Nick Chase: A Detective Story
Nick Chase: A Detective Story is a gritty, film noir-style casual adventure game flavored with hidden object scenes and loads of delicious inventory puzzles. Based on classic detective stories and graphic novels, you follow the down-and-out Nick Chase as he embarks upon his first job in ages. From his messy office to shady hideouts of even shadier characters, you'll have to use your own detective skills to piece together evidence and solve puzzles. It's one of the most enjoyable detective games I've played in quite a while, and the stellar voice acting and gorgeous hand-drawn art scores major points in my book.
The hard-boiled Private Investigator is in sore need of a job. When a mysterious man known as The Collector calls, Nick is in no position to turn him down. Staring at his cluttered office, one of your first puzzles involves finding a brush to clean the fishtank, then hunting for food to feed the poor little fishy. Not much of a challenge, of course, but it serves as an introduction to the style of puzzles you'll be solving throughout the game.
At the bottom left of the screen is a tab marked "TASK" that contains, as one might suspect, the current objective you're working on. Missions are generally straightforward and involve some item finding along with inventory-object assembly and a few quick, entertaining mini-games. A great example of this is in a "scientist's lab" where you must find parts of a contraption, assemble them and figure out how to turn the machine on, all to get a little analysis done on a drop of blood you discovered.
After completing a scene the story unfolds through a series of black and white comic book-style cut scenes where Nick narrates his thoughts and actions. These serve more than to simply advance the plot, as they do a spectacular job setting the stage for the entire film noir experience. The story itself is really interesting and could stand on its own as an enjoyable read. The text is skippable, however, but a big chunk of the experience is reading (or listening to) the well-written dialogue. So, you know, don't skip it!
Hints are dispensed in a rather creative manner: bullets loaded into a revolver's barrel. Find and click the shiny little things hidden amongst the clutter in some of the areas, and when you need a helping hand, click the barrel and watch what happens.
Analysis: Ok, it's true. I couldn't possibly lavish more praise upon the visual style and overall presentation of this game. I've never been a fan of the detective genre, per se, but it's beyond delightful to see such a faithful transition of a film/comic book style into the relatively new media of a video game. Developer Gestalt Games gets everything right, too, with almost perfect voice acting, puzzles and mini-games that fit the setting like a glove, and an art style that may as well have been lifted from a graphic novel itself. Ooh, I do love atmospheric games like this!
From a gameplay perspective, Nick Chase: A Detective Story does stray from the norm a bit, though not to a great extent. No lists of objects to find (thank Odin!), no pointless wandering from scene to scene, just puzzles, dialogue, mini-games, and gritty rooms filled with mystery. I'll admit, however, that the puzzles are rarely much of a challenge, so you'll probably breeze through much of the game without getting stumped more than a couple of times.
A huge success on every front, Nick Chase: A Detective Story goes above and beyond the hidden object/adventure game genre with a great storyline, believable atmosphere, and more gritty detective references than you can shake a fedora hat and magnifying glass at.