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Game: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Developer: 369 Interactive
Publisher: Ubisoft
Year: 2003
Reviewed: 2007
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

CSI should be the ideal concept to be made into an adventure game. Investigating crimes, questioning suspects and gathering and analysing evidence, it seems about the most perfect fit for the genre. On the other hand, it’s a license of a TV show, and we know how these usually turn out. And unfortunately, the game leans more towards being a typical licensed game than the great adventure it has the potential to be.

CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation, as you will already know, unless you’ve managed to avoid anything related to popular culture in the last few years. And if that was the case, you obviously wouldn’t be reading this review. The game involves gathering evidence and analysing it to work out how the crime was committed. At least, it should be. What it actually involves is clicking on all the hotspots at the crime scenes, using the correct tool to examine and gather the evidence (usually just using what you’re told to), then dragging all the evidence you’ve collected onto a stiff low-resolution version of one of the cast members of the TV show so that he can analyse it. After which, a stiff low-resolution version of a different cast member will solve the crime for you. The main mystery of the game is usually why you bother tagging along at all.

CSI Investigation
Some guy whose name I’ve forgotten, seemingly investigating a woman’s legs.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the game is incredibly easy to the stage that it almost becomes pointless. Gameplay mostly consists of moving your mouse arrow around the crime scene over all the interesting looking objects that you can’t examine for no good reason, until your cursor eventually turns green. Your cursor turning green isn’t a medical complaint, but an indication that there’s miraculously something in the crime scene you can actually examine. Clicking it takes you to a close up view of the evidence, where you can use various tools on the item. They consist of powders and sprays to take fingerprints, heat sensors, ultra-violet light, plaster for taking impressions of footprints and the like, gloves for lifting objects, and various other bits and pieces. Often, especially in the first few cases, you’ll be told what you’re looking for when you click on the item, simplifying one of the few places where you have to do something yourself in the game. Selecting something in the crime scene will often be accompanied by your partner commenting that you should see if there are any fingerprints. You’ll be so glad that they’re there, because we’re all obviously too stupid to work that out for ourselves.

With the crime scene examined, you can question any suspects or victims that might be around. Unless it’s a murder case, in which case you’re unlikely to be interviewing the victim. That would be a game with an entirely different theme. Questioning people consists of clicking all the options in the conversation menu until you’ve asked them all, keeping up the incredible challenge level of the rest of the game. After this, it’s off to the lab, to drag every piece of evidence over to some guy called Greg from the TV show. He obviously knows absolutely every fact about everything ever, since he can tell you exactly what things are the instant you show them to him. Except fingerprints. You have to scan those into the computer yourself, and click the search button to see if they’re a known criminal, or the compare button to see if it matches another print you’ve found. You don’t have to compare the prints yourself, simply click the button. There’s also a microscope where you can examine hairs or fibres, to compare two samples for a match. You can do this a grand total of two times in the game, and one of those seemed to be optional. And again, you’re told whether it’s a match straight away, leaving nothing for you to do. This is a missed opportunity to add some actual puzzles into the game.

CSI Jim Brass
This is Jim Brass. His entire job consists of sitting at his desk doing nothing except answering the occasional question from you and getting warrants.

Finally, when you’ve clicked every bit of evidence and Greg has analysed it all, you’ll be told how the crime occurred and the case will be over. The boss guy congratulates you on your remarkable ability to click on stuff, and a new case becomes available where you can repeat the same process all over again. There are five cases in total, and they do get better as they go along. The last couple of cases were actually quite interesting, with the final one tying together two of the earlier cases in a quest to find the aforementioned boss guy, Gil Grissom, who has gone missing. These plots save the game from being a total failure, given the lack of any real game-like aspects.

Graphically, the game is disappointing for the time it came out. The game runs at a fixed low resolution of 800 X 600, and the graphics for the crime scene environments are quite low quality and blurry. The close-ups of evidence aren’t quite so bad, but they’re still nothing special. The character animations are so sparse that the people you meet seem to be frozen into a rigid position, looking so stiff they’d make a plank of wood seem animated.

There are some good points to the game. Other than the crimes being interesting to solve (or watch being solved), the game does start with a tutorial which would be useful for new adventure players, or anyone who wants to see how the game works. It’s just a pity the other CSI members keep helping you so much even after the tutorial is over. It would probably only take a few minor adjustments in the gameplay to increase the score by a fair amount. As it is, it’s far from a great game, but for all its flaws, it is quite enjoyable for its very short length (there are five cases that follow the TV series in being about an hour each) and worth playing if you’re a big fan of the series or just want an easy adventure game to pass a bit of time.

Save System Review: The game autosaves as you go along, and it seems to do a good job of it. When you load the game you should be at the place you left off.

Arbitrary Final Score: 2 stars

A great CSI tie in or just a CaSh In? Let us know what you think in the forum.