Game: Detective Gallo
Developer: Footprints Games
Publisher: Mixed Bag Srl
Age Rating: E for Everyone (US) | 3+ (Europe)
Price: £13.49 | €14.99 | $14.99
Release Date: 17 August 2018
(Also available on PC and PS4)
Overall feeling: I like it
Review code generously provided by Mixed Bag.
When I was given a choice between three adventure games to review, I gravitated immediately to Detective Gallo.
The art style transported me back to Day of the Tentacle (1993) and other LucasArts’ point-and-click classics from the 80s and 90s. Detective Gallo falls very much in line with that old-school genre. While Day of the Tentacle fans might not find Gallo rising to the heights of that cherished classic, they will at least find the same wacky flavor that makes both games amusing.
Gallo feels like a much smaller, less ambitious game. On the upside, it’s straightforward and never convoluted. But after finishing the game in 6 hours, I was left feeling that it was one case too short.
The good: Characters, story, music, hints
In this tale of environmental crime, our leading man (or bird) is a totally cynical and anti-social detective. Someone has murdered Phil Cloro’s pet plants, and it’s up to Detective John Gallo to find out who’s dunnit. Though noir-inspired, Detective Gallo is humorously offbeat and doesn’t take itself too seriously. And like in any good story, there’s a plot twist or two that you probably won’t see coming.
Memorable characters, excellent voice-acting, and great localization from Italian to English make up the best of Detective Gallo. Throw in a fine jazz soundtrack, and you have a game that’s a pleasure to listen to.
But what stands out most is Candy Bop the cheerful candy seller. She’s the polar opposite to Gallo’s dour personality and can never seem to win the hardened detective’s affections. Candy Bop is, you could say, the one bright ray in this pessimistic, downtrodden world. Her scenes never failed to amuse!
Gameplay-wise, Gallo does well in the hint department. The game helps you but not too much.
Pressing + opens your notebook, which has a page reminding you of what the current goal is. It tells you what goal to work towards, without giving away how to accomplish it.
Meanwhile, pressing R2 activates “Gallo’s Sense” (a pun on “gallows humor”?). This highlights all objects in a room that you can interact with. At first I thought Gallo’s Sense was too much handholding. But I changed my mind later, finding it to be a good quality-of-life feature. Without Gallo’s Sense, it’s possible to overlook objects you can interact with. When I got stuck in the game, I found it helpful to press R2 for a quick survey of everything available to me in the room.
When I tried using the wrong items, on a few occasions the game offered more than a generic “That doesn’t work” message. Instead, Gallo would say something specific to the puzzle; for instance, “Object A could work but makes too much noise.” Then I’d know I was on the right track and just needed to find a less noisy solution. (I would have liked more of these helpful remarks!)
The bad: Early-game help and Rules of Gallo
But what I really needed help with was the game’s very beginning. After the first cutscene, I wasn’t sure what to do and could have benefitted from a pop-up tip.
The first thing you’re supposed to do is reach into your inventory. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to do that for a whole minute! (I was using the L-stick, not the touchscreen)
My other main complaint is that Gallo’s dialogue got tiresome quickly. He lives by the “Rules of Gallo,” a list of life philosophies seemingly as endless as the depths of his pockets. The rules were amusing and apt sometimes, but lacklustre and forced at other times.
While I didn’t tire of the game’s relentless negativity (Gallo’s mother tongue is the art of insulting others), I found myself fast-forwarding dozens of Gallo’s lines which begin with, “Rule Number # of Gallo: …” Dialogue would have benefitted from omitting that stock phrase on most occasions.
The so-so: Game length, puzzle difficulty
The game feels short for its price. By short, I actually mean “small”; Detective Gallo only has 14 rooms and can be speedrun within 3 hours. At the same cost of $14.99, I’d be more tempted to pick up the 2016 remastered version of Day of the Tentacle.
Granted, Gallo’s rooms are “dense”; each room has many objects you can interact with. Still, its small-scale world left me feeling a little hemmed in. I would have liked to see and explore more of Gallo’s world.
I also felt hemmed in by the game’s linearity. Only once did I feel I had reached a fork in the road: This occurred after I first exited the aqueduct tower and was given multiple tasks to do – and the freedom to decide which task to pursue first. That’s when the game felt most enjoyable. I think this is what adventure-game designer Ron Gilbert meant when he talked about not “caging the player.”
Still, Detective Gallo does a reasonable job with puzzle design. I had to check a walkthrough 4 or 5 times, but most of the time it wasn’t due to bad puzzle design. One time, I overlooked an important item in my office. Another time, I simply needed to combine two items instead of merely using one.
However, I do recall an obscure puzzle involving “a romantic rose.” The solution made sense in hindsight, but I can imagine some players not understanding it even in hindsight.
I was also frustrated by inventory items which ended up serving no purpose. I suppose they’re meant to encourage players to think instead of employ trial-and-error. But I was still annoyed by these useless items because I’d wasted so much time trying to utilize them creatively.
Is it worth $14.99? At that price, I’d be hard-pressed to choose Detective Gallo over a time-tried classic like Day of the Tentacle. While I like the characters, story, and setting – supported by a great soundtrack and voice-acting – I wish the game had been longer and larger, which could have given it more opportunities to be less linear. Gallo feels like a designer’s debut game – but a decent first effort, nonetheless. If I weren’t considering the price, I’d say “I like it.”