by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Coming to America
This is not a new game. It has been "out there" since October of 2007. Developed by White Birds Productions - known for Amerizone and Syberia - and written by Benoit Sokal (who got his start as the Belgian comic book author of Inspector Canardo, it has been published by Microids in the UK and France, and MicroApplication throughout Europe. It will finally be released in the USA on August 12, 2008 by the publisher Encore Entertainment.
My, how the mighty have fallen. Once upon a time it seemed that everybody wanted their games to release in the USA first, and then spill out over the rest of the globe. Now it's the other way around. Given the rapidly declining dollar, maybe this situation should not come as any great surprise.
It could have just as easily been Norm Jack
This is your basic, run-of-the-mill, point-and-click detective Adventure. Go here; go there; ask questions of everybody until there are no more questions left to ask. Spot/pick up clues along the way. Cross index motive, means, and opportunity, and eventually the culprit will become obvious. As the player's only character, police investigator Jack Norm, you might have found this a daunting task. Instead, expect that all difficulties are manageable and what you will actually be doing is just going through the motions to see how the story unfolds.
There are several twists and novelties to make this game stand out from others in the genre. The first is the "ticking clock" built into the plot. As the title implies, the entire island is sinking. In three days, the island and everything on it is going to be underwater. That means all vital clues must be discovered, catalogued, analyzed, and whatever significance that may be attached be discerned before it becomes impossible to do so. The game offers two modes: Adventure mode (c. 20 hours), which allows you to take your time, and Race Against Time (15 hours to Game Over), which takes into account that the rising tide waits for no investigator.
The next interesting element is the case jigsaw puzzle. Literally, it IS a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece is associated with a specific question. As you gather clues and information concerning a given question, a progress bar shows how close you are to filling out that particular piece. Once that piece is complete, you may insert it into the jigsaw puzzle. Once you have ALL of the pieces, you will be able to complete the puzzle and then you'll have a picture of the culprit.
The last innovative item is the "Policeman's Personal Assistant". This thing literally turns the ubiquitous policeman's notebook into a pocket-sized CSI lab. Every suspect, every conversation, every fingerprint, every footprint, every chemical analysis, every photograph, every speculation will automatically be recorded, indexed, catalogued, and filed into the PPA. Progress towards each of the case's core questions will also be displayed. And as an added feature, there's a built-in people locator included. Want to know where so-and-so is right this instant? Check your PPA!
Unfortunately, there is no mechanism for teleportation. If you need to go from Point A to Point G, you will have to march poor Norm through Points B, C, D, E, and F. Initially, this will be entertaining as it will take you through a lot of very nicely done artwork. But you _will_ soon tire of having to march through the same screens umpteen times as Norm does what detectives do the most: conduct interrogations and chase down clues. (Which should make you understand why a police detective is often called a "flatfoot".)