Fluffy is an avid player of so-called “casual” games on Facebook– I have no clue why they’re called “casual”, since I generally play them in deadly earnest. I’ve written the odd post here and there about the games I’ve encountered, and whether or not I’d recommend them, and I have to say that Pretty Simple’s hidden-object game Criminal Case has been the best experience I’ve had on the platform. That includes all genres of games, not just hidden-object ones. When I reviewed it a while back in one of my Facebook roundups, I was pretty much a newbie, and had only completed two or three cases, but since then I’ve spent a LOT of time with this game, and can honestly say that it is not only one of the smoothest-running games on Facebook– server downtime is an extreme rarity, free-energy offers almost always work (and if they don’t are swiftly corrected), and I’ve yet to see a glitch– but also one of the most engaging games out there (if not the most). It has a lot of strengths, from the variety of scenes involved to the artwork itself and the complete lack of a “build” mode– you hidden-object gamers know of which I speak, the need to decorate a garden or an island or something in order to unlock more stages. (Fluffy despises build mode, and it’s put me off a good many HOGs, including some otherwise very well-executed ones like Pearl’s Peril; sure, you can buy more costuming items for your avatar in CC, but you never even have to change clothes once you’ve started playing, because it’s not tied to whether or not you can move to the next level.) With all that going for it, I think the game’s greatest pro is its focus on story, and especially characters. Your team is a set of fully-realized characters that you get to know better the more you play, almost as if you were reading a really crackling mystery novel. 56 cases into the game, however, everything changes. (SPOILER ALERT– do NOT read on if you don’t want to know how things pan out.)
By this point in the game, you’ve been pretty much through the mill. Not only have you taken down Grimsborough’s mob bosses, corrupt CEOs, and serial killers with your eagle eye for clues and savvy with puzzles, but have come through lots of purely expository situations that, while not essential to gameplay, make it a far more immersive and enjoyable experience. You’ve rescued an abused puppy and seen it grow up healthy and happy with your kind-hearted forensics tech, Grace. You’ve seen your partner, David Jones, get poisoned by a perp and have a close brush with death. You’ve unmasked a secretive hacker who turns out to be the police chief’s granddaughter– and who falls for your resident tech expert, Alex. You’ve had to arrest the chief, who was guilty of murder himself, only to have him commit suicide right in front of you. You’ve finally unearthed the truth about the sinister secret society known as the Crimson Order, their hold on the late chief, and the identities of their leaders. So what’s next?
Apparently, you swan off to another city entirely and abandon Grimsborough and your whole team.
While the first case in the new locale isn’t available yet and I can’t judge, there is a big farewell party at the end of the case. Everyone cries. Hell, I cried, and it’s just a game. Then a teaser page featuring a completely different set of characters pops up, so it’s been made pretty obvious that this is the end of the road for your now-former team.
And I was yelling at the screen. “NOOOOOO!!!!!”
On one level, I can understand why Pretty Simple would do this. It’s a “casual” game, and people might get bored being chief of police with the same old characters. The developers probably want to try their hand with new characters and a new city with its own problems. Exciting stuff. To me, though, it feels like getting plopped back to square one. You get to keep your rank and all, but it’s too much like a reboot. Why would you mess with success? Maybe it’s just me, but, like a good book when it’s reached the end, I’ve considered putting it back on the shelf and not bothering with the sequel– they are rarely as good as the original. This probably won’t happen (as I said, I play my games in deadly earnest), but I still feel a little let down– the one thing that casual games have over books is that they don’t END with such finality. Perhaps I’m looking at it from the wrong angle, since obviously my character is still me, and still going to be solving cases and whatnot, but like the aforementioned Pearl’s Peril, this game has now reached a rather teetering point for me. When Pearl’s main story arc was resolved, the game still kept going, but I quickly got bored, and not just because of the build mode (though that helped). I realize that story-driven games must of necessity evolve and reinvent themselves to continue, but the key difference between these two games is that if I felt like dropping in on Pearl and company at some point in the future, I could pick up where I left off with the same characters. But, also key, I DID become bored. Maybe the devs are trying to keep that from happening– perhaps it’s a sort of malaise that sets in with this type of game, and they’re attempting to thwart it. Maybe I just wanted the option of GETTING bored. Or maybe I’m a
weirdo geek that gets attached to fictional characters.
I guess my point is… dang it all, I’m gonna miss Jones and Alex and Grace and Nathan and Ramirez and Cathy and everybody else. The fact that I WILL miss them just goes to show what a great game this is, period, and why, even though I’m flirting with the idea of quitting, I probably won’t. Maybe my old buddies will drop in from time to time… and maybe I’ll like the new cast just as much.