Video game: Chinatown Detective Agency, a cyberpunk investigation to be solved with Google

In order to collect clues and advance in this futuristic and twilight point-and-click, you will have the opportunity to go directly to the search engines for information. Even if it means changing the sense of immersion. Shame.

Singapore, 2037 The streets of the “garden city” are flooded with neon lights of the colors of the almighty conglomerates, and reconnaissance drones filled the sky. The atmosphere of neo-noir and cyberpunk is guaranteed… In Chinatown Detective Agency we play Amira Darma, a former Interpol police officer who recently became a private detective. She thinks she can pay her bills with classic fickle tails. However, from her first investigation, which consists in searching for a trace of a dubious couple on the other side of the world, there she finds herself embroiled in a machination that goes beyond her limits.

With gameplay designed for the keyboard/mouse duo and a pixel art aesthetic, this game, developed by General Interactive Co. (based specifically in Singapore) immerses the player in the familiar lands of a typical point-and-click adventure game. 1990s: Interaction with environmental elements and interrogation of witnesses or potential suspects. Its interface is reminiscent of that of the popular edutainment series But Where’s Carmen Sandiego?, in which the pixel search for clues takes pride of place. But the tone of the Chinatown Detective Agency is, to put it mildly, much less childish, staging twilight themes at will: ultra-liberalism aimed at privatization and then overpricing of a common good like drinking water, copyright appropriation of sequencing genetics, elite corruption, etc.

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What also changes is the way the story progresses. While the traditional “point and click” prompts us to carefully observe and listen to what is shown or said within the universe in order to sometimes solve cotton puzzles, the Chinatown Detective Agency encourages the player to switch to the mechanisms of researching the most popular sites on the Internet to collect important clues. Because if you do not understand ancient history, Egyptology, mathematics, toxicology, even cryptology, the game does not allow you to gnaw a single bone, so to speak.

Specifically, the thinking leaders of this independent production often rely on literary and pictorial works or existing scientific principles to fuel highly complex treasure hunts. Self-understanding with the help of Google of the functioning of the Mesopotamian cuneiform or the Enigma cipher and decipher machine used by the Nazis during World War II becomes a prerequisite.

Archaic backup

This choice of game design is not without risk, because this incessant tossing between the mesmerizing and paranoid futuristic universe of the Chinatown Detective Agency and the day-to-day reality of the search engine can legitimately reduce the feeling of immersion. But he knows how to reward the most daring, when decisive trial and error finally lead them to a serious path that can, to put it mildly, lift the veil over a foggy secret. At the same time, we can only regret that this innovation is weakened by an automatic backup system only between two investigations. This total archaism invariably leads to a restart of his game at the beginning of the current investigation (and, therefore, to its restart) at the slightest failure or bug that interferes with the development of the narrative. And they are not uncommon. At such moments, the delightful adrenaline of a bloodhound in a state of grace quickly gives way to the fury of an irritated Sisyphus.

d Chinatown Detective Agency, General Interactive Co./Humble Games. Available on PC, Xbox Series, Xbox One (included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate), Nintendo Switch.

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