James Noir's Hollywood Crimes 3D

Ostensibly similar to the Professor Layton franchise, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D is - in addition to being awkwardly named - a collection of puzzles, tied together (loosely) with a context-providing narrative.

The general premise goes something like this; you’re this guy, right, and you’re taking part in a puzzle-based TV game show. At the same time, winners of the contest are being murdered by a serial killer with a penchant for puzzles himself - and you must advance this story in between bi-weekly rounds of the gameshow.

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Basically, what that means is that you have an opportunity for random puzzles (the gameshow) and then puzzles that loosely relate to the activity the on-rails story is referring to (like picking a lock to get at some files you need, for example).

The puzzles themselves are a mix of all sorts of things - some of which are familiar (word and number puzzles that no doubt first taunted you in high-school maths), and some original puzzles that have been designed around the capabilities of the system.

They’re a mixed bag, to be honest, with only a few offering a particularly satisfying experience. On average, they’re fun enough, but some are down-right obtuse - and not in a good way. Others, while obvious enough as to how to complete them, are so tedious as to prevent a road block for that reason alone.

The instructions are often vague, occasionally bordering on negligent, and the included hint system - while a welcome inclusion - is typically unhelpful. If you’re going to make the player feel stupid by including a puzzle that lacks sufficient instructions to be solved, at least make the hint they’re embarrassed to invoke actually helpful.

The presentation, while an admirable attempt at being different, is rather poor. The mixture of real people and “artistic” backdrops is both disconcerting and, well, ugly. The... er... otherwise engaged... gameshow presenter (surely someone must have noticed his right-arm movements and the actions they imply?) is one of the least appealing front-men ever seen - which, admittedly, is a good match for a game show based on puzzle solving. Who’d want to watch that? No one, that’s who.

Sound is a big fat meh, too; not overtly bad - for the most part - but repetitive and somewhat “phoned in”. It comes close, in parts, to engendering the “noir” feel the title is clearly shooting for but “close” isn’t good enough.

The story, while an admirable attempt at providing context for the puzzle-solving action, is an odd fit. Perhaps it’s the poor acting or the ludicrous setting, but whatever the reason, it feels tacked on and inconsequential as an inclusion. It also seems odd to eliminate a section of your audience - the young - by making the story somewhat mature in content.

One thing it does very well, though, is involve you in the action. At numerous points through the tale, by the mechanism of the camera, you (the real you) are involved in the action. Whether it’s a mirror at your hotel or a story in the paper, seeing your ugly mug in the mix does go a long way to forgiving the game its other faults. It’s a nice touch.

Ultimately, James Noir’s Convoluted Title 3D makes for a largely disappointing experience. If you’re a hardened puzzle nut and want to progress through a game by way of your intellectual capacity alone, it’s not a total waste of your time. But if you’ve been thinking about dipping your toes into narrative-driven puzzle gaming and are wondering if this is the title to try, it’s not.

"Why would you buy this? It’s a puzzle!"
- James Noir's Hollywood Crimes
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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