Touch Detective 2 ½


Review by · October 2, 2007

Touch Detective was a charming graphic adventure game for the Nintendo DS handheld. The colorful graphics, unique art style, quirky characters, goofball world, and solid music were all plus points in its favor. However, the game’s four amusing cases did not encompass any sort of cohesive story and it was only in the fourth case that a few of the NPCs were given any backstory. In addition, the majority of puzzles in the game were deemed by gamers to be annoyingly obtuse with seemingly random solutions. So now we’re presented with Touch Detective 2 ½, a sequel to the aforementioned game. Although the improvements to the Touch Detective formula are mostly subtle, they are worthwhile and make this a more fun Touch Detective experience.

Once again, gamers are called upon to fill the shoes of young Mackenzie. Mackenzie has now become an officially licensed detective, but because she’s still a kid, she’s not taken seriously as a detective and does not get the kinds of cases she would like to. Play begins the same way it did in the first game; Mackenzie’s faithful butler Cromwell has locked her in her bedroom and she must find an obscure solution to get out of her room using a pea, a perfume bottle, an eye dropper, and her pet mushroom Funghi. After this training exercise, Mackenzie is presented with her first case. Her spacey friend Penelope is frantic that someone stole the color in her pink noodles. Just as Mackenzie is about to chat wtih Penelope, who should come charging in but Chloe- Mackenzie’s and Penelope’s other friend who’s a wannabe sleuth, fancies herself smarter than she really is, and is more often a hinderance than a help.

Aside from the pink noodle case, there are four other mysteries in the game for Mackenzie to solve. Unlike the first game where each case had its own independent storyline, all the cases in Touch Detective 2 ½ build off of each other to form a more cohesive narrative. Tying the cases together is a villain called The Cornstalker, who marks Mackenzie as a worthy arch-nemesis. In addition to The Cornstalker, there are some new and wacky NPCs to meet such the bumbling, red-haired Inspector Daria. The game also sports some new locations such as a haunted mansion, and one case even takes place on a train. Even the bonus scenarios accessible after each case have material in them that help flesh out the storyline a bit.

Although The Cornstalker and the overarching plot give cohesion to each of Mackenzie’s cases, they end up being somewhat more predictable than the predecessor’s cases, which often had some interesting plot twists that could not be predicted. Because this game is a direct sequel to the first Touch Detective, it does not work too well as a standalone game. The dialogue with various NPCs assumes that you’ve played the first game already and know about their pasts. There are also some running gags that would only be truly funny for those who have played the first game. The trademark zany humor from the first game is back in full force, so if you enjoyed it in the first game you will enjoy it here.

The visuals, sound, and general gameplay remain unchanged from the first game. The visuals are exactly the same as before, but that is not a bad thing as Touch Detective’s visuals were a treat. Locations have a hand-drawn cartoony look and are chock full of bright colors and fun details. The character sprites are large, look terrific, and are animated with the smoothness and fluidity of polygons. The series also wins major style points for its eclectic character art. Some characters are anime styled, some are anthropomorphic animals, some are in the style of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, while others are combinations of the above. Such eclectic art would normally be a visual mess, but in the Touch Detective world, it works. In addition to the in-game graphics, pivotal scenes in the game are punctuated by well-drawn anime cutscene stills.

The music also remains largely unchanged from the first game. All the music from the first game returns here and there are additional pieces for the new locations. These new pieces fit well with the existing repertoire, which itself is good. The music is detective themed music with cartoonish whimsy. Each piece fits the context of the game very well and the sound quality is above average.

The gameplay is the tried and true interface seen in any graphic adventure: click the screen to move, examine locations, pick up items, and access the item close-up screen where you can scrutinize items further to take them apart and/or combine them with other items to create new tools to use. Oh, and you need to talk to NPCs a lot too to gather information and advance the plot. Although the game allows you to use the directional control pad and buttons to point and click, it’s quicker and easier to use the DS’ stylus. The DS’ stylus and touch screen are made for this genre.

Since this game is Touch Detective, the Touch List makes a return. There are fifty things in the game’s world that Mackenzie can touch and her thoughts on these items are recorded in the Touch List. In addition to the five main cases, there are thirty or so objectives to do within the bonus rounds accessible after completing each main case. These thirty mini-cases can be tasks like helping an NPC find a lost item, entering silly contests, answering NPCs’ questions, or just observing interesting events take place. Completing the touch list and everything in the Investigation Report (the five main cases and all the mini-cases) can open up some Easter Eggs such as additional artwork, music, and character profiles in the main menu.

One major complaint against the first Touch Detective game was that the puzzles were often too obtuse, hints were too obscure, and solutions were too random. This has been addressed in Touch Detective 2 ½. Although puzzles are still wacky (for example needing to use a banana peel to polish an old lamp), clickable items and hot spots are easier to find and puzzles themselves are far less obtuse than before. I only got stuck two or three times and trial & error usually saw me through. Anyone who’s played the first Touch Detective game may find the sequel much easier. Since Mackenzie cannot die, there is no Game Over and patience, effort, and persistence to find solutions is encouraged. One minor complaint some gamers had was that Touch Detective only had one save slot; this one has three. Each individual case can be solved in two to three hours thus giving a total playtime of around ten to fifteen hours. I finished the main part of the game in around ten and a half hours and spent a handful more doing the bonus stuff.

So what is the final verdict on Touch Detective 2 ½? I enjoyed it quite a bit. It addressed some pertinent issues in the first game and expanded on the Touch Detective mythos while still keeping the overall formula largely unchanged. From the moment I fired the game up, it fit like and old glove. To many gamers, Touch Detective 2 ½ may feel more like an expansion than a sequel. Therefore, the bottom line is that if you could not get into the original Touch Detective, 2 ½ will not change your mind. However, if you enjoyed the first game, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

Overall Score 84
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Neal Chandran

Neal Chandran

Neal is the PR manager at RPGFan but also finds time to write occasional game or music reviews and do other assorted tasks for the site. When he isn't networking with industry folks on behalf of RPGFan or booking/scheduling appointments for press events, Neal is an educator, musician, cyclist, gym rat, and bookworm who has also dabbled in voiceover work and motivational speaking.