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Red Johnson’s Chronicles

It’s no secret that point-and-click games have been trying to make a comeback. Developers have attempted to reinvent the genre by investing effort into graphics and setting, all of which are often overlooked as nothing has been done to reinvent the core gameplay. In walks Lexis Numerique’s Red Johnson’s Chronicles, the much needed step towards the genre’s evolution.

You play as Red Johnson, a P.I. of Metropolis (not Superman’s) who has been called to investigate a murder at Drownedman’s Bridge. Unsurprisingly, one thing leads to another, and Red finds himself sleuthing in an atypical murder case.

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Red Johnson is a prime example of how a group of developers packed a compass and remained steadfast in the right direction. Most first person point-and-clicks often have players nodding off, no thanks to the constant use of static images and lazy scene transitions. Red Johnson, on the other hand, opts for an interactive 3D environment that exhibits signs of life. When you click to move onto another area, the camera follows along like a swooping hawk. By incorporating these two simple, yet necessary, components, Red Johnson will immediately have you appreciating the sights of its neo-noir setting.

Lexis Numerique also understands that in resurrecting the Encino Man of gaming genres, you need to dress it properly to have it fit in with modern times. Intensive reading is the last thing on anyone’s mind when playing a game. Red Johnson thankfully only procures text when the need arises, thus eliminating verbose jibber jabber. When you’re not solving puzzles, the game has you run through quick time events, a clever addition that immerses players in the game; something that’s been lacking for quite some time with point-and-click.

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Of course, the game’s puzzles are its breadwinners. But rather having you click here and there, Red Johnson takes it a couple steps further with its full use of the analog controller. You’ll find yourself using the analog stick to simulate unscrewing objects, opening boxes, spinning revolver cylinders, and shaking the controller to clean off dust. These elements greatly determine the puzzles’ fun factor – the more you can interact with a puzzle, the more entertaining it can be, regardless of difficulty. However, the game is peppered with a few traditional point-and-click only puzzles, all of which follows the trend of requiring a pencil and paper for working out math and planning steps. If you’re not tempted to look up the answers online, these puzzles can actually take a few hours to figure out on your own, so you might want to call up your friend to cancel that thing you were supposed to do.

Majority of detective games assume that players pay attention to details and holds your hand as you make your way to the finish line, but not Red Johnson. At the end of an interrogation, the game makes you take a pop quiz to recap everything that has transpired. The questions start off testing your attention to detail, then eventually eases you into using your intuition for reading between the lines. Whether it’s pop quizzes, puzzles or QTEs, the game scores you based on the amount of tries you’ve taken and how much time you spent completing the challenge. You are then awarded in a generous amount of cash that can be spent on hints; $100 a pop.

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In general, the game is short, its story is concise and overly simplistic, and when you factor in the time consuming puzzles that hide the adventure’s length, the game ends up dragging in consequence. While it’s innovative to have players piece together the solution to the overall mystery, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you end up figuring out who the culprit is well before the middle of the game. Furthermore, the case’s conclusion is anti-climactic: no dramatic final cutscene and we don’t even get the satisfaction of watching the perpetrator being led away in handcuffs. But, the game’s overall ending is left at a cliffhanger, ensuring that Red Johnson’s work is never done.

Red Johnson’s Chronicles is that much anticipated solution in solving ‘The Case of the Stumbling Genre.’ Other point-and-click developers should take example from the game’s many novelties in rallying the desired, wider audience. As long as Lexis Numerique continues down its exemplary path, the trouble with point-and-clicks might as well be considered an open and shut case.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @S_Chyou.

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