This game is a neon-dripped global adventure where you play as an investigative reporter searching for clues to solve the mysteries of this rare Chinatown Detective Agency.

The “detective agency game” is a neon-dripped global adventure that takes place in the heart of New York City. The players take on the role of private investigators who are trying to solve a murder case.

Chinatown Detective Agency Review: A Neon-Dripped Global Adventure

The Chinatown Detective Agency is based on traditional point-and-click adventure games like the Carmen San Diego series from the 1980s. This time, though, the setting is a cyberpunk-style Singapore in the year 2037. Chinatown Detective Agency follows a young private investigator called Amira Darma as she handles cases from various clients and uncovers a diabolical conspiracy that will lead her all around the globe.

Chinatown Detective Agency is an entertaining game with a strong story, striking graphics, and hard puzzles that will have you on the edge of your seat.

A Neon-Dripped Global Adventure: A Chinatown Detective Agency Review

Chinatown Detective Agency, aided by outstanding voice acting, concentrates on a small cast of people, preferring to (rightly) flesh them out rather than producing a large ensemble that blends into the background. Given that Detective Agency was created by a Singaporean firm, all of the voice actors sound like they’re from the Southeast Asian area, giving the game a genuine vibe.

The screenplay and writing are also excellent. Amira is a snarky investigator, and a couple of her comments had me laugh out loud. She exudes confidence and smugness without being overbearing. Her customers and colleagues are both a lot of fun.

Tiger Lily, for example, is notorious for her promiscuous behavior, and she responds with caustic barbs anytime she is embarrassed or condescended to over it. Mei Ling, the town librarian whom Amira seeks out for assistance throughout her research, is another highlight. She has a bright, exuberant demeanor that stands in stark contrast to the world’s gloom.

The pixel imagery offers Chinatown Detective Agency a nostalgic vibe akin to the Carmen San Diego games, but the equally lovely character pictures create a feeling of realism that balances it out beautifully. 

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Allow me to do a Google search for you.

In terms of gameplay, Amira solves cases by solving a range of puzzles and riddles. These need you to play detective and use a real-world search engine to uncover answers to the game’s queries. One container, for example, has a stone tablet inscribed with an archaic language. To understand the message, I had to first figure out what language it was written in and then translate it myself. 

I was given photos of Egyptian gods and had to place them in precise holes with the proper descriptions in another puzzle. There are no encyclopedias or other resources available in Chinatown Detective Agency, so you’ll have to rely on real-world resources to get answers.

Some of the riddles are difficult to solve, but the satisfaction of decoding and solving them is immense. Fortunately, if a problem proves to be too difficult, you can always phone Mei Ling and ask her to either give you a clue or just reveal the solution (for an in-game fee).

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Money and time are also used as mechanics by the Chinatown Detective Agency. There is a 24-hour clock in the game, and some areas of Singapore may only be visited at particular hours of the day, adding to the sense of urgency and stress. If a customer requests that you meet Amira in the bar between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., you must wait until that time.

Fortunately, you can fast-forward time anytime you choose, so it won’t disrupt the game’s rhythm. If Amira fails to meet a client’s deadline, the game warns that money will be lost — or the game will end. And, despite the fact that this seems to imply side tasks, I was unable to locate any. Implementing some here and there may have helped to the worldbuilding of Detective Agency, but it would have been a squandered opportunity.

A customer pays Amira every time she solves a case. She spends the money on airline trips to solve other crimes and on rides across Singapore on the train for others. Amira is also responsible for paying rent on the first of each month.

Later on, Amira may extend her office and recruit other workers, however this feature is misused in the game; you only receive one extra ally. At some point, you’ll be so inundated with cash that paying off your debts will no longer be an issue.

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Taking Care of Bugs 

Chinatown Detective Agency is hampered by its sluggish performance, despite its numerous intriguing aspects and mechanics. During my evaluation period, I discovered a couple game-breaking bugs. A section of the game wouldn’t load at the finish, and the screen was entirely dark. I could still click and drag Amira around — her footsteps showed this — but that was all. 

The only way around it was to request a new debug version of the game from the developer, which enabled me to bypass that portion totally and go to the next.

There were a couple moments were the voice acting abruptly stopped, and the speech didn’t always line up with the conversation. Characters would sometimes have problems spawning into cutscenes or would walk into a scene backward.

The Bottom Line of the Chinatown Detective Agency

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Pros:

  • Characters and writing are fantastic.
  • The art direction is stunning.
  • Puzzles that are both challenging and entertaining.

Cons

  • There are a few mechanics that are underused.
  • There are a lot of problems and the performance is sluggish.

Chinatown Detective Agency is a one-of-a-kind game with a gripping tale and stunning visuals. It has a worldwide perspective, yet the local Singapore setting seems genuine. The problems are just difficult enough to avoid seeming unfair. However, the game’s problematic performance detracts from the overall experience.

What’s more amazing is that Chinatown Detective Agency manages to avoid being culturally offensive while incorporating the cyberpunk look so popular in Asian-inspired settings.

[Note: The copy of Chinatown Detective Agency used for this review was given by Humble Games.]
  • general interactive co
  • chinese detective game
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