E3 '07: Touch Detective 2 ½ Hands-On Preview

We investigated the Atlus booth at this year's E3 to gather a final hands-on preview of this quirky adventure sequel.

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The original Touch Detective was a novel spin on both the adventure genre and the Nintendo DS touch-screen interface. It required players to scour the environment for clues or information before using the tried-and-tested method of combining objects to progress. The game was a reasonable enough success to warrant a sequel, and following its predecessor's offbeat humour has meant that it’s been called Touch Detective 2 ½.

The game follows the exploits of Mackenzie, a young female sleuth who has a sidekick from the Great Detective Society called Funghi. Funghi, for reasons not really explained in this extremely quirky game, is a little brown furball of indiscriminate species, but he's a cute little chap and generally quick to help you with your detective needs. The third character in your house is Cromwell, the crumbly old family butler, who's preoccupied with making strange and mostly useless gadgets.

The tutorial for the game is a quick and simple introduction to the touch-to-search mechanic behind the game. You wake up in your room unable to escape and must talk to a strange object in the corner of the room to figure out the puzzle. Basically, your friend Funghi is asleep on the floor, so the idea is to wake him up and then use him to help you get out of the room. The first thing to do is get a broken perfume bottle and try to use it to wake up Funghi. However, the spraying part of the bottle is broken, so you have to use the plastic bit of a pipette in your room to fix it. Once you've combined the items and used them to spray Funghi, you then have to feed him a pear. Then Funghi will kick the door down for you as a thank you.

This may all sound extremely strange and random. That is because Touch Detective 2 ½ is exactly as it sounds. It's characterised by a deliberately off-the-wall sense of humour and a world where nothing really seems to make sense. This is part of its unique charm though, and the Japanese developers successfully manage to pull off zany without being too grating. Once you get Mackenzie out of her room, you are then told by Cromwell to go about revising your touch list. In other words, you must solve the strange crimes that people present you from around the town.

Crimes in Touch Detective 2 ½ are presented as individual chapters, the first of which was simply called robbery. A distraught woman presents herself at your house claiming to have lost some pasta (we didn't quite figure out the relevance of this), and it seemed like it was our job to run around town talking to people to try to find out what was happening. Aside from being forced to ask each person three questions, much of the game seems to depend on religiously checking the environment for objects or clues so you can add them to your collection and eventually combine them together. To be fair though, the different locations in the world were drawn with style and plenty of detail. These locations included Mackenzie's house, an office, a shopping plaza, and a condominium.

Touch Detective 2 ½ seems like it will live or die on the success of its quirky humour and puzzles. The game certainly rewards those with an eye for detail and lateral thinking. There's also definitely some enjoyment to be had from its unique approach to puzzles and exploration. We'll see how it fares when we get the game in for review in the fourth quarter of 2007.

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