Saturday, May 15, 2010

Private eye dol

NEC Home Electronics
Super CD-ROM / Arcade CD-ROM

This is a very cool, very interesting game, a colorful combination of RPG and digital comic elements. It plays from an RPG-esque overhead perspective, with voice acting and well-drawn anime-style cut-ins accompanying your every action (and you can turn all of that stuff off if you'd prefer a faster-paced experience).

You're an idol who gets caught up in a series of bizarre happenings and decides to play detective and figure out what's what. Your cases take place in locales as disparate as a "haunted" mansion and a cruise ship, and you meet lots of interesting oddball characters, including a scythe-wielding lunatic and a seven-year-old munchkin.

Based on that premise as well as the game's art and screenshots, you'd surely expect eye dol to be a funny, goofy, lighthearted affair, and it does offer plenty of humor and silliness. But it has quite a few shocking (sometimes bloody) moments as well. eye dol isn't afraid to show gory murders or send a chill up your spine. One moment you're laughing and the next you're in total shock.

There are some brief mini-games to take part in, including an enjoyable puzzle-game-like sequence where you use little rafts and lily pads to cross underground streams.

For the most part, you can make progress simply by walking around, talking to people, and examining things, so the language barrier doesn't present much of a problem. Late in the game, you might experience some hard times if you don't know any Japanese. Creativity will be required in order to trigger certain events and solve some conundrums. Plant yourself on the end stool and keep quiet for a moment or the gruff fellow behind the counter won't even think about serving you. Flip the jigsaw-puzzle tiles and put them together to get a cryptic clue as to how to solve the next riddle. There are a couple of "enter the "code/codeword" roadblocks; the solutions actually aren't too difficult to figure out if you pay really close attention to the hints the game offers you, but if you happen to get stuck, here you go:

You'll most likely have a great time as you solve eye dol's unusual mind stumpers, but you might also end up feeling you deserve more for your achievements than what the post-chapter cinematics deliver. The cinemas are not terrible at all, but it's a shame that such well-designed characters aren't always drawn very well and that such appealing animation takes place within the confines of relatively small windows (a necessary tradeoff, perhaps). And we're talking denouements and prologues devoid of much action, the uneventful likes of discourse amongst cute girls in bathing suits. (Note that I have no grievances regarding the "cute girls in bathing suits" element.) Still, considering how much quality art and how many thrills are delivered during play, I have no problem forgiving eye dol for taking it a little too easy during intermissions.

I absolutely must mention that if you examine a particular bookcase late in the game, you can find a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Private eye dol is great anyway, but the fact that it found a way to incorporate Dostoevsky's masterpiece (and this very site's namesake) into its proceedings makes it worthy of all the admiration in the world.

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