In case you haven’t noticed, the popular hidden object game genre is evolving rapidly. This includes adding elements from the once-popular point-and-click adventure game genre. The latest to fold these two gameplay concepts into one is GestaltGames’ Nick Chase, a puzzle-filled detective story with high production values.
You play as Chase, a cop-turned-P.I., in desperate need of work. Fortunately a mysterious man known only as The Collector shows up and asks you to find clues, collect evidence and solve brain teasers that could unravel the mystery to Leonard Di Vinci’s missing manuscript. The tale is told via gritty black & white storyboards and some animated sequences, and voiced by the raspy protagonist in true film noir style.
Gamers will explore dozens of hand-drawn environments in order to look for — and use — objects that can help Chase inch towards completing this odd case. As an example of how this game combines "HOG" and adventure elements is when you’re searching a decrepit apartment for 14 pieces of a chest cover, and once you find all of them you’re asked to place them in the correct order by matching the shapes on top of the chest. Doing so successfully opens the chest to reveal an item inside.
Even more fun is when you visit a friend’s lab and he lets you use his equipment to analyze some evidence. But first you must find a photo that shows you how to build the contraption, then find all the hidden pieces and drag and drop them into its proper spot. Finally you must solve three mini-games to extract chemicals needed for the analysis, and then light the Bunsen burner. All the items are wonderfully tied together to the task at hand, story and characters involved. There are even flashback scenes you can solve to help you remember events.
Each of the locations you’re searching through have little bullets scattered around, which go into your "Hint" revolver chamber for when you need some help. Some puzzles you can skip if you like (for instance, if you can’t figure out how to get into a locked room), but most scenes do not have a timer, so you can take as long as you need. Some mini-games must be completed within a certain amount of time, though. Clicking incorrectly too many times might initiate a comment or two from Nick but you’re not penalized.
Nick Chase: A Detective Story is a fun game — and the story is good enough to keep you clicking to see what happens next — but it’s not a flawless adventure. For one, when you save a game and return at a later time it’s not always saved at the point you left, forcing you to repeat puzzles all over again. This happened twice during our time with the game, so we’re not sure if it’s a bug or a design decision.
Secondly, some of the items you search for can be confusing; early on in the game, for example, you’re asked to location 20 envelopes in an office, but an envelope on top of a cabinet wasn’t one of them for some reason. This happened a few minutes later in the lab when you’re asked to click on vials: some on the screen were correct while others were not.
Overall, though, HOG and adventure fans should feel this game is worth the investment. Some mini-games accessible from the main menu (and different than the ones during the game) add some replayability, too, including clever clones of Pong and Breakout (a.k.a. Arkanoid). Be sure to download Nick Chase to "investigate" its worth during the free trial.