James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes [Game Review]

Title: James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Platform: 
Nintendo 3DS
Category: 
Puzzles, Strategy
Release Date: 
August 30, 2011
How I got the game: 
I bought it

I remember when I first got my Nintendo 3DS way back in 2011. I got two of the same games for Christmas that year and my mom took me to Toys R Us to pick out a new game. There weren’t very many games out at the time, that I was interested, and James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes caught my eye. I love mysteries and I enjoy puzzles, so I thought I’d give it a try.

gameplay

Gameplay is simple as it’s mostly stylus-based. It showcased a lot of things that the 3DS could do. Even though we’ve had a touch screen before with the Nintendo DS, you don’t use any buttons in this game. You have to use your stylus to continue any dialogue and use the touch screen to solve all the puzzles that are thrown at you. I sometimes tried pushing the “A” button out of habit and the game would just do nothing.

You are the star of this game the camera being in first-person, though you don’t actually move anywhere on your own. All you have to do is read through the dialogue (or listen, it’s all voice acted) and solve the puzzles that come your way.

For the game show portion of the game, where you’re on the hit TV show Puzzle Masters, you get to choose which puzzles you want to solve out of 12 options. You have to get a certain amount of points to beat your opponent and move onto the next round.

This isn’t as hard as it seems though. Depending on the difficulty of the puzzles, you earn more points. You have three hints per puzzles and gain 5 points for each unused hint. So, I ended up gaining an extra 15 points on most of the puzzles.

What I didn’t like about the game though was that you were able to back out of the puzzle if it was too hard. That’s not a bad thing, but there were no consequences to it. You didn’t lose any points or a turn or anything like that. It was just like it never happened. The game made sure that no matter what, you always won – even when you lost.

In the final round, my opponent had 520 points when the highest he could have gotten – based on the points each puzzle was worth plus the extra hint points – was 405 points. The math didn’t add up at all. For that final round, I needed at least 480 points. See the problem? And guess what, I still won.

The game obviously wanted you to win no matter what, so they should have made it so that your opponent played after you. Then they could have calculated their score based on what you got.

The other half of the gameplay was in the actual story. Outside of the game show, you help catch a serial killer who is leaving puzzles as a calling card. So, in this game, when you’re not listening to the brief cutscenes, you’re solving a puzzle either for the game show or the police.

graphics-music

The graphics were not great in the slightest… it just wasn’t the kind of art style that I’m a fan of. The characters were real people, but they were cartoon-ized (is that a word?) and their movements were played on a loop of what seemed like just 5 seconds. Their mouths didn’t match up with anything that they said and they moved too fast anyway. It just didn’t look good and it became annoying pretty quickly.

The music, on the other hand, was great. I didn’t remember much of the game since the last time I played it was about five or 6 years ago. I forgot how creepy the game could get and the music was a big part of that.

However, I will say that you’re so engrossed in the puzzles that the music isn’t really prominent. It’s when you’re investigating and you’re about to find something. You can tell because the music will get louder and creepier. That was very well done.
storyYou play as yourself auditioning to go on a game show, The Puzzle Masters. You don’t know anything about yourself other than what you look like (yes, this game uses the 3DS camera and yes, you have to take a picture of yourself). You start to learn more about yourself as the story plays through and you start to wonder who really is innocent and who isn’t.

Of course, you just want to win that grand prize, an all-expenses paid 1-year trip around the world. But an old friend of yours, an ex-boyfriend, gets in contact with you. He’s now an FBI agent and needs your help to solve a string of murders. This serial killer is killing past champions of the Puzzle Masters show and leaving puzzles behind as clues to his next victim.

All in all the story is pretty well done. However, there’s a lack of character development throughout the story. When you find out who the real killer is, the motive is pretty dumb.

But back to your ex-boyfriend, he at one point mentions your relationship and apologizes for it, but that’s it. I felt no connection to this guy. I really couldn’t have cared less about helping him out. Not to mention that he probably should have had a partner helping to back him up instead of his ex-girlfriend.

The ending gets a little twisty, which was clever, and it even leaves off on a cliffhanger. It made me wonder if there was a second game out there that I missed, but I couldn’t find one anywhere.

replay-value

There’s a ton of puzzles in this game. The ones you don’t play during the game show, you can go back to them later through the main menu. Based on your popularity with the show, you get fans who will send you fan mail. That’s how you get hints for the puzzles you solve with your FBI agent friend and it’ll allow you to play puzzles you’ve skipped.

I did not go back to do these. The puzzles were fun and certainly the best part of the game, but a few were redundant and just harder versions of ones you already played. So I didn’t care to go back and check them out.

This is a quick game, it took me 6 hours and 50 minutes to complete. So, if you’re looking for something quick and semi-challenging, go for this game, especially if you enjoy puzzles. If you’re looking for a great murder mystery with in-depth characters, go somewhere else.

James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes gets…
Video game review: 3 Lives3 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 

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