Crime Stories Review

Rooted in archaic gameplay sensibilities and devoid of engaging characters or plot, Crime Stories won't even appeal to the most vehement of adventure game fans.

Crime Stories is an appropriately generic title for a game as fundamentally uninteresting as the Adventure Company's latest crime solving adventure. Based within the universe of a popular Italian comic book called Martin Mystère, Crime Stories takes the titular comic book hero and thrusts him into a drab and uneventful murder mystery of snooze-worthy proportions. Its adherence to ancient adventure game mechanics doesn't help matters, but the fact that it can't even use these ancient mechanics well enough to qualify as a decent throwback to an olden genre is all the more damning. This game is a pixel hunt of the most redundant and boring kind, and nobody should waste their time with it.

When was the last time you saw a professor of anything driving a car like this?
When was the last time you saw a professor of anything driving a car like this?

Crime Stories' hero, Martin Mystère, is a professor of something. What, exactly, is never made entirely clear, but he's definitely of the scholarly ilk. Mystère lives with his wife in a New York City townhouse with a caveman butler (and that's not just a descriptor--he's literally a caveman) named Java. Various pieces of archeological and literary significance litter his house. As for the man himself, he evidently affords his life of luxury by solving mysteries. In Crime Stories, Mystère is called to the scene of a grisly murder at the home of a famous professor named Eulemberg. But before he can get there, he has to find the hidden key to his wardrobe, dig up the phone number for his auto mechanic, and find his cell phone. Yes, the entire first act of this game revolves around one of the great crime-solving minds of the world taking in upward of 45 minutes to get dressed, find a phone number, and dig up his cellular. Priceless.

All along the way, Mystère makes nonsensical quips as you click on every piece of clickable furniture in his house, forcing you to sit through endless strings of text about books, art pieces, and other meaningless bric-a-brac while you try to dig up the necessary items to head to the crime scene. To make matters worse, he does the exact same thing even once you've gotten into the actual crime itself. Upon arrival at Eulemberg's estate, Mystère begins quipping nonsense about every piece of everything he sees. The info is not even relevant most times. If you find a piece of evidence, he won't necessarily tell you why it's evidence or what the significance could be. He'll just talk, endlessly, about nothing. Suffice it to say, Mystère is not an enjoyable protagonist. He's just kind of a self-important windbag with a painfully bad sense of humor and no real personality to speak of. This isn't to say that any of the other characters you'll encounter throughout the adventure are much deeper, but you spend the entirety of the game with Mystère, and by the second or third act, you'll wish someone would just show up to kill him, already.

On top of Mystère's unlikable personality, the story has zero going for it. The first hour or so following the investigation of Eulemberg's body is a bit intriguing, but the evidence you find never seems to take you anywhere of consequence. Sure, there are some exotic locales and a few interesting twists and turns, but you spend entirely too much time putting together clues that aren't so much clues as they are extraneous ways to force you to backtrack over and over again. One sequence requires a ticket to get into a club to pick up an item so that you can get more info from someone you already talked to. To get the ticket, you have to go to a location to talk to a person, go through all the lines of dialogue, then go back to your house to find a book for them, bring it back, get the ticket, go to the club, find out the ticket doesn't work, go back to another location to use a device to make a forgery (that you'll only know exists if you're paying extra close attention), then go back to the club again to use the forged ticket, just to get this one item. And then the payoff for doing so isn't even satisfying or revelatory--you're just sent on even more annoying fetch quests.

It would be considered labyrinthine if the work itself weren't so by the numbers. Like any pixel hunting adventure game, Crime Stories has you eventually finding everything you're supposed to do by being thorough. If the mouse icon reveals a hot spot, click on it. Seventy-five percent of what you click on will be completely inconsequential, but you've got to do it, lest you miss that one obscure piece of evidence that gets you to the next chapter. That's nothing new for adventure games like this one, but none of the ancillary items you click on are interesting. There's no clever commentary about them, and they're not pleasant to look at. Everything's ugly and boring the whole way through.

The biggest and most egregious flaw in Crime Stories, however, is its presentation. The dialogue in particular is atrocious. In part it seems an abhorrent English translation is to blame (the game was originally released in Europe some time ago), but also the editing is simply terrible. When characters speak, if their sentence goes on longer than the dialog box at the bottom of the screen will allow, they will pause midsentence and then start the sentence back up a second later when the next part of the line loads up in the dialogue box. It's as if every character has been taking acting lessons from William Shatner, or something. There are also purposely inserted "ums," "ers," and other conversational stutters that are completely out of place, breaking up the flow of a conversation to the point where people are just speaking syllables and not even saying anything remotely coherent.

 Martin can explain, in detail, just about everything on this shelf. And he will, if you let him. Don't let him.
Martin can explain, in detail, just about everything on this shelf. And he will, if you let him. Don't let him.

Crime Stories' graphics at least feature 3D character models, but the designs are awful. Mystère looks like a cross between Mickey Rourke as Marv in Sin City and Brian Setzer. Everybody moves in a stiff and jerky fashion, and most times moving a character into position to converse with another doesn't work right. There are sequences where Mystère will be standing with his back to someone he's talking directly to. Also, the characters look muddy. They're highly pixilated and are decidedly light on detail. Environments look similarly ugly. There are a few grandiose locations, but the scale is offset by the blurriness and pixilation of the static backgrounds. It's just not an attractive game by any stretch of the imagination.

You can finish Crime Stories in six or seven hours if you don't click on every single hotspot you see, but you'll be done with it long before the mystery reaches its conclusion. Trying to sit through Crime Stories' painful dialogue, patently uninteresting plot, and dinosaur-like gameplay is simply an exercise in self-punishment. Even with the adventure genre as hard up as it is these days, don't waste your time on a scattered mess like Crime Stories.

The Good
Occasionally interesting plot twists
The Bad
Characters are insipid and annoying
Painfully translated and poorly edited dialogue
Ugly visuals
Ancient gameplay mechanics that aren't even implemented especially well
Martin Mystère is a terrible, terrible hero
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Crime Stories: From the Files of Martin Mystere More Info

  • First Released Mar 21, 2006
    • PC
    This 3D adventure game is based on the popular comic book by Alfredo Castelli.
    Average Rating153 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    The Adventure Company, GMX Media
    3D, Adventure, Third-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Blood, Mild Language, Mild Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol