Game: Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~
Genre: Visual novel
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release date: 2016
I had such high hopes for Chase: Cold Case Investigations. The main reason for that: some (but not all) of the folks who made Hotel Dusk--as well as Trace Memory and Little King's Story--also made this digital 3DS game.
Unfortunately, Chase: Cold Case Investigations--or at least the minuscule portion of it that's presented in "Distant Memories" (more on what that means in a few paragraphs)--is no Hotel Dusk.
Hotel Dusk, despite its flaws, was a fully realized and surprisingly engaging, not to mention cinematic, product that showed just how marvelously dynamic a "visual novel" could be.
Unlike most of visual novels I've played--including Hakuoki and Sweet Fuse for PSP--to date, Hotel Dusk was more than a simple "Choose Your Own Adventure" story accompanied by static (and admittedly pretty) illustrations and enjoyable, if not altogether memorable, soundtracks. That 2007 title one-upped its fairly staid genremates by allowing players to freely move around within and otherwise explore three-dimensional spaces. It also let them solve puzzles and take notes using the DS' touch screen--all while holding the system on its side, "book-style."
And then there were satisfyingly superficial flourishes like the rotoscoped character portraits and the superbly low-key (and jazzy) backing tunes.
Sadly, you won't experience any of the above while working your way through Chase: Cold Case Investigations. What will you experience instead? A depressingly small cast (of six, if memory serves). Art that isn't completely terrible but is a far cry from what's showcased in the developer's previous titles. Scenes that feature such little animation they may as well be motionless. No exploration whatsoever. Disappointingly straightforward interactions with the game's characters. Oh, and the writing has little of the verve that drips from Hotel Dusk's text.
To be blunt, Chase: Cold Case Investigations feels half-baked. Worse, it feels like the half-baked introduction to what should be a much larger and longer game.
In its defense, it seems pretty obvious "Distant Memories" is just one part of what will wind up as a multi-part release. Still, this opening salvo is so underwhelming--and so relatively expensive, at $6 for less then two hours of content--that it's currently hard for me to imagine picking up any future installments unless it's clear from the word go they offer a lot more than this initial entry.
See also: previous 'somewhat gay' and 'Great Gaymathon' reviews