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DS  header logo

Crime Lab: Body of Evidence

For: DS

DSi CSI

Product: Crime Lab: Body of Evidence | Developer: City Interactive | Publisher: City Interactive | Format: DS | Genre: Adventure | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Crime Lab: Body of Evidence DS, thumbnail 1
Hetty Wainthrop Investigates. Miss Marple. Murder She Wrote. It's hard to know why, but branding gruesome murder mysteries to middle-aged women works.

City Interactive's Crime Lab: Body of Evidence is clearly out to capitalise on that formula, albeit with a CSI-inspired lick of paint.

In brief, it's a point-and-click puzzler in the style of the Professor Layton games, set in a weirdly aspirational episode of Law and Order.

Sadly, despite its prime time source material, Crime Lab: Body of Evidence struggles to make the clues add up.

Give us a clue

You play FBI agent Nicole Bonnet - who previously starred in the Art of Murder series - as she picks up the trail of a playing card-obsessed serial killer. The ensuing case leads Nicole away from the gory forensics of recent CSI games and towards hidden object hunts and brain-teasing mini-games.

The game's broken into chapters, each of which has you visit a new setting in search of evidence. Click a location on the map and you're presented with a nicely atmospheric image of the crime scene or suspect's apartment. From there, you can use the touchscreen to snoop for hidden clues or interactive objects, some of which require you to complete a quick mini-game.

This is where Crime Lab begins to fall down. The mini-games in question are a curious mix of average, baffling and plain tedious.

The problem is that you're only given a cryptic, one sentence explanation before being plunged into a timed challenge. It often takes serious trial and error just to work out the rules.

Admittedly, you can buy your way out of the mini-games with points earned elsewhere, but this only serves to makes them feel more arbitrary.

Case for the defence

Mini-game issues aside, the rest of the game is of a far better quality. The plot, derivative as it is, packs a pleasing amount of twists and turns, escalating to a life or death fever pitch by the end.

The crime scenes present some clever environmental puzzles, too. An early level set in an abandoned cinema, for example, has you bopping back and forth between the auditorium and control room to view a film reel left by the killer. In these moments, Crime Lab can be a surprisingly rewarding experience.

Unfortunately, any sense of immersion is swiftly undermined by Agent Bonnet's 'sassy' tone.

When you're assigned a new partner in the game's opening, the poor guy barely has chance to speak before Agent Nicole starts raising her eyebrows and effectively saying “Bloody men, eh?”.

I'm sure this is meant to appeal to the game's female target audience, but a grisly murder investigation doesn't seem the right place to slip into Ally McBeal mode.

Criminal

Combine this lame humour with the jarring change of pace every time you trigger a mini-game, and it's hard to stay involved in the case at hand.

Crime Lab's first chapter illustrates this nicely: after a briefing from your brilliantly hammy police chief, you pick up your field kit and head to the scene of a murder. There, in a gloomy apartment, among the chalk outlines and scattered belongings, you find a flesh sample. You delicately tweezer it into a jiffy bag and head to the crime lab for some answers.

So far so good. But, when you arrive at the lab, the pathologist greets you by saying: "Hey Nicole, here to organise another squash game?".

She then makes you play Bust-A-Move to decode the DNA. Except it's not Bust-A-Move, but some strange new variant, the rules of which the game fails to explain to you. And there's a timer.

Three failed attempts later, you'll find it hard to still care about that murder.

Jury's in

It's not that Crime Lab is a bad game. In fact, it's a perfectly playable point-and-click adventure with a plot that'll keep you guessing to the end.

It's just so clumsily branded that, unless you fall into its target audience, you'll probably find it more annoying than most in the genre.

If you're a fan of shows like CSI, and can stomach all the "Men, eh?" moments, Crime Lab: Body of Evidence is well worth a look.

You might still be better off, though, with a dedicated mini-game collection and a Murder She Wrote box-set.
 
Crime Lab: Body of Evidence
Reviewer photo
Richard Meads | 19 January 2011
One for CSI fans only, sloppy mini-games and annoying dialogue mar what could've been an engaging point-and-click adventure
 
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