Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk

Game: Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk
System: 3DS
Developer: Aksys Games
Publisher: Arc System Works Co., Ltd.
Age Rating: T (US)
Price:  $39.99/£ 35.99/€ 39,99
Release Date: Sept 28th 2018

Thank you to Aksys Games for providing a review code.

Overall feeling: I like it!

I adore Sherlock Holmes, have a Humphrey Bogart poster on my wall, and Double Indemnity ranks among my favorite movies. It’s safe to say that I enjoy a good mystery, and if it’s hardboiled detective noir, even better!  So I was thrilled when I heard Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk was coming to the 3DS.

Full disclosure: Although I am a fan of point and click visual novel games, and Hotel Dusk ranks among the best things to ever hit the original DS system, I only recently came into possession of the first Jake Hunter game and haven’t had a chance to play it yet. So I’m coming to the Jake Hunter series with a fresh eye.

The Game is afoot!

Like any good hardboiled detective tale, the title mystery of Ghost of the Dusk opens in a bar. You’re enjoying a drink with the sisters who own the joint, when a guy runs in looking like he’s seen a ghost. It turns out he thinks he has encountered one, and he’s stumbled across a dead body to boot. To add to the creepiness, this incident occurred in a run-down house that’s thought of as cursed. Better investigate!

The Good

The gameplay is fairly straightforward. You spend most of your time talking to the characters you meet and examining your surroundings. All these actions are controlled by a series of menus and the right/left shoulder buttons. There’s no instructional section, but it’s pretty intuitive. Probably the least obvious part of the controls is that sometimes you’re in the middle of a conversation when the text stops. Although this often this means you need to complete another task (such as observing the person you’re talking with to see their expression, or pulling an item out of your bag) sometimes all you need to do is choose to talk to the same person again. The end result of this style of play is that I feel slightly more involved in moving the story forward than some other visual novels I’ve tried.

In addition to the Examine, Speak, and Move choices that allow you to advance through the story, you’ll occasionally be asked to get more involved in the mystery solving. These sections allow you to search the scene, think up questions to ask your suspect, or stop and consider what you’ve learned.

The game doesn’t let you wander off track, so there’s no worry about missing a clue because you stopped talking to someone too early, or left a scene before gathering all the facts. This is an excellent feature for the easily frustrated among us who just like to get on with the story and not have to backtrack.

One of my pet peeves is tons of dialogue and only one way to advance it, resulting in hours spent repetitively clicking the same button. This game has at least separate ways to advance dialogue (buttons and stylus). Also, the point and click sections could be operated completely with the game pad and buttons if you wanted. Multiple control choices for operating the game work wonders for the amount of time you can spend playing in a single sitting. Game developers please take note!

The Meh

The music is a mixed bag. I found the repetitiveness of some sections of the score annoying, but loved the jazz feel of other sections. Fortunately, there’s a decent amount of customization (text speed, sound, etc.) so you can simply turn down the music if you prefer.

Investigating is by FAR my least favorite part of this game. You have to click around the screen looking for clues, similar to looking for coins in the Professor Layton game. The problem is that you can’t always see what it is you’re supposed to be clicking, or even a clearly differentiated part of the screen to try. Doorways and buttons along the bottom screen were clicked by accident quite often. Even with my notoriously poor track record at these types of tasks, I felt reduced to random clicking more often than usual. Furthermore, you have to click at least twice to get through every attempted search (once to select an area, again to clear the dialogue the click triggers) so the process is drawn out even more.

A warning: You can save at any point, but it may not drop you back into your game exactly where you left off. For instance, if you save during an Ask or Investigate section, it will start you back at the beginning of the task. It also did this at least once with a regular dialogue section, but I suspect I hadn’t progressed far enough to start again where I’d attempted to save. None of this caused much of a problem, as advancing back to where I left off was accomplished quickly.

The Unsolved

Hidden passwords are revealed as you progress through the game. They appear to be entered automatically, although the password feature also offers manual entry, so I think I may have missed a few. The passwords unlock bonus content, such as image galleries, movies, and developer comments. GameStop’s page for this game says that side stories can be unlocked this way as well, but I haven’t found any yet.

The Verdict

The characters are interesting and the art is well done. I appreciate that they left the (brief) Japanese voice acting in. There are very few errors or odd word choices that I’ve seen, and the language chosen is by and large very appropriate for a hardboiled mystery. I’m impressed at how easily I can imagine the game dialogue being spoken by any movie detective. The title mystery is completely engaging and the spookiness of the setting makes the September 28th release date a good choice.

I spent most of my 8+ hours reviewing this game working through the title mystery, but briefly tried the other five. I can’t wait to take a crack at those as well!

I like it

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