Red Johnson’s Chronicles: One Against All Review
Game:Red Johnson’s Chronicles: One Against All
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Private Detective Red Johnson is back, and he has a price on his head. Join him in the city of Metropolis, where everyone from small-time crooks all the way up to Mob bosses are trying to rub him out.
After the first entry in the Red Johnson Chronicles was a PlayStation exclusive, it is somewhat surprising to see the sequel go multi-format. The game follows on directly from the first, and although there is a very short narrated recap cut-scene, players who are new to the series could be left somewhat cold. Fortunately though, every step of the way the developers also drip-feed more information, such as introducing the main characters, and have built in a tutorial system to explain how the game is played. You might think that this would be a hindrance for those who are familiar with the series, yet the fact that the last game was some time ago and that there are some new game features introduced, means that it is very useful to have all the techniques explained.
So the game begins with Red hiding out from his prospective killers in a Dive Bar, when someone delivers him a mysterious locked box and a poisoned drink. Players must help Red open the box using his magnifying glass and Ultraviolet light, and find out where the box came from, what his Brothers have to do with it all, and also to prevent any more attempts on his life at the same time. The story is typical hard-boiled stuff, but it is all carried off with some style and a good sense of humour. The team have obviously watched a lot of Film Noir and are well aware of the conventions of the genre, which they exploit to give the game an authentic atmosphere.
Graphically the game is very similar to its predecessor. The 3D character models are perhaps a little more detailed now, and although they are characterised rather than realistic, the models allow for a lot of expression. They sometimes do sit a little starkly against the grimy, realistically drawn backgrounds though. These are atmospheric and detailed, and certainly portray the seedy feel of the city underworld. As with the first title though, the fact remains that sometimes the detail levels are so deep that some elements just appear too small to be comfortably seen by the naked eye. Luckily you can use your magnifying tool at all times, so even if something looks difficult to make out, you can investigate it and work out exactly what you are looking at, so this comes across more as a design decision and helps add an extra level of investigation.
The sound and music in the title are also very successful, for a small scale downloadable title. Packed full with jazzy tunes and Noir-inspired atmospheric music, the scene is well and truly set. This gives you a good idea of the type of world you are playing in, and helps to accentuate dramatic or dangerous moments. Add to that the fact that the small-name voice cast performs admirably, and the sound design is impressive. Red is likeable but tough, and other characters are suitably varied, to create a good cast of potential suspects, as well as cohorts. There are no superstars here, but all of the voices seem true to the characters and to the setting, making it all fit nicely together.
The game is mostly made up of puzzles, but these take on many shapes. There are some puzzles where the player must simply re-arrange tiles, like a jigsaw, while another calls for Red to record a strange sound, then play it in reverse on a tape player in order to hear the real message, yet more are based on popular mainstream puzzles such as Sudoku. Investigation also plays a large part in the puzzling, whereby players will have to search and examine objects closely with the magnifying glass and scan items for hidden messages or fingerprints with the UV light in order to gain valuable clues.
The UV light is a new feature for this instalment, and as such may be a little over-used, but the puzzles still remain varied. Another new addition is the photo-fit. By talking to witnesses, you will have to pick facial elements from a pool of possibles, in order to match the face correctly. This is clever, and means you have to pay attention to what people at telling you; a good observational puzzle. All puzzles are timed and the player is graded and awarded reward money, dependant on how swiftly and efficiently they solve it. Only a quick solution in one attempt will be awarded an A grade.
Money is useful because it can be used to buy hints from your friend Saul, who operates as the in-game hint system. This is completely optional, but will be very useful to some players who find themselves stumped. You can choose what level of hint you would like, with vague ones being cheaper and more detailed explanations costing you more. That isn’t the end of the variety in the puzzles though, there are also conversational ones. These act like interrogations, where the player is given two or three options and a limited amount of time to select the correct response in order to get the right information out of the other character. Make a mistake and you will be sent back to the start of the questioning. And the final piece of the puzzle is the Quick-Time Events. Like Heavy Rain, in some situations players will have to think fast to avoid danger or grab something before it is too late by pressing the buttons shown on screen. These aren’t very regular, but mainly used in action situations to emphasise the panic or suspense in that scene. And in that way, they work well.
The length is certainly an issue again with One Against All. The first game ended very abruptly on a cliff-hanger, and whilst this entry has a more rounded ending, the game is by no means exhaustive. It will probably only take you three hours or so to complete, and because there are no dead-ends and auto-saving is intelligent, you won’t have to back-track to replay sections (unless you are going for leader board high scores). Things such as Achievements/Trophies do help add a little length, such as the ones awarded for making no mistakes in puzzles or QTEs, but these could all be attained in one good playthrough, in theory.
VERDICT: Despite the rather short length and the pun-inducing title, Lexis Numerique have delivered a unique slice of comedy-tinged sleuthing. There are some really inventive puzzles on show, not just your run of the mill Adventure tropes. It is the variety of different puzzles that makes this such an attractive prospect to players. If you don’t like one style of puzzle, there are plenty more you will like; none are entirely the same as one another. And the fact that they are all linked together by a well-developed lead, atmospheric locations and top sound design, makes this a great overall experience. Its lack of length does somewhat prevent it from becoming a must-have, but as a lower-price Arcade title, this can be somewhat forgiven. Fans who want to tax their brains and their reflexes will find plenty to enjoy here. Let’s hope that this isn’t the last Red Johnson game, as there are plenty more stories that could be told in this game world.