Detective Grimoire was developed, as many adventure games are these days, with the funding of a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s the spiritual sequel to a free Flash game by the same name released several years ago. In this much more ambitious commercial follow-up, you play as the young, eponymous detective who is trusted with the murder case of Remington, the owner of a bizarre tourist attraction in a swamp themed around a monster named Boggy from an old cartoon. The place is full of eccentric characters, beautiful sights and a dark, secret history, setting a unique stage for some pretty original gameplay mechanics and a lighthearted, entertaining mystery.
The gameplay follows in the footsteps of series like Ace Attorney and Professor Layton. In this first-person experience, you move from one scene to another looking for evidence related to the case and interacting with characters. You navigate by pressing the “move” button in the bottom corner of the screen on touch devices or using the arrow keys on desktop platforms. You can also fast travel to any location using the map in the upper right corner of the screen, which comes pretty handy. By clicking/touching on relevant objects in the environments or obtaining key information through interrogation, Grimoire updates suspects, clues, and notes in his journal, which is accessible at any time.
The suspect section contains all the characters you’ve met that Grimoire deems as such (which is seven out of the nine NPCs). By accessing each person’s profile, you can have a look at their occupation, a memorable quote, and up to eight facts that you progressively unlock about each person. You can tag each of these facts as “suspicious” or “not suspicious”, which changes the respective character’s suspiciousness gauge for management purposes. It’s a nifty feature that I wish had some kind of impact on the game, but it doesn’t seem to accomplish anything other than to help you organize your ideas. In the end, all the clues you collect pretty much lead Grimoire to identify the murderer, so it’s not like you get the chance to go wrong.
The clues window is an inventory of any relevant objects that you’ve found. Clues are obtained through observation but can also be given to you by other characters. Although you can’t “use” these objects in the traditional way, you can present them to suspects to get more information about the case or the items themselves. Any new piece of information about the object can be accessed in the clues menu by clicking on each one. Clues are also divided into categories, such as those relating to the crime scene.
Notes record comments about anything of interest in each location of Boggy’s Bog, with keywords in different colors to offer hints about important or out-of-the-ordinary things that should be investigated further. Notes are unlocked mostly via conversation, but also by looking at everything in each scene.
Each of these journal categories displays a percentage that measures how far you’ve progressed. It’s possible to finish the game without 100% progression in each, but completion is very easy to achieve if you’re being thorough.
Conversation with characters is mainly initialized by topics, which are standard for all suspects. Two are unlocked at the beginning of the game: “Your Job”, which gets you information about the person’s frequently-unusual profession, and “Last Night”, which prompts Grimoire to ask what they were doing the night of the murder. Thanks to its colorful cast, Grimoire’s wittiness and the top-notch voice acting, the dialogue is frequently hilarious and always enjoyable. It reminded me of the humor in old LucasArts adventures, and it’s superbly executed.
You can present to characters any clue in your inventory or other suspects’ profiles. Sometimes the person will have something essential to say that will point you in the right direction, like indicating how certain objects are related to the victim’s murder; other times they’ll just make a remark for pure flavor, like the apathetic shop clerk Sally Spears talking about the souvenirs she sells. Sometimes they’ll simply express that they don’t have anything to say about that item or person in particular. I found it slightly frustrating on occasion when a suspect didn’t have a comment about something that common sense suggested they must have some opinion on. Considering the small size of the cast, it seems unreasonable that, for example, the Chef of Boggy’s Bog doesn’t have anything to add about Sally, who works just down the road. It isn’t limiting to the overall mystery, but it does feel odd.
After enough clues or certain pieces of evidence have been gathered, a challenge interrogation for a suspect is unlocked. These represent the most important interaction you can have with that character, as they pertain to their potential motives for the murder. Completing the challenge involves either selecting the right conversation options or accusations, solving a puzzle, or a mix of both. In one of the challenges, Grimoire must complete a sketch in his notebook to conclude how the pretentious filmmaker Van de Peer managed to get permission to film in the swamp, which has been a protected area for several years. You do this by dragging one of several items he may have given to the owner of Boggy’s Bog to push his agenda onto Grimoire’s sketch, which then completes the drawing. If you get the wrong object, you can retry as many times as you want. It’s simply a graphical representation of a normal dialogue exchange, but fits the gameplay around Grimoire’s journal.Continued on the next page...