Reviewed: April 28, 2010
Released: March 30, 2010
With so many crime drama shows on TV these days I’m really surprised that there aren’t more games out there mirroring the genre. Other than a few CSI games and the recently released Heavy Rain for the PS3, cop and detective games have gone the way of Tex Murphy –yeah…that’s an old-school reference right there. Look it up.
In Again, Tecmo’s latest DS release, you play as FBI agent “J”. Yep, just “J”, just like the Men in Black. You team up with the semi-attractive Kate Hathaway to solve a string of unsolved serial murders that started 19 years prior to the events in the game. It seems the killer is back and is teasing our lead investigator with a series of letters and clues; a trail of evidence that will take gamers nearly 10 hours to wade through if they choose to solve the Providence Murders.
The case gets its name from the Eye of Providence - that eyeball on the top of the pyramid on a one dollar bill – a clue that was left behind at each of the murders. The killer has restarted his murder spree and is recreating the same path of mayhem from 19 years ago. But “J” has a special supernatural trick up his sleeve. For some reason (that will be made clear in the story) he has the ability to see into the past and witness a crime or a crime scene as it appeared 19 years ago.
The dual screens of the DS cater to this unique game concept by depicting the past vision on one screen and the current situation on the touch screen. You are then presented with the opportunity to walk around these 3D environments and interact with objects to make the present match the past. Each time you solve a piece of the environmental puzzle the whole picture is slowly revealed.
While these 3D explorations and puzzle-solving moments are interesting and even a bit unique, they sadly come at lengthy intervals and there aren’t that many of them. Most of the time you are left to wander around the city map and talk to various suspects at great lengths, exhausting a growing tree of conversation topics in hopes of unlocking a new topic or a new location, which often means repeat visits to the prior locations.
Gameplay is slow, more akin to a detective novel than a video game. I highly recommend you go into the options and turn off the super-annoying ticker-teletype text display. This will save speed-readers a few hours of gameplay and lots of annoying typewriter sound effects. The challenge level for the game is also severely lacking in that you more often than not are lead around the city from one point to the next asking questions until there is nothing more to ask. Your options are few, making the game very linear. The only thing that can be considered actual gameplay are those dual screen visions.
The presentation is pretty interesting, at least from a technical standpoint. As dialogue is displayed on one screen a photo-realistic image of the character is displayed on the other in various poses and emotive facial reactions that range from pretty good to extremely silly. Each character only has a handful of poses and reactions so they start to repeat by the second or third interaction. There is no speech and only a few sound effects and some forgettable music.
The game has a definite CSI or Law and Order flavor about it with an opening sequence that mirrors those TV shows. And then they do some cool things with profile sheets for each character introduction and plenty of internal musings from “J”. They do some cool screen wipes and animations but ultimately, these only slow down the gameplay. Again is more like a 5-hour game buried in 10 hours of presentation.
The Nintendo DS is home to many great games, and its dual screen would seem a perfect fit for an interactive novel. Sadly, Again swings and misses at every opportunity with a poor story, laughable dialogue, clumsy puzzles, and pacing so slow you’ll doze off in the middle of a conversation. If you are a fan of cheap (bad) detective novels then give this a rental but everyone else should steer clear.