Good gameplay and groan-worthy jokes
In the realm of video games, murders are typically solved by folks that are barely able to dress themselves. This time around we have a detective with an impossibly stupid-looking hat solving what’s being incorrectly passed off as a suicide. Don’t tell him his hat looks silly, though. You’ll hurt his feelings.
Murder in the Hotel Lisbon is a point-and-click adventure game from Nerd Monkeys. You play as Justin Case, an independent detective in desperate need of money (as detectives often are). One day, two unusual things show up in Justin’s office: A clown robot, and an actual case to solve.
The robot, known simply as “Clownbot,” is supposedly an inheritance from a relative Detective Case is unfamiliar with. The timing of Clownbot’s arrival is good: There’s been a murder at the Hotel Lisbon that’s being (poorly) passed off as a suicide. Exactly the kind of case that requires a robot’s delicate, steely touch.
As you might expect from a game about a detective in a goofy hat and his robot clown accomplice, the tone of Murder in the Hotel Lisbon is not the least bit serious. Detective Case cracks jokes constantly, and sarcasm flows like bitter water. Heck, one of Clownbot’s functions is to tell bad jokes on command. There’s even an “audience” that roars along with the zingers (and a single spectator that belts out laughter at the clunkers).
Serious or not, you’ve still got a case to solve. In the tradition of point-and-click adventures, you examine objects of interest, talk to witnesses, and try to wring information out of people through interrogation sessions that parody detective flicks. This questioning process requires you to match up your accusations with evidence you’ve found. It’s amusing – particularly the suspects’ reactions when they’re caught in their lies – but if you mess up, you’re required to go back to the start of the session.
This can be frustrating, since you have to click through all of the characters’ text again (bad jokes included). Moreover, there are instances where an item and a statement should match up, but they don’t because of poor localization.
In fact, substandard translation is one of the game’s more unfortunate flaws. There are times when Murder in the Hotel Lisbon is laugh-out-loud funny, but most of those moments come courtesy of the game’s colorful graphics, background gags, and expressive characters (can you find Robocop in the police station?).
The in-game text certainly earns some chuckles – let’s face it, bad translations are endearing on their own – but there are a number of moments where you’re left scratching your head because a joke simply did not translate well. There are also numerous typos, and some outright juvenile moments.
Despite these issues, Murder in the Hotel Lisbon is still engaging and endearing. If you’re looking for an adventure game that doesn’t take itself seriously for a second, Detective Case and Clownbot might appreciate your company.