A good debut production, with some room for improvement
A murder lingers over Portugal’s capital. The business mogul, Sebastian Love, aged 42, was found dead in the prestigious Hotel Lisbon. Stabbed fourteen times in the back, the local Police Captain, Garcia, assumes that it must have been suicide, but Detective Justin Case and his mechanical sidekick, Clown Bot, think otherwise. Will the duo find the culprit?
Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in Hotel Lisbon (2014) is the debut production of the Portuguese video game developer/publisher Nerd Monkey. Even though it is overall promising, it struggles to live up to its potential.
Warning to parents: The game is not child friendly.
Disclaimer: This game was in my Steam wishlist when Steam user Eri! unexpectedly decided to send it to me as a Steam gift. Thank you for that. Unfortunately, as that version was region locked, I regretfully had to rebuy the game instead of enjoying the gift.
Detective Case is not only a private investigator, but also a typical, good-for-nothing protagonist with a big mouth, an inflated ego, and no clients. His sad, daily routine gets unexpectedly interrupted when Clown Bot, a mechanical domestic helper, shows up in his office. The machine explains that it is willing to work as the hero’s new sidekick, but actually aspires to be a real clown one day. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t fully grasp the human condition and thusly depends on the detective to show how people interact with one another. When Captain Garcia then suddenly asks for help in a suicide, all of Case’s problems suddenly seem like things of the past. The game has a great setup and both protagonists have their assigned functions. While players interact with other characters or the world as Justin Case, Clown Bot saves the in-game progress, gives hints, allows one to fast travel, but also delivers the occasional lame joke. Furthermore, the robot’s interior happens to have a portal to another dimension where Johnny, the tentacle monster, takes care of the protagonist’s inventory.
In addition to the colorful duo, the whole game further features an interesting gameplay mechanic: Unlike other point & click adventures, Detective Case and Clown Bot doesn’t bring the typical “use object X with object Y” construct into play, but instead all collected thingamabobs are handled as pieces of evidence. As soon as one has collected enough items (typically three), it is possible to question certain characters on their whereabouts during the murder or their connection to the victim. For this, one will have to select the right question to ask and combine it with the corresponding item. If done correctly, the interview will progress, if not, one has to start all over. Players can even conduct these inquiries as either Detective Case or as Clown Bot to spice things up a little.
With that said, Detective Case and Clown Bot has some minor sequencing issues. As stated, players can start the interviews as soon as they have collected the right items, which means that they can do so, even when they have never talked to a suspect before. The inquiry will simply start as if the protagonist and the other person know each other, even if that isn’t the case. Additionally, at one point around the middle of a playthrough, I had already collected all items and finished interrogating every available suspect, so I assumed that I needed to talk to Captain Garcia to continue the plot. Therefore, I went to the police station, where he then told me to investigate further. I immediately returned to Case’s apartment thinking I might have overlooked something, but once there, the telephone suddenly rang and Garcia told me to go to the station to talk to him. So, I went back. Both of these issues could have been addressed with a “check if variable exists” command, which can easily be overlooked while playtesting a game.
Some minor setbacks
To make up for these shortcomings, the game has one of the most incredible soundtracks in any indie game out there. Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about music, so I don’t think I could do the renditions any justice by talking about them, but the effort put into the songs is very noticeable. Apart from that, most of the pixelart is quite charming as well. The set pieces look really nice and do remind one of titles like Day of the Tentacle (1993), especially with the blackened foreground. Regrettably, the same cannot be said about the characters. While most of them follow the same art style, those that are based on real humans appear to have been rotoscoped, while the band members at the Gaf Bar are drawn in the manner of cartoon modern. These characters even have very different body proportions from the rest of the cast, which makes them stick out even moreso.
Apart from that, two of the three biggest drawbacks to Detective Case are the difficulty as well as the playlength. Genre veterans will finish their first playthrough of this in about the same amount of time it takes Kate Winslet to get on board the Titanic, survive the iceberg, and drop the rock in the ocean. (So, around three hours; four if you accommodate for commercial breaks.) There aren’t that many puzzles and they are far too straight forward to pose any challenge, especially because everything the detective can pick up is directly related to the plot. Creating puzzles is a time-consuming chore that might exceed an indie developer’s budget, and so, given the admission price, these shortcomings really aren’t that bad. However, Nerd Monkey should have targeted a game this short and easy at younger audiences. Yet, similar to how South Park (1997 ongoing) might be mistaken for a children’s show, Detective Case and Clown Bot may look family friendly, but really contains a lot of offensive jokes coupled with adult themes.
With that said, the English localization is this game’s biggest issue and, unlike in the foul-mouthed cartoon, a couple of gags might leave players in unruly bewilderment. Detective Case was originally written in Portuguese and Nerd Monkey decided to only have one translator convert the entire game into English, which was certainly a mistake. Point & click adventures depend heavily on language, which means that the poor translator was confronted with a Herculean task. They should have employed at least one other person to proofread the finished result. But since that didn’t happen, players will undoubtedly notice just how exhausted the translator was by the end. The English rendition is plagued with spelling errors, several jokes got lost in translation, and grammatical mistakes sometimes make it difficult to follow some of the dialogs. While this is certainly a non-issue to EFL and ESL learners (English as a Foreign/Second Language), I know that the quality of English translations matters to a number of native speakers.
Overall, Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in Hotel Lisbon is a title best meant for those that wish to support aspiring independent developers. It may have sounded like I wanted to give the game a beat down, but that is certainly not the case at all. Detective Case has a number of shortcomings and some the jokes are not necessarily the best, at least in English, however, the developers seem well-meaning. The dynamic between the two heroes is certainly a good foundation that I would like to see more off in the future, most of the pixel art is lovely, and the soundtrack is phenomenal. The dialog mechanic too is a great idea that should definitely be explored in future titles, but is currently held back by a localization team that was just too small.
Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in Hotel Lisbon is currently sold for U.S. $5.99 or your local equivalent and is available on Steam, where it can be played on MS Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and Linux. It is also available for smartphones and tablets on iTunes as well as Google Play as Murder in the Hotel Lisbon for $0.99, while the unlockable mini game, Stand Up Clown is available on Google Play and iTunes separately, but for free.
Detective Case and Clown Bot gets a 7 pop culture references out of 10 hopes for more games
Hey there. Thank you for reading my article. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. Have a nice day.
- Somewhere between 2014 and 2016 the character of Bob, aka Roberta Fawkes was changed from a girl to a guy who’s twice the size of everyone else.
- AdventureGameFan8, Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in the Hotel Lisbon Walkthrough part 9, posted 2014,July, 21, accessed 2017, June 12, retrieved from https://youtu.be/pcBFKL3hb90
- The Steam Overlay has problems won’t let players take screenshots of this game.