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James Noir's Hollywood Crimes

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Let's get quizzical

Product: James Noir's Hollywood Crimes | Developer: Ubisoft | Publisher: Ubisoft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | File size: 68MB | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
James Noir's Hollywood Crimes iPhone, thumbnail 1
If you want to point the finger of accusation anywhere, we suggest you point it at Level-5's Professor Layton series on DS.

Ever since the dapper gent and his teeth-gratingly peppy assistant proved that everyone and their mum world would happily cough up for ancient logic puzzles if they had a bit of a story wrapped around them, the ancient-logic-puzzle-with-a-bit-of-story-wrapped-around-it genre has grown rampant.

James Noir's Hollywood Crimes, first seen on Nintendo's 3DS handheld last year, is a prime example.

Wrapped clumsily around its familiar puzzle core is an inscrutable tale of murder, intrigue, and a suspiciously naff TV game show. Some goon is killing off previous contestants and the FBI has (obviously) called on your amazing puzzle-solving prowess to help crack the case.

A problem shared

Ignoring the narrative side of things for a minute, the puzzles are pretty decent, covering familiar number, colour, tile, and doodle problems, along with equally traditional mazes and word play.

Of these, the best are the occasional 3D brainteasers that require a careful bit of finger-twitching to solve, but you're predominantly dealing with good old-fashioned 2D logic ticklers.

Regardless, you're given a score at the end of each puzzle - determined by your general intellectual prowess - and that's uploaded to a leaderboard, encouraging competitive replay.

Whether you're connecting the dots, painting a pathway, or sifting through colours, touchscreen manipulation is intuitive and responsive, meaning you can focus on flexing those brain muscles rather than grappling with controls.

If anything's likely to get you glum-faced when it comes to puzzle-solving, it's the overly obtuse nature of some challenges. Occasionally, the game is overly vague in explaining the rules of a particular puzzle, which is frustrating when you're all fired up and ready to be clever.

Lost in translation

If there's any other real complaint it's that in the transition from 3DS to iOSĀ James Noir has lost much of its original presentational splendour. Suitably moody animated cut-scenes and gravelly voice work have been replaced by a strip of constantly scrolling still-frame imagery and far-too-fast text dialogue.

Its implementation is frankly awful and makes the game's surrounding story virtually incomprehensible.

What you're left with then is a reasonably entertaining series of 40 well-implemented - if largely unspectacular - puzzles to work your way through. You can pick up the game one chapter at a time or splash out for the three (of five) currently available in one in-app-able swoop.

Even with nifty leaderboard replay, though, there are far more interesting puzzlers out there and you won't have to sit through so much charmless nonsense to get to the good stuff. Ultimately, the only mystery that matters in James Noir's Hollywood Crimes is this: why bother?
James Noir's Hollywood Crimes
Reviewer photo
Matt Wales | 2 July 2012
A series of decent - if overly familiar - puzzles buried beneath a dreary, nonsensical narrative
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