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Crime O'Clock Review

Crime O'Clock Review

If you ever spent time squinting at a Where’s Wally picture book as a child, Crime O'Clock will feel nostalgic from the get-go, offering funny, bustling scenes where you have to find someone hidden amongst a busy crowd. Instead of searching for a striped shirt, glasses-wearing Wally, though, you’ll be doing much more. I’m talking pinpointing murderers, fixing love triangles, undoing temporal distortions, and chasing down rogue AIs across multiple timelines. Developer Bad Seed sends you on a romp through fictional history, playing as a detective tasked with protecting the space-time continuum. Your job description: solve crimes that should have never happened. Gameplay-wise, it combines elements from hidden object games, detective puzzlers, and visual novels, but does Crime O’Clock achieve a balanced mix of these genres, or is it an uneven blend?

In time-travelling games, I’m used to being the one with the powers (à la Max from Life Is Strange), but in Crime O’Clock, the time-hopping abilities are thanks to my advanced AI crime-solving partner, EVE. Together, we investigate hiccups in a virtual Time Flow across five maps, each representing different eras of history. The maps themselves are 2D hand-drawn scenes that are highly detailed and populated with a ton of characters going about their lives, all of which are captured in EVE’s database at select moments in time. These snapshots are called Ticks, and there are 10 of them per level. With each Tick, you move forward or backwards in time, and the map instantly changes around you. For example, characters will appear in different locations, making the world feel like it’s in motion; you might see two people bumping into each other in one snapshot, inevitably falling down in the next — or in more extreme circumstances, a corpse in Tick 10 will be alive again when you go back to Tick 5. It’s such an innovative way to create an ever-changing environment with static visuals, and it’s executed smoothly with a fluid fade-in and fade-out transition.

Crime OClock Point and Click Controls

Throughout the game, the True Timeline is constantly under attack by various rogue AIs, as they destabilise the Time Flow’s data, convincing various characters to become thieves and murderers. With each crime, their targets become increasingly important historical figures, unleashing a butterfly effect up to the present if left unchecked. Early on, you can’t stop them directly, but you can run your own interference. As you point and click your way across the map, you’ll gather the clues and evidence needed to revert history to its canon state. When you find what you need, you’ll hold down the left mouse button to capture it in a Polaroid. Though you’ll hop through multiple eras, there’s a standard detective loop you and EVE will follow: locate the crime scene, find the suspect (or suspects), piece together the victim’s last moments and/or follow the suspect’s actions by moving along the timeline, and find a Tick where you can intervene. You’re not supposed to meddle too much in the ongoings of each time period, so your solutions start off as subtle changes. However, in true videogame fashion, later crimes will require increasingly invasive tactics. You do what you have to do, right?

While Crime O’Clock delivers enjoyable point-and-click gameplay, it doesn’t match up as a fun detective game, despite the fact that its narrative is centred around solving crimes. Surprisingly, you have little player agency; it’s not really you doing the investigating or the intervention, as the AI holds your hand through every step and tells you exactly what to do next. As a result, you don’t have to put any thought behind solving the “whodunit” mysteries. In fact, for the first hour, I wondered when the game would just give over the reigns and let me play, using what I learned in the tutorial, but that time never came. There’s no Sherlock Holmes–esque deduction that you need to do here, just a clear path to follow. Essentially, you’re along for the ride — a design choice that could have worked well if you could fall into a laid-back flow with the gameplay, but unfortunately, poor pacing also gets in the way of that.

Crime OClock Narrative AI

Mainly, the culprit is EVE, who chimes in with dialogue every single time you find a suspect, artefact, and the like. There are no voice-overs, meaning your gameplay is paused while you read the text. I quickly realised each level has a cycle: click, dialogue, click, dialogue… you get the point. In a post-Portal era of videogames, EVE isn’t the first (or last) AI character with a lot to say as you play, but the interruptions are frequent and often unnecessary. For example, there’s a moment when the characters are clearly moving a bomb, and EVE’s text box pops up to state the obvious, “they’re moving the bomb”. At another point, you’ll find a character walking, and it will appear again just to say that they’re walking. I was relieved when I reached a gameplay point where it claimed that it wouldn’t be able to talk to me temporarily, but as AIs do, it found a loophole to send me cryptic messages anyway. My dislike for this design boils down to the timing. The constant interruptions don’t give you the space to breathe, digest, and settle in. At its best, EVE gives you engaging fictional history lessons and narrative context, and the story is actually entertaining. However, at its worst, you still have to deal with the mundane commentary and neverending instructions about what to do next.

The flow (or lack thereof) is further impacted by EVE’s mini-games, which are brief puzzles that are mixed into the middle of the investigation. They’re a bit more jarring than the dialogue interruptions as they pull you out of the map and into EVE’s system. Sometimes you’ll search for a suspect’s identity in the database or translate text in the Universal Decryption tool, but the puzzles aren’t as complicated as they sound. Each one is relatively simple, requiring you to play a short match-two game, organise tiles in columns, or match pre-outlined images together. They don’t overstay their welcome, which is great, but unfortunately, they also feel like filler and get repetitive over time.

Crime OClock Mini Games

I enjoyed Crime O’Clock’s gameplay the most when you’re allowed to manipulate the surrounding environment. As you progress, you’re given extra tools that allow you to uncover masked characters, destroy boxes, or look inside buildings, all of which are especially fun ways to discover clues. There’s also a free-play mode called Fulcrum Stories that lets you follow non-story characters in various eras, recording their actions across the 10 Ticks. This is a great way to take a break from the main missions (and EVE), and you get to immerse yourself in the tiny, well-crafted details of this silly world.

Keeping with its Where’s Wally inspiration, the game's art design is quirky, humorous, and incredibly intricate. I wouldn’t say Crime O’Clock is very funny in terms of narrative, as EVE makes one too many “tailored ads” and “I don’t understand humans” jokes, but it makes up for it with its visual comedy. Everywhere you look, you’ll find anthropomorphic animals, mischievous robots, zany antics, and cute characters. It’s adorable and brimming with personality, like the childhood cartoons I used to watch back in the day. Additionally, the game brings its black-and-white backdrops to life with intentional pops of colour, circling characters and writing notes on the map like a detective’s bulletin board connecting each moving part of the mystery.

Crime OClock Environmental Tools

Crime O’Clock makes some missteps as it tries to blend heavy storytelling, puzzles, and hidden object gameplay, but I still had fun when I returned to it for short spurts of playtime. Do note that once you start a level, you can’t exit without losing your progress. The game currently lacks a save feature, so I often left it on pause if I had to go do something else in the middle of a case. However, in my experience, each level only lasts between 10 to 20 minutes, so it’s not hard to just pop in briefly; playing for longer sessions only shines a light on the puzzle repetition and clunky pacing, but it’s easy to ignore these drawbacks if you enjoy it in smaller bites. I’m sure fans of hidden object games will enjoy the evolving maps and fantastic art design, but those who want to do more challenging detective work might be bored with this one.

6.00/10 6

Crime O'Clock (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Crime O’Clock offers a detailed, charming world with innovative hidden object gameplay, but excessive dialogue and repetitive mini-games will interrupt your point-and-click adventure too many times to count.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Staff Writer

Alyssa is great at saving NPCs from dragons. Then she writes about it.

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