Chinatown Detective Agency is an elegant and imperfect adult Carmen Sandiego

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Few gaming properties have had both the range and endurance of Carmen Sandiego franchise. Originally a mystery game that became an edutainment success, Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? and its many sequels and spin-offs were staples of classroom computing, especially in the 90s and early 2000s, and have since inspired a Netflix series and an interactive movie. However, with the franchise remaining firmly in the realm of children’s media, an upcoming game seeks to provide a nostalgic experience for those who grew up learning geography, history and more as ACME agents trying to thwart the Carmen’s next plot.


Developed by General Interactive Co. and published by Humble Games, point-and-click adventure coming soon Chinatown Detective Agency takes the heart of the globetrotting mystery adventure of the Carmen Sandiego games and translates it into a stylish cyberpunk setting. Amira Darma, a former player control policewoman turned private detective as she helps her clients solve mysteries that take her through seedy parts of the near future of Singapore and around the world. A demo showcasing the game’s first two missions has been available on Steam and itch.io since 2020, and on top of that, CBR was able to jump into the game’s third mission.


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Chinatown Detective Agency follows a simple premise that involves solving cases and traveling the world, using real-world knowledge and research to get the job done. The game doesn’t have all the answers, nor does it expect the player to, and the interface even includes a browser button to make it clear that players will have to search for things themselves. . Players who can, for example, immediately identify a quote from a specific ancient Greek writer or recognize the etymological origins of major city names will have a clear advantage, but the game assumes that players will need to consult the internet and encourages them to do so. without the shame.


Beyond the need to investigate and research independently, the game also requires a bit of critical thinking to figure out where to go next. During the first assignment, Amira is asked to meet a new client under a Bohdi tree, who she says is not from Singapore. It’s up to the player to look at the map, notice there’s a botanical garden, and figure out that’s where they need to go next. Upon arriving, the client even notes that he wanted to test Amira’s resourcefulness before hiring her, which is a great way to integrate gameplay and storytelling.

Unfortunately, following a solid tutorial mission that defines what the game expects from its players and how to overcome its challenges, Chinatown Detective Agency frees players in a way that makes some of its underlying flaws more apparent. The second mission can be time consuming in terms of research, and while not impossible, it can be difficult to know where to start. All players must use stamps with text written in another language, some of which use an entirely different alphabet.


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Doing the work to solve the puzzles on your own can be fun and fulfilling and, to its credit, there’s always enough that even vague and nonsensical Google searches will probably point you in the right direction. The game also introduces a useful tool at the start of the third mission for players who get stuck; contacting an NPC encountered on a previous mission will give the player a way to ask for clues (or even the solution). It’s a good option for those who really want or need help, and easy to overlook for those who want the challenge of solving everything on their own.


Apart from that, however, Chinatown Detective Agency lacks the kind of control, difficulty, and accessibility options that would make it more accessible to a wider audience. The main gimmick of solving puzzles with challenging outer quests is one thing, but some things about how the game works and some of its more traditional in-game puzzles can be off-putting or difficult for many players to navigate. The only option to walk around is to click where you want to go – it’s also how you interact with people and objects on screen. Also, while some puzzles can make the player feel like a real detective cracking codes and hacking their way to clues, the lack of things like button customization or extra options for puzzles could be frustrating. , even downright blocking, for some players.

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There are also some mechanics that are more tedious than anything else. While figuring out where you need to travel is fun, you need to check an airline’s schedule, book a flight and waiting to board is less fun. The game clock comes into play in the third mission and will likely be more important as the game progresses and the stakes increase, but the time management aspect currently feels less like an interesting game system and immersive and more of an afterthought. it only happens when it doesn’t suit you.

Of course, what we’ve played is just a demo and (presumably) a small slice of a final product under development. Many of the game’s issues can be fixed when the full version finally comes out, and we can only hope these things will be improved because Chinatown Detective Agency has so much to do. The core concept is really compelling, and everything from its retro pixel art to its character portraits to its cyberpunk take on big cities is incredibly stylish and makes up for the hassle of getting there.

On top of that, the overarching story teased in the first two missions looks really interesting, as does Amira Darma’s journey. Chinatown Detective AgencyThe protagonist of is a tough, no-nonsense, and skilled detective surrounded by all manner of friendly and sleazy characters in the game’s dystopian world. The ingredients of a great game are present, but the fact that the overall package is so cool only making it even more disappointing that the game is currently held back by its potentially viewership-limiting controls.

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