Published on November 26th, 2014 | by Isaac Davis0
Red Johnson’s Chronicles Review
Red Johnson’s Chronicles wants to be the type of old school adventure game where you have to take notes to succeed. This is all well and good for a PC or console game, where you’re free to pick up a pen, but it proves to be a fundamental flaw for a mobile game.
Chronicles has a pretty novel structure: part point-and-click adventure, part Layton-style puzzle game, part Phoenix Wright-style cross examination. This makes perfect sense for the noirey tale of private eye Red Johnson in the semi-sci-fi dystopia of Metropolis.
The most glaring problem is in those examination bits, where you are basically quizzed on the clues and evidence that you collect. I’m already playing your game, Red. You don’t need to stop me dead to make sure I’m paying attention. These tests are all un-skippable and force you to start over if you get a single question wrong. At the end, the crime is solved through one of these tests, although I passed one with a lazy 66%.
One particular snag comes when you have to assemble a police sketch of a suspect, based on a poorly written (perhaps just poorly localized from the original French) description. The text is already vague, but you can’t even read it while composing your sketch. You just have to remember and pray that either you’ve remembered it correctly or the initial description wasn’t off due to poor localization.
This unfortunate fact affects the puzzles as well. Certain clues will bring you to a puzzle screen, a close-up shot of objects that you interact with to unlock a safe or decipher a phone number. Once again, each bit of the puzzle is its own screen, so you can’t look at, say, the phone book while also looking at the phone. A hint system provides only the slightest help, with the exception of one puzzle containing untranslated French text, where the hints have to spell out the solution for you. I think it might’ve even been a fun puzzle if I could read French!
And it’s a shame, because, like I said, it’s an interesting take on adventure games. The art has a nice gritty cartoon style, and the subtle parallax animation in the environments is a cool trick. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the voice acting, too. Adventure games with poor localization are not usually known for their voice work, but Red and his rogue’s gallery are entertaining throughout.
So if you speak French, have a PC and a notepad, and have the attention span required to pass each quiz, Red Johnson’s Chronicles might be for you! For everyone else, it may just be infuriating.
Summary: Some clever puzzles can’t save Red Johnson's Chronicles from frustrating design choices. If they could, it would still be ill-suited for mobile.