Detective Pikachu (Nintendo 3DS) Review

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Having originally released in Japan more than two years ago as a shorter adventure, Detective Pikachu piqued the community’s interest. As this game was all but forgotten, Nintendo came out of nowhere announcing an expanded worldwide release earlier this year, but was the world ready for a game like this?

An Inspector Calls

Turning the game on for the first time was an entirely different experience to any other Pokemon game. Instead of the usual fluid and colourful introduction to the world, you are greeted with an empty white scenery. As the camera pans outwards, a 13 note melody sounds off repeatedly. This world feels broken and incomplete, and actually goes a long way in building the world of Tim; his journey beginning with his father’s disappearance. The tone feels detached from the rest of the series, and a little unsettling for something I had down as a game for kids.

Starting the game, it was great to see the trend of multiple languages continuing into Pokemon spin-offs with nine available to choose from, as well as both English and Japanese available for voiced dialogue. Something I wasn’t so eager to see was a choice of difficulty before the game began. In games like Fire Emblem, I can see justification for the difficulty to be chosen from the start; it clearly explains the kind of player each setting is targeting, and presents you with the option to lower the difficulty later if it is too challenging. Detective Pikachu offers no real insight into the game beforehand. It gives you no basis for the game’s difficulty, and as such, no idea as to whether you’ll need the hints provided by Easy Mode. I believe the Hint Coin system seen in Professor Layton would have fit the game a lot better, or even making use of the long-since forgotten 3DS Play Coins. While I don’t believe the game is necessarily challenging, walling off the easier difficulty to a decision at the start of the game feels like an ill-fitting design choice.

On the Case

The gameplay is a split of three elements: introduction in the form of cutscenes and dialogue, investigation and interrogation, and then putting the pieces together for a solution. It’s a simple cycle but is executed well, ultimately crafting the feeling of classic detective shows. Both the cutscenes and the conclusion are largely what one might expect from such a game, offering a satisfying lead-in and wrap-up to each chapter. The bulk of each case comes from your investigative skills, and it’s here the game both excels and falls flat.

Investigating is a simple task. Gather evidence, gather testimony, present it, and repeat. When presenting your evidence, you are given a new problem that requires a new solution, which you come to with new evidence and new testimony. This cycle is something seen in Ace Attorney games, the movement and means of gathering evidence in Detective Pikachu actually coming very close to the style of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. I believe the game does well in presenting a simplified version of this formula to create a more accessible gameplay experience, but in some areas it goes a step too far, alienating older players. I found myself enjoying a large portion of the game. While the puzzles may have been simple, there was still satisfaction to be found in their solutions—for the most part. The most striking of these moments came from a researcher asking me how the colour orange is made. In an instant, I felt any immersion shatter, and I really had to question just who this game was targeted at.

Hey You, Pikachu!

The standout factor of Detective Pikachu is, unsurprisingly, the Pikachu who is also a detective. At its core, the game is structured in a way to maximise his potential as a character. Be it through physical comedy or detective clichés, his charm is simple and well-executed.

Pika Prompts—short and frequent cutaways from the investigation—stand at the forefront of Pikachu’s success. Each of these, whilst only being a few seconds in length, allowed for a deeper sense of characterisation for what would otherwise be a one-trick pony. Often relying on situational humour, each of these scenes feel simultaneously familiar and fresh, reminiscent of Crash Tag Team Racing’s Die-O-Rama skits. While I did occasionally wish they were a little more optional, instead of Pikachu whispering “hey Tim, look here” until you watch it, I did ultimately find a great deal of enjoyment from them.

Perhaps a shortcoming of the character stems from the fact he is a self-proclaimed “great detective.” While this doesn’t sound like an issue, the game too frequently uses it as justification to spell out answers to the player. This is something seen a lot at the beginning of the game, but is still prevalent throughout. Similarly to its Easy Mode, it might have been nice to have had a Hard Mode, easing up on some of these explanatory interactions, and adding consequence to incorrect assumptions.

At its forefront, Detective Pikachu is a game for children; a relatively entertaining and well-presented detective experience. While I did find enjoyment in it, the constant reminder of “you’re too old to be playing this” goes far in breaking immersion. Should you be a parent looking for a simple and fun game for your child, I might recommend picking this up. For a fan of the Pokemon series? Perhaps wait for a sale.

The Long Reach (Nintendo Switch) Review

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After an unexpectedly loud boom as the publisher’s logo blasts into view, you are met with a relatively standard, yet captivating title screen. Featuring an ominous background track and a selection of unclear security camera images, it’s difficult to avoid a feeling of anticipation going into the game. Just what lurks beyond these monitors, and just who is watching them? Eager to answer these questions, I selected new game, and waited. And waited. And waited a little more. Loading times are something I rarely notice, whether they fly by or distract me with a model to look at, or a puzzle to solve. The Long Reach fell short in this respect, and it really emphasised just how long I was waiting. With the initial load of a game spanning up to 50 seconds, it goes a long way in killing the atmosphere built by the title screen. Once you’re past the initial load, the game thankfully runs flawlessly, with little delay between screen transitions.

The controls for the game feel a little unrefined in places, but overall provide a suitable means of experiencing what is on offer. A minor annoyance I found came from the graphic showing the controls, marking B as means of selection, and A as means of cancellation. It seemed odd on a Nintendo system, but with it being released on other systems concurrently, I could see some sense in preserving the control layout. This wasn’t the case. The buttons were indeed swapped appropriately for Nintendo hardware, but in doing so, created an awkward situation of the action and run button being opposite each other. Perhaps insignificant to some, but it forced me to embrace the Joy Con with a claw-like motion as I desired to frantically scramble through what the game had to offer.

How the Horror Gets Made

Dialogue and choice are at the core of The Long Reach; the game harbours a mastery of writing, able to jump between tension and humour seamlessly. Featuring 2D environments to explore, you’re encouraged to examine each element of the scenery in intimate detail. Will you discover a useful piece of information? An ominous message? An insightful quip from our protagonist? With so much on offer from every interaction, it’s hard to avoid stopping at every opportunity. Some of the best moments in the game are hidden beyond these orange-outlined events, truly rewarding those who take the time to look around.

An integral part of interaction is using the objects collected to solve problems as they arise. With an inventory system reminiscent of old RPGs, you find yourself excited as you realise the extension cord you found earlier can be used to light up a dead man’s body, or as your most humble of coffee cups lives on as a challis of the ages. The game does a good job in rewarding intuition, and feeds you a reasonable sense of satisfaction as you piece together its puzzles for yourself. As a rather inept person, I found my time with The Long Reach falling into a viscous cycle of frustration, breakthrough, and a new problem arising. The game goes to no length in holding your hand, ultimately leaving you to fend for yourself. It can definitely be frustrating at time, but the way it pulls you back in as you finally manage to get to the solution will keep you coming back for more.

Hiding spots are something particularly interesting when it comes to interacting with the world. Watching your character disappear into or behind cover on a dimly lit hallway sends a message; something is coming. Something is worth hiding from. It hammers into you a feeling of something lurking just beyond the boundaries of the screen, even when it simply isn’t the case. The sight of them paired with the desire to interact with the world works well to build a haunting atmosphere whilst not doing anything noticeably extra as you play.

Sounds in the Dark

Sound in The Long Reach is something to be toyed with, and it goes far in playing with its set of tools. Featuring no voiced dialogue, I found myself initially disappointed as I read through what felt like a wall of text in the opening scene. As I moved through this sequence of events, nothing stood out to me. The world was nice, the dialogue was amusing, but it had no stand out factor. This changed as I picked up the phone and began a conversation. The conversation featured, like much of the game, a series of options, each leading to a different line of dialogue. It was in this conversation it hit me; sounds outside the room I was currently standing in suddenly became audible. The conversation currently in progress became a secondary event as I found myself locked in dialogue, with sounds of upheaval and chaos a fraction beyond my reach. It was here I realised just how well the developers used what they had. The lack of voice acting allows you to draw focus on other aspects of the game, it transforms a well written piece of dialogue into a reason to be cautious and attentive—this especially noticeable when contrasted with the cynical humour woven throughout.

Ambient sounds match the world nicely, creating something that feels ominously close to reality, despite the graphical disconnect. With this ambience, the game utilises visualisation of sound to maintain tension and a sense of urgency. Shown as a white bar from the location of the sound, this visualisation keeps in your mind the possibility of being watched, of being followed through the darkness. After sneaking into a room, you might see sound coming from the other side of the door. Are you being pursued? Is this slow, rhythmic pulse of sound simply that of a dripping tap? Either way, you want to find what you’re looking for, and get out fast.

A Haunted Tale

This game isn’t without its range of curiosities and minor glitches, but I never felt any of these imperfections particularly impactful on the experience. Rather early on when attempting to hide, my character decided to have somewhat of an outer body experience, the camera completely detaching from his hiding body. It was a small error of unknown cause that was rectified by simply interacting with the hiding spot again. As well as this, you have the controls mix-up, and a main menu that for some reason always starts with new game highlighted. These are small issues, however I feel them worth mentioning. Despite these, the game shines through in presenting a beautifully classic take on a horror title; one that I would feel comfortable recommending for fans of puzzles and adventures alike.