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Touch Detective Package Art
GENRE
Adventure
DEVELOPER
Success / Beeworks
PUBLISHER
Atlus
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
No
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
No
MICROPHONE
No
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Touch Detective

A dream thief! A kidnapping! A hostage situation! And murder...

Atlus's charming localization of Success/Beeworks' Touch Detective has finally arrived in the U.S. for adventure game fans everywhere. Such fans who grew up on classic point-and-clicks like King's Quest and Broken Sword, or newer fans who were engaged in vast stories like The Longest Journey, may appreciate the charm this little series of mysteries provides. What's more, younger DS players will also find this title very accessible. All be forewarned, however: this is an adventure game to its core, and with its appeal also comes expected pitfalls.

visuals

Touch Detective is perfectly suited for a late October release. Both detailed and cozy, the gothic animé stylings of the game's world are colorful, inviting and tinged with a just-right dose of spookiness. The main character and her girlfriends are all moon-eyed children who look as though they're in a trance, and the adults around them are interestingly either monsters or anthropomorphic animals, with perhaps one exception. A good reason for this species anomaly is never given, but it's fun to imagine if the kids just see their superiors in this fashion rather than them truly being inhuman.

All the characters, both primary and secondary, are cel-shaded 3D models who exist upon watercolor-styled 2D backdrops. Little animation of the backdrops occurs, but they are pretty enough to last the duration of the mysteries. Interactive items within the backdrops don't always stand out with obvious outlining or colorings, which is either a love-it or hate-it thing depending on how obvious you like your adventure games.

The top screen is used modestly: it features a title card stating the current mystery and location, as well as a large portrait of detective Mackenzie. While the 3D character models don't often emote or physically animate that much, Mackenzie's portrait up top frequently changes to reflect her fear, skepticism, and, sometimes, sarcasm. All of Mackenzie's inner monologue gets displayed in thought bubbles next to her portrait on the top screen, right at the same moment as she may be listening to or saying something to someone on the bottom screen. This can make for some tricky situations, jumping back and forth between the text of what Mackenzie's saying on the lower screen and thinking on the upper screen, but her asides are often much more about personality, humor and color than anything essential to solving the mystery.

audio

Touch Detective is a tidy game, and as such it has a cute little soundtrack that ranges from upbeat jazz to ethereal music box tunes. The music in the planetarium area is a great stand-out as it matches the gothic visuals of the game's world so well. The game's characters don't speak vocally, unless you count the grunting sound Mackenzie's pet and sidekick Funghi (an anthropomorphic mushroom that's strangely cooler than Super Mario's Toad), so all dialogue and on-screen text is displayed as if being typed and accompanied by varying pitches of stuttering ticks.

gameplay

This is a point-and-click adventure through-and-through. It would be just as comfortable being played on PC with a mouse as it is with the DS's stylus. The D-pad can be used, but touching it only produces an arrow on-screen that is pointed at an item and then "clicked" with the A button. It's far faster and easier to just use the stylus and tap where Mackenzie should walk, or tap an item for Mackenzie to touch, pick up or interact with.

With a title like "Touch Detective," many different gameplay possibilities come to mind. Touch is certainly used to the extent that the game's best played using the stylus to touch places and things on the screen, but other than that there's not a crucial, obvious reason why Mackenzie is taking over her recently deceased father's detective business, striving to be an ace "touch detective." She certainly will touch lots of items that are not relevant to the storyline, and keep a note about each and every one in a notebook that can be checked outside the main storyline, but the use of this is often more novelty than anything else. Mackenzie likes the feeling of the edge of a receipt but doesn't like the coldness of a bag of frozen vegetables. Does that matter? Not necessarily, but finding these tactile experiences fills in the 50 blanks of Mackenzie's "Touch List" while she's solving mysteries.

The two essential ingredients to make a successful adventure game are story and puzzles, as there's little else to motivate point-and-click action. Mackenzie's mysteries are pretty good but do lean more on the kid-friendly side than anything truly compelling for older gamers: Agatha Christie this is not. One mystery does have a particularly dark, PG-13 slant to it, but only if you're older and can pick up on the subtexts, while the other mysteries are pretty silly fluff.

The puzzles to solve these mysteries can either be as obvious or obtuse as any adventure game's, and as with its PC ancestors, Touch Detective frequently falls victim to the most annoying flaw an adventure game can have. The gamer may have all the items needed to progress, and talked to everyone needed, but the game will grind to a complete halt until she or he visits one out-of-the-way location or triggers one particular line of dialogue from a secondary character through a dialogue tree. So much time can be wasted randomly trying to associate items to people or tap, tap, tapping through the same old conversation the tenth time while trying to find what is needed to advance the story. But as any seasoned adventure gamer will tell you, this is par for course in the genre. If short of patience, this game is not for you.

That's not to suggest that Touch Detective is epic or unreasonably lengthy. With enough perserverance, the game's four mysteries can be swooped through at a good pace. Non-required mini-mysteries can also be played in-between each of the main mysteries, too, but they're not too much more meat than what's already there. That said, the game could have benefitted from at least one more full mystery-- Phoenix Wright had much more to go through than this title-- or more unique places to go than the five locations that all four mysteries are limited to.

multiplayer

This game features no multiplayer or wi-fi support.

overall

When first seen at E3 2006, Touch Detective only had looks and personality to go on since it was in Japanese. Yet its distinctive style immediately made it a game to watch for. Atlus did an excellent job further augmenting this with another great, humorous localization: whoever came up with the unexpected and hilarious, "Murder case! Woot!" remark should be applauded. However, Touch Detective is a classic adventure game, meaning the gameplay is light and sometimes frustrating, and the mysteries the story revolves around are most appropriate for a young teen crowd. Nevertheless, the title is a great introduction to the "story game" genre for younger DS fans as well as older adventure game fans willing to invest time in the cute mysteries.

final score 7.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar M. Noah Ward
Staff Profile | Email
"Death narrowly avoided, thanks to another friendly NPC."


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