Red Johnson’s Chronicles

A few years ago, adventure games were arguably well and dead. Telltale Games is helping to resuscitate the genre, and so are Japanese developers like Cing and Level-5. Anyone looking for a brain tease with a substantial story doesn’t have to look very far. Enter Lexis Numérique, a French company known for smaller downloadable titles. They hope to enter the adventure game market with Red Johnson’s Chronicles, coming to PSN later this month.

Red Johnson Chronicles is a noir tale about a ginger-haired private eye in the city of Metropolis. He’s a hands-on guy, and not above slumming through the city to get the job done. With him is his pimpin’ pal Saul and the not-quite-ethical cop Officer Roberts. The characters seem endearing, if typical for a noir setting, and the expected banter between the cast is both entertaining and compelling. A serial murderer is running lose in Metropolis, and Red is tasked with stopping him.

Gameplay boils down to a series of screens where the players must interact with available objects and people. The story unfold from the first-person perspective of Johnson, and clicking in different areas will take you to a different screen. Items can be compared to each other in the inventory, and conversations can take place multiple times with different conversation trees. The game is conventionally “adventure” with great personalities and puzzles. Some of these puzzles are actually quite neat, such as finding phone numbers in files and dialing them in. Sure, it feels a little silly, but it helps immerse players in the world.

Once settled into a puzzle, the game takes on a Professor Layton type approach. Numbers are hidden in paintings above safes, indicating a passcode, and a puzzle about Tarot cards requires an open mind to solve. Red Johnson’s Chronicles doesn’t offer anything new for adventure games, but some puzzles require players to think fast, and that’s a good sign. If players get stuck, for a fee Red can call up his buddy Saul for advice. Lexis Numérique is hoping to make the game appealing to experienced adventure gamers but also playable for those not accustomed to the genre.

Occasional quick-time events break up the gameplay. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re in the game. Although Red Johnson’s Chronicles is a PSN exclusive, the game will not have Move support to start, but Lexis Numérique is looking to add device capabilities later this year.

The game excels in visuals and audio work. Styled as a cyber-punk noir, the whole city is tilted askew and painted in shades of orange and brown. Pre-rendered, it’s actually quite beautiful, with great art direction. The voice work and audio hold just as much promise. Each conversation is fully voice-acted, and everyone from Red to his suspects animate nicely in conversations. These conversations can be quite dynamic, going well if Red is smart with his conversations or very poorly if he gives the wrong response.

Red Johnson’s Chronicles is a promising game. At eight to ten hours, the game offers a solid amount of adventuring, and with visual style and charm paired with great audio and classic gameplay, Red Johnson’s Chronicles could be an unexpected success. Expect to see it later this month on PSN.