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Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Game Shelf: James Noir's Hollywood Crimes (3DS)

*Originally appeared on 3-29-12 on

Hollywood Crimes features an interesting story with some great puzzles, but it's hard to give it the best of reviews. The game stars you as a game show contestant on a 1960s game show, "The Incredible Puzzle Masters!" You and another potential puzzle master face off on the show, solving puzzles for points. After six rounds - which span approximately twelve in-game weeks - the person with the highest amount of points wins a one-year trip around the world, all expenses paid. In between rounds of puzzle-solving, you are confronted by a friend from the past who is now an FBI agent. He's on the trail of a serial killer and needs your help. The reason? The killer is a former game show contestant him or herself, and is leaving puzzles at the scenes of every crime for you to solve.
The puzzles in the game are the stars, but they are hit or miss. They range from extremely easy to extremely difficult. While you will be able to solve most with either no hints or a few (the puzzles offer 3-4 hints each), there are some that are beyond difficult. I found myself reading the instructions repeatedly on some of these, and even when I finally did solve them by accident or the game solved them for me (if you’re completely stumped on the necessary story puzzles, the game will eventually solve them for you in order for you to continue the game), the solutions didn't really make sense thanks to the highly vague instructions.
The story is pretty intriguing, with you not only playing a game show contestant but an assistant in several grisly murders. There are optional side puzzles as well for when you don't feel like playing the story for awhile. These are found in your hotel room, which is basically the hub world of the game. Here, you will also get fan letters for being a game show "star". Some of the letters include puzzles from fans, which will earn you more fan hints for other puzzles. Other letters are from the killer, giving you more insight as to what it is you're up against. I recommend checking the room frequently, as not only do you earn the valuable hints, but you will unlock the puzzles you solve here as well.

While the story is decent, it's backed by cheesy graphics and even cheesier voice-acting. The characters in the game are basically mo-caps of actual people on a loop, meaning the words never match the characters' mouths, not to mention the voice-acting is D-grade quality at best. Furthermore, the ending - which features a twist - really falls flat.You can see it coming a mile away, but it makes little sense when you realize what you went through to get there. If you want solid puzzle gaming, Hollywood Crimes is far from your worst choice; just don't expect any brilliance anywhere else, as the game is severely lacking.

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