Touch Detective 2 1/2

boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

GAME TECH INFO

Computer Platform: Nintendo DS
Produced by: Atlus
Price Range: $11-20
Learning curve time: Over 2 hrs.
Age level: Children (Older)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Reviewed By: Phil Rownd (boyward)
STAFF REVIEWER

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆
Genre: Other Graphic adventure
Christian Rating: 4 of 5 (good)
Gameplay: 2 of 5 (poor)
Violence: 5 of 5 (none)
Adult Content: 5 of 5 (none)

Touch Detective 2 1/2. Illustration copyrighted.

Graphic adventure fans rejoiced when Touch Detective was announced for 2006, but that charming collection of bizarre mysteries was soured by illogical puzzles and frustrating pacing issues. Basically, the puzzles made little to no sense, and until you were lucky enough to figure out the solution you were stuck. This sequel, Touch Detective 2 1/2 somewhat improves on the formula by more handily pointing us in the right direction, but it’s still not enough to make the game accessible to anybody but the most patient and determined gamers.

Mackenzie is a girl who lives in a house with her mushroom sidekick, Funghi, and her genius butler, Cromwell, who teaches her good manners and how to do a “surprised” facial expression. This girl is also the town sleuth. When her neighbors notice something amiss, they come to Mackenzie for help. Whether Penelope’s colored noodles have been swiped, or Mayor Tom’s turkey statue is missing an eye, no case is too small for Touch Detective Mackenzie.

Like the original game before it, Touch Detective 2 1/2 is divided into 5 bizarre cases which took me about 9 hours to complete. If this is your first experience playing a Touch Detective game, it will probably take you longer because you have to learn to think outside the box. Waaaaaaaaay outside the box.

For starters, how about this wacko cast of characters? Each of the five episodes revolve around The Cornstalker. Yes, he’s an evil stalk of corn. Then there’s Police Inspector Daria, who desperately wishes The Cornstalker would think of her as a worthy archenemy, but his attention is solely on Mackenzie. Daria gets terribly jealous, and when she gets jealous she gets excited and puts out her back… once again leaving Mackenzie to solve the mystery on her own. There are also the bit characters, such as the man who stands completely still on the edge of a mountain cliff. He claims that he is on the Mountain Cliff Fitness Program and that the terror of standing there is making his heartbeat race faster than if he actually exercised. Such is the offbeat sense of humor throughout both of the Touch Detective games.

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The situations in which these characters find themselves are positively goofy, and I found myself chuckling each time some new plot twist would unfold. But getting through the stories is a challenge due to the obtuse puzzle design. The Touch Detective games don’t let you progress until you supply the correct solutions and talk to the right people in the right order. If you’ve played a graphic adventure before you’re somewhat familiar with this kind of story progression, but Touch Detective does it to a fault. Unless you’re following an online guide (Gamefaqs.com has a couple), you will spend a lot of time tapping the screen, just hoping that you stumble upon what you’re supposed to do next. Good luck with that.

Here’s one of the most glaring examples. In one of the cases you have to find some ghosts. To accomplish this task, you must first find the glass lollipop, wrap it in a tree leaf, and then hold it over a fire to create the “Ghost Detector”. There is no logical clue that would lead you to this conclusion. I appreciate the attempt at being wacky and original, but these are the kinds of puzzles that were nearly destroyed the original Touch Detective. Fortunately, there aren’t as many of those in this sequel, as most of the clues actually make a little bit of sense this time around. In addition, Mackenzie’s butler and the Fortune Teller provide some much-appreciated guidance. The original Touch Detective gave us no hints whatsoever, so it’s good to see the designers heard our complaints about the first game and for the sequel they at least point us in the right direction.

One last flaw with the game has to do with spotty touch controls and collision detection. It seems that when Mackenzie gets into certain spots on the screen she can’t interact with certain things. She could be standing right next to what you want to touch, but she won’t touch it. It won’t even register. This happened to me maybe 10 times in the whole 9 hours I played, but it’s a glitch that will lead you on a wild goose chase while you wander around the town, wondering what you’re doing wrong, until you finally come back to that original spot and out of desperation you tap the object again– and this time it works. If there is going to be a Touch Detective 3, all of these flaws need to be worked out. There is a charming game here, but the game has far too many problems to earn my full recommendation, especially to kids. I personally don’t regret playing this game, but I want you to know that there are better games to play on DS, such as the Ace Attorney series, or Professor Layton and the Curious Village.

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The fact that Touch Detective 2 1/2 has these flaws pains me because the unique art style is well worth a look. All of the assorted sharks and chickens and hairy monsters in Mackenzie’s town animate nicely, and watching the big events happen is a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed Cromwell popping out from under the table trying to scare Mackenzie– and accidentally jumping out at the wrong time only to frighten a customer out of the office. The soundtrack is good, especially on the train mystery where you’ll hear a male choir providing the background music.

If you do decide to pick up Touch Detective 2 1/2 (and I heartily recommend the sequel over the original), you can expect minimal offensive content. As a matter of fact, none of these mysteries revolve around murder or anything more violent than vandalism and burglary.

VIOLENCE
An overzealous train conductor threatens to throw freeloaders overboard. One of the characters thinks she’s seen a corpse. (She’s mistaken.)

LANGUAGE
Very clean. “Heck” and “drats” is as bad as it gets.

SPIRITUAL CONTENT
There is a silly subplot about a magic portal being opened by a noodle formation. You’ll regularly visit the town Fortune Teller for leads and clues about how to proceed. One of the mysteries involves a “Curse of the Pyramid” which puts a curse on fossils and those who dig them up. Episode 4 revolves around a spooky Haunted Mansion where Mackenzie interacts with the resident ghosts. This particular case is a little spookier than the other four, but it never ventures past the kind of ghostly content you’d see in a classic episode of Scooby Doo.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
An evolutionary worldview is assumed during a very brief discussion about the Cambrian period, an artifact that is 570 million years old, and the absence of human beings during that period. The final case involves a search for some raffle tickets.

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POSITIVE ELEMENTS
Mackenzie encourages a character to apologize to someone she hurt a long time ago– and that broken relationship is restored.

Any content that may at first appear questionable is cleared up by the end of the episode. Everybody loves a happy ending, you know. Nevertheless, I’m going to recommend that parents NOT buy Touch Detective for their kids because it is such a frustrating experience. The only people who are going to get their money’s worth out of Touch Detective or its sequel are those who already enjoy graphic adventures and are prepared to deal with its many flaws.

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Year of Release — 2007

[tags] 2.5 stars, Other, Nintendo DS, E (Everyone), Atlus [/tags]




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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