can’t leave until you’ve done everything you need to do there, so you’ve always got everything you need to solve the puzzles and don’t have to worry about having missed something somewhere else. It certainly cuts down on the frustration of solving the puzzles, but it also makes the game extremely linear. There’s never any choice of where to go next, with every area composed of just a few screens. Working slightly less well is the arbitrary nature of whether you can take an object or not. As mentioned earlier, Nicole will often refuse to pick up an object until you’ve encountered the problem that you need it for, but this doesn’t always happen, and in one extreme example she randomly picks up a fire extinguisher from a museum and carries it around with her for absolutely no reason. She wouldn’t pick up a pair of gloves because she didn’t have a use for them, yet she’ll happily steal a bulky fire extinguisher and somehow cram the entire thing into her pocket just in case she comes across a random fire. Frankly, the whole game is a mess.
It might seem like I’ve spent the entire review being negative about the game, but unfortunately that’s because there’s really not a lot to praise here. The graphics aren’t bad, but that’s about the only thing I can’t find anything to complain about. Oh, and there’s a button you can press to display all hotspots, which I’ll reiterate yet again, should be a standard feature of adventure games these days. It’s always nice to see another game using that. But more and more ridiculous features keep coming back to me. It’s a shame, since I don’t think it’s bad due to laziness or through cynical cashing in, but simply from lack of skill and experience. I know there are more games in this series and other games by the same company and hopefully those will be improved from this one. Because sadly, they really can’t get a great deal worse.
Save System Review: Save anywhere.
Graphics: Decent enough graphics for a point and click adventure but nothing spectacular.
Sound: Mediocre voice acting though at least the main voice actress is simply bland rather than offensively bad. The rest of the sound is average.
Bugs: I can’t recall encountering any major bugs, just bad design choices.
Gameplay: Awful illogical puzzles, trial and error nonsense and repetitive tasks.
Storyline: Bland serial killer story with a rather predictable ending.
Arbitrary Final Score:
If you like this, you might also like: Still Life, CSI, blundering around crime scenes ruining all the evidence.
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