Unsolved Crimes (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
TV seems to be dominated by two things these days: reality shows and crime dramas. In the latter category there's NYPD Blue, Criminal Minds, Law and Order and, of course CSI which is now based in NYC and Miami in addition to the original Las Vegas. This has led to a healthy percentage of school leavers now wanting to pursue a career in forensic science no doubt driven by just how exciting they make it appear in the series. Coincidentally CSI has actually made it onto the DS already, although not exactly to critical acclaim, and the game can now be picked up in the bargain section of most gaming outlets. Unsolved Crimes hopes to improve upon the formula although looking at the press blurb it appears revolve around the whole investigation process rather than just surveying crime scenes.
Unsolved Crimes involves you playing the part of a rookie cop in the 1970's tasked with the job of solving crimes. There are eight of these in total, each one becoming more complicated, and including a subplot that I'll expand upon later. All the cases begin in the same way with the captain briefing you on the case, the first being a tutorial section. These are generally murder based although the first section makes you investigate graffiti on a public wall. After the scenario is presented you'll be given more details and it's then up to you to question the suspects and examine the evidence. Once you have exhausted this it's off to the crime scene to find out more. This is generally a case of clicking on objects and deciding their importance and collecting anything directly linked to the case.
You'll also have to prove to your partner that you actually know what you are talking about so you have to not only name a suspect but also indicate which piece of evidence links them to the crime. It is all very intuitive and the developers have managed to design a variety of ways in which you can uncover evidence at each location. In between you also have to report back to the captain and it's here that your abilities are really under the spotlight as guesswork is simply not good enough. It involves you running through the case stating facts and evidence and if you get it wrong you'll be asked to try again. Get it wrong too many times and you'll be sent home. This all goes towards your final report, and rating, which will be a lot lower if you rely on guesswork as opposed to hard facts.
The subplot revolves around your partner's sister and is simply an excuse for the developers to insert some mini-games into the cart. These include a shoot-out, a driving section and an observational task, which are all a little unusual for a game of this nature but it's good to see the developer attempting something different.
As you'd expect with an adventure-based title on the DS, it's all touch screen.
While the majority of the game simply involves sorting through static images, the actual locations are in glorious 3D allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the various crime scenes. They never get too big though meaning the graphics remain smooth and solid. Conversations are text based with an image of the character displayed on the top screen. The only real downside is the rather ropey car chase, which looks like a first generation shockwave game and really should have been cut from the final version.
The soundtrack is outstanding and if you happened to be a fan of Kojak or Starsky and Hutch then you'll be delighted with the funky 70's tracks which accompany the missions. Elsewhere there are some excellent background sounds, which help to push the illusion that you are actually outdoors or in a busy street. Sadly there's no voice work, which would have undoubtedly given this Unsolved Crimes a few extra marks.
Everything is done with the stylus and the developers have given the user a remarkable amount of freedom to survey the various crime scenes. Dragging, for example, allows you to look around, whilst pressing the arrows at the base of the screen will send you in that direction. There's even a sliding camera icon which lets you alter your horizon and which is useful for getting down to ground level in order to seek out the finer details. Elsewhere there are the various files and evidence you'll have to sift through, although this is generally just a case of selecting and tapping to access the information. The only place this differs in when you are asked for specific information where you are presented with a number of blank fields and letters or numbers to input. Obviously this has to be the exact information, and not simply guesswork, or it's back to the drawing board.
If you enjoyed the likes of Hotel Dusk or Phoenix Wright then Unsolved Crimes is definitely worth a look. It was always going to be difficult to produce an investigation based title whilst also making it accessible but the developers appear to have got the balance just right. There are some odd decisions though and the 1970's visuals may put some gamers off, not to mention the fact that the game has little replay value. Even so, this is a solid and enjoyable adventure and who knows, if you do well you may just get that promotion you've been working so hard for.
Pro: Some Great Puzzles, Nice 3D engine.
Con: Little Replay Value
Final score: 7.6