Touch Detective


Review by · November 8, 2006

The graphic adventure (aka Point-and-click) genre has enjoyed success on the PC platform, but has never enjoyed much success on consoles. The whole point-and-click interface is often smoother and easier with a mouse than with a controller’s D-pad, which often makes the pointer drag slowly and without the pinpoint accuracy needed for pixel hunting.

Enter the Nintendo DS handheld, whose stylus and touch-screen interface make pointing and clicking the easiest it has ever been. It is then no wonder that the genre is seeing prolificacy on the DS, especially among Japanese developers. Trace Memory and Phoenix Wright have both been highly praised by critics and gamers, and now another mystery-based adventure game has tossed its hat in the ring: Success and Beeworks’ Touch Detective, which was published for US audiences by Atlus.

Touch Detective puts you in the shoes of young Mackenzie: a delightfully clueless girl who has inherited her late family’s detective agency and desperately wants to prove herself as an ace detective. Luckily, Mackenzie is not alone. Her butler Cromwell and her pet mushroom Funghi believe in her every step of the way. Mackenzie’s two best friends, Penelope and Chloe, are also delightfully clueless in their own unique ways and are really fun characters. Throughout Touch Detective’s zany world are many equally zany characters that are memorable and endearing. The humorous dialogue in the game is extremely well done and doesn’t resort to the kind of over-the-top cheeseball stuff that one would expect in such a cartoonish game.

The storyline basically has Mackenzie solving four different cases and a few bonus missions in order to be recognized as an ace detective. The first case wastes no time in thrusting you into the zaniness of the game’s world. In that case, Penelope beseeches Mackenzie for help because a thief is stealing her nice dreams. The other cases are just as wacky, but the fourth case is easily the best one. The middle and end segments of the fourth case are executed really well, and it gives some backstory into a few of the NPCs.

The visuals in this game are excellent. The hand drawn sprites are large, nicely detailed, have a 3D look to them, and animate with the kind of fluidity and smoothness I would expect from polygon characters. The backgrounds also have a hand drawn look and are chock full of vibrant colors. The character designs are very unique and appealing. I’m not quite sure what to compare the art style to, but I’m sure the pictures accompanying the review can give you an idea. I absolutely adore wonderful 2D visuals such as these, so while the graphics won’t win any awards for flash, they more than make up for it in style.

The game also sports some good, whimsical music. Each location has its own fitting theme and a few pertinent events have distinct themes too. The game is not very long and the game world is fairly small, so the number of musical tracks is limited. I did not encounter a single track that grated on my nerves, but only a couple of them really struck me as memorable. In other words, the music is good but not great. Of course, the music will definitely sound better through headphones rather than through the DS’ small tinny speakers.

Gameplay is the area that is likely to polarize gamers. As mentioned before, the game is short and provides no real replay value. Genre veterans will be able to blaze through this game in a single weekend. For less skilled adventurers, it will take a couple of weekends. Despite the “kiddie” vibe of this game, it is not for novice adventurers. Many of the puzzles require sometimes absurd leaps of logic. I found the first case the toughest one since I was mostly trying to make sense of the game’s world, but once I got a bead on that, the later cases became easier for me to handle. Mackenzie cannot die and even if you think you’re at a dead end, there is a way out of it (even if said way may be slightly roundabout.) There are no “Game Over” screens here. I didn’t find the puzzles as tough as those in some Lucas Arts graphic adventures and nowhere near as annoyingly twiddly as those in Still Life, so I never felt the need to resort to using a FAQ or walkthrough. In a nutshell, the very things I find appealing about graphic adventures are the same things that people will find annoying or frustrating in Touch Detective.

The interface is generally easy to use and quite user-friendly. It’s very intuitive for anyone who has played a graphic adventure game before. Collecting, examining, and manipulating items is a breeze, as is talking to NPCs. In addition, Mackenzie walks at a good clip, so getting from one place to another is nice and quick. The only negative I have regarding the interface is that you cannot save multiple files.

The bottom line is that Touch Detective is a unique little adventure game with loads of style, fun characters, and plenty of charm. I enjoyed the game quite a bit. Those who are less familiar with the genre and/or only want the “must haves” may want to skip this in favor of Trace Memory and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. However, if you enjoy graphic adventures as much as I do and think your DS is a good investment because the genre is surprisingly well represented on it, then this is a fun, charming game to add to your adventure library.

Overall Score 80
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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.