A mystery worth sinking into
There has been a murder. Richard Remington, the owner of the swampland tourist attraction Boggy’s Bog, has been killed in the murky, mushy trenches outside his office. The only suspect to start is Boggy himself, the legendary swamp creature that inspired the creation of the vacation destination and who may or may not actually exist. As the eponymous Detective Grimoire, it’s your job to explore Boggy’s Bog, investigate the murder, and nab the culprit—human or myth.
Players familiar with SFB Games’ (formerly Super Flash Bros) 2007 Flash game of the same name will recognize the gameplay in Detective Grimoire. A simplified and streamlined point-and-click adventure, much of your investigation is spent traveling around the swamp, examining beautifully animated scenes, locating clues, and interrogating potential suspects.
While both Detective Grimoire and its Flash inspiration revolve around solving a murder in an amusement park, this newest entry into Grimoire’s case history presents an entirely new story, cast of characters, and challenges, as well as a different, larger, and more fleshed-out world. All of the dialogue is charmingly voiced, backstories are deeper, and mysteries more elusive. At the same time, Grimoire fans will be treated to playful nods to the original, from jabs at Officer James’s facial hair to an uncanny red-headed sidekick.
This successful combination of lighthearted jokes and a weighty murder mystery keeps Detective Grimoire consistently engrossing. While Grimoire finds himself in a variety of scenic-yet-creepy locations, from a darkened office lined with shadowy animal heads to a teetering bridge supporting one lone house, the mood of his investigation is upbeat and often humorous. His tone with suspects is more confused than accusatory, and their reactions are unperturbed caricatures.
The quirky cartoon art style enhances this, giving characters’ animated portraits plenty of emotion and personality. The haughty film director types on his cell phone and gazes through a picture frame while talking to Grimoire; the bored gift shop attendant plays with her ponytail and stretches lazily to show off the figure she frequently brags about.
Even with their sometimes self-involved responses, the murder is rarely far from characters’—or Grimoire’s—minds. The goal in Detective Grimoire is to solve the case, and this can only be done by hunting down clues, questioning suspects, and putting all the puzzling pieces together. Exploration of the swamp is made easy by a fast-travel map that lets you immediately return to any location you’ve already visited. While there are no indications of which objects in a scene are interactive—via a mouse cursor change or name pop-up—most areas are fairly sparse with distinct objects that are easy to notice.
As you explore and find clues, key items and notes will be added to your Case File. While these are technically items you have discovered, Detective Grimoire does not have an actual inventory system. Everything is catalogued immediately and the only time you’ll bring up an object is while interrogating a suspect. There is no combination of items or random, aimless attempts at using them on hidden pixels in each scene—the system is clean, efficient, and effective at keeping all your murder-mystery notes in order.
Those suspect interrogations make up another critical component of the investigation. There are seven characters hanging around Boggy’s Bog (not counting Boggy himself), and Grimoire needs to question each of them to uncover the truth. These conversations involve both simple questions about what the character was doing at the time of the murder and more intense “Challenge Topics” that pinpoint discrepancies in their statements—like the fact that Remington got ill after eating a “Bog-Dog” from the café owner. Challenge Topics often require players to be on their toes, answering questions, formulizing thoughts, or drawing a crude (and cute) version of the alleged events.
These and other types of mini-games pop up often throughout Detective Grimoire: a torn picture needs to be pieced back together; a mess of wires requires untangling; the gears on a doorknob must be realigned. While these provide extra interaction in an otherwise text-dominant experience—and are ideal for touch screens—all of the mini-games are overly simple and at times, barely puzzles. One such section is taken directly from the Flash Detective Grimoire and requires you to merely slide trash out of the way to reveal a clue. This simplicity extends throughout much of Detective Grimoire, creating a dissonance between the simple gameplay and the slightly more mature themes.
Although this lack of complexity will be disappointing to accomplished players, it is made up for by the game’s exuberant charm, impeccable voice acting, gorgeous graphics, and consistent quality from beginning to end. It’s a shame that end comes so quickly. From the moment you set foot on the docks, Boggy’s Bog is engrossing, its characters alive and endearing, and its mystery simple—yet inescapably intriguing.