With a resurgent breadth of success within the detective genre this year on the heels of Rockstar Games and Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D seemingly couldn’t have found itself launching at a more suitable time.
Set within the 1960’s, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D places you as the most recent auditionee for The Incredible Puzzle Masters Show – a popular television programme, hosted by Glenn Darnby, on which two competitors go head-to-head in alternate shows to achieve an increasingly difficult score so that they may progress.
Debut success on the show draws the attention of an old friend, and current FBI agent, Lt. Matt Booker, who enlists your puzzle-solving talents to aid him in an on-going serial killer investigation – all the victims of which are former champions of the TV show that you are participating within, and it is feared that you may soon become the serial killer’s next target.
In their wake, the killer leaves, through puzzles left alongside their previous victim, hints at their own whereabouts, or the location of their next target. It, therefore, becomes imperative that you aid the FBI in their investigation to ensure your own safety, whilst your continued participation on the television show proving to be a worthy distraction.
It all exuberates a B-movie appeal – cheesy dialogue with equally over-the-top delivery is matched by a storyline that, despite having a few interesting moments, never really excels. Lasting approximately 5-6 hours too, it feels as if it’s over just as it is beginning to gather momentum.
Actors are also video captured in a style similar to games that I played back in the 90’s; awkward in execution, dated, and quickly begins to grate. A seeming cross between Hotel Dusk: Room 215’s rotoscoping and full motion capture, it’s a visual gamble taken by the developer but something that is sure to prove to be divisive in opinion to those that play the game.
Where James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D does prove its worth is in puzzle design, Ubisoft utilising the handheld’s 3D capabilities to task you with puzzle challenges in which the perspective is vital to discovering the solution. Players will be required to rotate obstacles, shift their view and tilt the Nintendo 3DS to solve puzzles – a quantity of which are related to the on-going plot.
For those difficult puzzles that have you stumped, hints are also provided although differ in approach depending on whether you’re currently participating on The Incredible Puzzle Masters Show or not. Whilst on the show, three hints are provided which offer a further fifteen bonus points – fall back on them, and you’ll lose five per hint used for that particular puzzle.
Your success on the show inadvertently increases your popularity with fans, from whom you receive fan letters that grant you a separate pool of hints to use on the puzzles that you encounter away from the show – fixing broken lifts, opening locks etc.
Whilst your playthrough will only require you to complete a third of these, past completion you are free to rack your brains with those that you missed through the game’s main menu.
A nice touch is the lengths Ubisoft undertake to place the player as the central protagonist of James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D, with narrative progression all seen from your perspective. A snapshot taken using the Nintendo 3DS’ camera for your audition papers – alongside details such as name, gender, hometown, and birthday – are all used within newspapers that document your successes throughout The Incredible Puzzle Masters Show, as well as for horoscopes that provide storyline hints.
Plot moments where you are visited in your dressing room will also see your visual reflection appear in your mirror, whereas moments later in the game see your image used in more surreal instances.
There’s clearly a foundation here for Ubisoft to continue to build a successful series upon, yet James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D, for me, fails to deliver upon its own ambition.