CSI Miami may be off the air, but with Heat Wave, the fun (and blood and guts) can go on and on

Yeeeaaaaah! CSI: Miami has been off the air since April 2012, but culture lives forever on the Internet. The schmucks that get shanked as part of a storyline in some Facebook crime game, however— well, they’re not so lucky.Given its parent material, CSI: Miami Heat Wave has dead bodies galore. It’s a game about mad people doing mad things, and it’ll keep you playing for a while thanks to its surprisingly balanced freemium mechanics.

You play through CSI: Miami Heat Wave as a rookie investigator under the tutelage of Horatio “Internet Meme” Caine. Miami is a seedy place that’s rife with seedy deeds, and you need to get to the bottom of several murder cases.

CSI: Miami Heat Wave

You begin each case cold. It’s up to you to gather evidence, question suspects, and lock ’em up. Each crime scene is peppered with grids, and you move from square-to-square in hopes of finding evidence. From there, you need to process what you find in your lab (which requires materials that are generated on a timed basis). Once you have your evidence, you need to swoop in for the kill. Not literally, of course (though Florida does have the death penalty). When your perp is behind bars, it’s time to move on to the next case.

CSI: Miami Heat Wave is not an especially deep game, nor do the cases take a lot of time to solve (barring the time it takes to sit through the usual free-to-play game countdowns, like evidence processing and material collecting). You can also usually smell your suspects from ten miles away— but surprisingly, that doesn’t make the cases any less fun to follow. When you’re dealing with poisoned circus clowns, you just have to see things through to the end.

What’s really nice is that Ubisoft has balanced CSI: Miami Heat Wave so that the game is genuinely free-to-play for significant chunks of time. For instance, searching each square on an evidence grid costs energy—but you can utilize “flashlight” power-ups that let you search a certain number of squares without having to expend personal energy. You can also “find a trace” when you’re searching for evidence, which gives you an arrow to follow. This saves you from spending time and energy searching on empty squares.

CSI: Miami Heat Wave

However, even those “empty squares” might reveal something useful for the game’s “Empathy Quests.” Said quests are optional, though they yield Reputation boosts that eventually become necessary to carry on the main story. The events in CSI: Miami Heat Wave are connected in a way that ensures you’re not twiddling your thumbs and waiting for energy to refill. It also helps that you level up quickly, which grants you an automatic fill-up.

One of CSI: Miami Heat Wave‘s bigger failings is its graphics. They’re kind of ugly, though the big-headed style is undoubtedly supposed to be “cute.” It just doesn’t work for a game about sometimes-grisly murders. The game’s animated “cinema scenes” come off as way too cheesy for the same reason. Moreover, don’t expect to hear “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” though there is a counterfeit version of the song in its place.

CSI: Miami Heat Wave is no Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, but you might be surprised at how long you play it— and you’ll definitely be pleased to discover how long you can play it.