There’s something alluring about a game that forces you to figure things out on your own.
Better yet is an adventure game that asks you to use resources outside of the game’s world to solve its mysteries. That’s Chinatown Detective Agency, a point and click adventure game that puts you in the shoes of a private detective based in a cyber-noir take on Singapore. Amira Darma finds herself confronted by a range of clients, all with mysterious tasks to be completed. And, as you’re the one in control of Darma, doing their dirty work comes down to you.
Well, not ‘dirty work’ exactly. Darma makes it very clear that she doesn’t want to do anything shady. But she is happy to work on a no-questions-asked basis, as long as her clients are willing to pay up. Your first mission as Darma will see you tracking down a missing man. You’ll need to solve a cypher (hope you’ve got a notebook and pen ready), use Google (yes, actual Google on your own PC or phone) to find the author of a quote, and fly halfway across the world to track him down.
It’s rather empowering, needing to use your noggin to figure out clues outside of the framework set by the game. And it’s not a one-off; it’s a tactic that Chinatown Detective Agency employs regularly. So much so that there’s a ‘browser’ button right there in the game, taking you to your PC’s browser. Or you can just pick up your smartphone and search that way. Of course, these aren’t real crimes we’re solving, and we’re not helping real people. But having such autonomy over figuring stuff out leaves us feeling like real detectives. It’s great.
It’s particularly great considering that Chinatown Detective Agency‘s developer, General Interactive Co., has opted for a retro pixel style, akin to the point and click games of the 90s. You know, a time where the internet and search engines weren’t readily available in our homes. It feels like an amalgamation of the classic and modern in that regard, and it works to great effect. Sure, the simple pixel art isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but it hardly matters. Character portraits and pieces of evidence are wonderfully illustrated instead, and key conversations in the game are fully voiced. It’s easy to get immersed in Chinatown‘s world.
There’s a big world to explore within the confines of Chinatown Detective Agency, which expands far beyond Singapore. Book a flight using the game’s ‘Horus’ booking system, and you’ll find yourself in England, Turkey, Greece and more. The pixel art representations of each city are endearing, and even if you can’t fully explore each locale, the imagery you can see does a great job of representing them. Though remember, this is set in a dystopian near-future, so not everything is quite how you’d expect. Or maybe it’s exactly how you’d expect the world to look in another 10 years. A depressing thought.
We’ve only just scraped the surface of what Chinatown Detective Agency has to offer, but it’s safe to say that we’re fully invested in its dark and alluring world. The real highlight for us is the actual detective legwork involved. Feeling responsible for figuring out clues and cracking codes is a real thrill, and having to take your investigative work outside of the game is a winning touch. If you thrive in the type of game that requires you to have a notebook and pen at the side of you, then Chinatown Detective Agency is for you.