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Touch Detective May 18, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Video Games.
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My brother got me a copy of Touch Detective for Christmas that I’ve only managed to try out and wrap up recently. On the whole it’s a decent enough game, yet because it falls short on several fronts it is at best only an average title for the Nintendo DS.

In broad strokes, everything about the game seems to be right up the alley of someone with an affinity for the mystery genre and for casual gaming. Players play the part of the titular Touch Detective, Mackenzie, who aspires to make it into the ranks of the Great Detective Society. To do this, she must prove her mettle, and thus players undertake four unusual cases, directing Mackenzie to investigate people, places and things by tapping around on the touch screen. In this regard, it’s simple gameplay akin to ye ole point-and-click mysteries on the PC of years back. More, the visual style of Touch Detective is quite unique, presented as it is in a pseudo-anime fashion that is above all else eye-catching.

So what’s not to love about Touch Detective? In truth, the game often feels disjointed, mostly because the gameplay feels broken in so many areas. Particularly, the main problem lies in that the script is often too obtuse, so much so that there are some points in the game where players are left with absolutely no idea what to do next. Granted, it is a mystery title and thus not everything should be spelled out in big bold letters; yet even taking that as given, sometimes experimentation becomes useless because the game depends so much on sequence. Far too often, the story can only be pushed along if players “touch” the appropriate items on the screen in the correct order, which would not be a problem if there was the slightest hint that such is actually required. Speaking from experience, there were maybe two or three instances where I found myself stuck after performing an action, and no amount of exploring helped me move the story along — until, that is, I clicked on the character beside me, something I had no reason to do in the context of how the story was unfolding.

This doesn’t mean that I hated the game; personally, it’s something I fancy if on principle: it’s a detective game on the DS, after all. At best, perhaps only one of the four cases in the storyline is really worth playing through, while the remaining three have slivers of brilliance that just don’t live up to their potential, for the reasons identified above. So yes, I liked the game enough, warts and all — but certainly not enough to go and invest in the sequel.

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