Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Somewhere, lost in the steam and grime of the city’s underbelly, hides a killer. Someone who took a life in cold blood; who vanished into the shadows. His victim was a scumbag lowlife; someone nobody would miss. Hell, the list of folks who wanted him dead is probably longer than my arm. The cops don’t want to touch it – either because of politics or laziness. But that’s where Red Johnson, Private Investigator comes in. Somewhere, a killer is hiding. And it’s your job to find him.
Red Johnson’s Chronicles is a puzzle and deduction game set in a steampunk-esque city, which finds you taking on the role of the titular Johnson as he attempts to unravel the details behind a murder. The game is divided into point-and-click exploration scenes during which you will hunt for clues and details, and puzzle scenes you must overcome in order to advance.
The art style is excellent and the visuals are nice, even though the game has mostly static, single-screen environments. There is a great deal of voice-acting that both adds and detracts from the experience – the dialogue is decidedly ‘hard-boiled’, bordering on ‘cheesy’ in many places, and sometimes leaping boldly right over that into ‘absolute cornball’ - but usually in the best detective drama tradition.
The puzzles themselves seem to have been harvested from all over the genre – decoding messages, connecting dots with colored lines, picking locks - you name it. An extremely pleasing aspect of them is that, as the game will tell you right up front, each puzzle is self-contained. All the information you need to solve the puzzle is given within the puzzle itself. There is no need for you to wonder if you missed some critical scrap of info as you bang your head against a puzzle challenge – if you can’t figure it out, that’s your fault, not the game’s, and that’s particularly useful for a portable title naturally played in broken-up sittings.
On the downside, Red Johnson’s Chronicles is a game entirely on rails; if you find yourself unable to solve a puzzle, you will be completely unable to proceed. The puzzles aren't overly difficult, but you may occasionally find yourself wishing you had some note-taking function integrated into them – something I found myself sorely missing while playing on the train.
Red Johnson’s Chronicles is a great puzzler, wrapped in a sometimes-clever-sometimes-corny package. With interesting art direction, engaging gameplay, and a forgivably campy but somehow interesting story, you should feel free to answer the call of the crime-ridden streets.