Review by Chocobahn

"Crime Scene is making a crime scene of its own"

Crime Scene is making a crime scene of its own

So you have watched too much CSI and have a sudden urge to become the country's top forensic scientist. You love your work, you love taking pictures of dead people, you love cutting them up just to see what they had for their last supper. Well, you will not love this game. In fact, you do not get to do any of the things I've just said. On the contrary, you will probably create a crime scene of your own with this game, mainly, the death of your DS as it is flung against the giant brick wall across the room.

Plot

You play as Matt Simmons, a young detective who has just been promoted to the post of forensics scientist. No sooner had you meet your boss, Alexandra Malone, you are entrusted in a case involving an apparent murder-suicide of a top cop and his wife. It is your job (obviously) together with your partner to examine the crime scene, collect evidences, analyse said evidences, interview witnesses, etc. and convince your boss to issue a warrant for the arrest of a suspect. I sure as hell don't want to work at this overwhelmingly undermanned police station. But hey, you are apparently multi-talented.

So you don't actually get to cut up dead bodies, that's the job for the coroner. Besides, that would make this game awfully disgusting. What you do get to do is to investigate a crime scene, interview suspects / witnesses, and presenting evidence to support your claim of who is responsible for the crime.

The game contains five separate cases that ultimately form a larger, more complex plot that hold them together. Anyone who has played any of the Phoenix Wright series will have an understanding of Crime Scene's game structure. However, Crime Scene differs significantly from a certain spiky hair lawyer, and it unfortunately proves to be the downfall of this game.

If you can endure the difficult of playing this game, you might be rewarded with a mildly interesting story.

Game Play

All action takes place on the touch screen while the top screen is used for dialogues. To navigate between places, it is as simple as bringing up the map and touching wherever you want to go. Once you arrive, you can use the stylus and glide it through the scene. The pointer will change if it is near a area of interest. Tabbing on it will bring up more details. Sometimes, it will be something obviously, like a pool of blood. At other times, it is not so clear.

In fact, the narrative is unclear about what to do or where to go. It sometimes gives a vague clue and it is up to the player to deduce from the clue as to what to do next. You will spend a lot of time going through each and every available screen just to progress. And this is only the start of this game's long list of problems.

So you have managed to discover an area of interest, now comes the task of removing any relevant evidence from the crime scene, be it a footprint, a bullet or blood sample. You are blessed with an arsenal of tools that should have made your job as a forensic detective easier. In reality, the game is trying to dissuade you from filling that application form for forensic science. Firstly, the tools. You don't get the full set, but certainly more than enough to do your job in Crime Scene. You have access to equipments such as swab test, fingerprint tape, scalpel, tweezers, UV lamp and spray. Each of them performs a certain function that helps you to retrieve valuable evidence. However, the problem is which one to use.

I will be the first to admin that I don't watch as much crime fighting TV shows as I should. Crime Scene provides no help whatsoever as to how or when to use such device. Take the UV lamp and the spray, for example. The first time I encountered these wonderful apparatus, I thought you have to spray a surface first, then use the UV lamp to reveal hidden clues. Little did I know that you actually use the lamp first to reveal an evidence, then use the spray to make it visible. Did anyone in the game bothered to tell me about it? No. It is expected of you to know how to use it right from the get go.

The next problem arises from not knowing when to use the right tool. The game does not give out hints that would guide the player to collect the right evidence. Even a small "maybe the murderer wiped away the blood" could guide a lost soul to look for blood using the UV lamp. So the player spends a great deal of time looking for clues using a completely wrong tool than the game designer intended. There is a lot of trial and error, and that is not how games should be played.

Even when you do finally found the right tool for the job, getting the tool to work is the single most frustrating thing you can ever do in Crime Scene. In fact, the atrocious control makes you wonder if the developers have even bothered to test it on a DS or if they just sat on their buttocks all day playing better games. The most offending tools are the scalpel, followed by the swab test. Regardless of whatever tools that you select, it will trigger a mini game in which you have to do certain things in order to acquire the evidence. Failure to do so will lower your 'credibility' (which is basically your score), too many failures will result in your dismissal from the force.

When I use the scalpel, I have to trace a certain part of the screen in order to simulate the cutting action. However, for whatever reason, the game decided that I was not doing a good job of that, and reset my scalpel randomly and making me lose credibility. By the nth attempt, I have completely lost faith in this game.

For the swab test, you played a timed mini game in which you need to dip the swab into a solution and then rub it onto an area of interest. If you dip into the solution for too long, it will break. If you neglect to hold the shoulder button while doing the test, it will break. If you rub it the wrong way, it will break. For Heaven's sake, the blood is right there. The problem seems to be the target areas, which is smaller than the graphical representation of the said area, making it difficult to judge where the blood should be swabbed.

If by some miracle or pure luck, you could actually retrieve the evidence, you will now have the pleasure of analysing the evidence. How? More mini game, of course. A lot of the tests are just a variation of the same thing. For example, procedures to cross check suspect mug shot or fingerprint or footprint against the police database is virtually identical. They all involve putting the evidence on a scanner, then match it against a corresponding collection set. So you might need to pick a suspect out of 5 mug shots, or a footprint out of 4 similar footprints. Fun? Yeah, for the first few times; and then it becomes tedious. Of course, there are other mini games, like removing foreign cells from a blood sample, or tracing a bullet to a firearm. But the process is the same and by the time you finish the first case, you would get bored with them.

Interviewing suspects and witnesses is as simple as tabbing the "people" icon and choose the person you wish to speak to. Talking involves picking from a list of topics and run through the conversation that ensues. If you have played Phoenix Wright, you will know how it works. Important facts will be added to the evidence log.

So you have collected the evidences, interviewed all relevant people, went through the tiresome process of analysing the evidence, now what? Now you go to your boss and move the case forward. Be it asking for a search warrant or an arrest warrant, you have to get past Malone first. And how do you do that? Answering questions, that's how. Malone will ask you a series of questions related to the case, and you must answer them correctly and / or present the appropriate evidence to support your claim. At times, you may be required to compile a case file. For example, in the first case, you need to compile a case file on a suspect in order to persuade someone that the suspect is guilty of his crime. Collect too few evidence, and the suspect walks free. Throw everything in there is bad for you as well.

Graphics

Crime Scene is not graphically intense metaphorically or literally. Yes, it is a crime scene and yes, dead people are everywhere, but beside blood splatter, the dead bodies are not as gruesome as some real murders. You will not find disfigured bodies, disembowelment or maggots coming out of a dead body's decaying eye socket. What you do see is bullets to heads or knife sticking out of some poor soul's back.

For better or for worse, the game has a cartoonish feel. It is not meant to look real. Otherwise, I'm not sure if I will survive the first case without vomiting. For those looking for grisly pictures of dead bodies, you are playing the wrong game.

Similar to Phoenix Wright, characters has several poses during dialogue to convey the emotions of the said character. The background is quite detailed and the crime scene is as closely portrayed as any crime scene can be.

Sound

Throughout Crime Scene, the background music is dark, ominous and eerie. It fits the game quite well. After all, it's not like listening to "Killing Me Softly" while combing for evidence is going to make the murder scene less gruesome. In this regard, the game does well. Other than that, there are minimum sound effects elsewhere.

Replay Value

Playing it once is more than enough for this type of game. There is no other way to solve the same crime, and once you know who the culprit is, there are no surprises. And given the state of the controls, playing it once is already a great challenge.

Overall

Crime Scene is far from being a polished game that was expected of it. The cases are only as interesting as the support given by the controls and game play. And to that end, this game fails miserably. The repetitiveness of the mini games take away any enjoyment to be had with this game. All cases follow the similar approach, collecting evidence, analysing them, talking to people, persuading your boss, so on and on. It can (and most probably will) become jaded after a while, that is, if you have patience and determination to stick with the flawed controls in the first place.

The controls are touchy at best. Using the wrong tools may or may not deduct your credibility. The instruction is vague. The scalpel is a pain to use. The mini games are quick, but not particularly fun. Most gamers will find this game broken. Play this at your next anger management session. It sure will create a crime scene of its own.

Good:

* Music fits the game well

Bad:

* Control scheme is broken
* The mini games are repetitive and gets dull very soon
* Game play is slow and tiresome

Score (out of 10)

Plot: 4
Gameplay: 3
Graphics: 4
Sound: 5
Replay: 2

Overall: 3


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/10

Game Release: Crime Scene - Criminology (EU, 06/30/09)


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