I admit it, crime shows fascinate me. Whether I’m watching something conventional like reruns of Crime Scene Investigation on CBS or something off the wall like BBC’s Torchwood, there’s something intriguing about a good mystery. That’s probably what inspired City Interactive to make Crime Lab: Body of Evidence, a strategy game where you’ll have to use your FBI skills to stay one step ahead of a serial killer. Sadly, this is one case that isn’t worth solving.
You portray FBI agent Nicole Bonnet. She’s built quite a reputation for herself, solving cases all over the world with her unmatched skills. A new challenge awaits upon her return to the United States. It seems that an FBI profiler has been bumped off during a routine stop by the fridge, and the only clue left behind is a playing card. Soon other dead bodies begin popping up, also involving bizarre accidents and playing cards, all pointing to the same serial killer. Nicole not only has to solve the case at hand, but also stay one step ahead of them – or she’s next.
It sounds like a suspenseful storyline fit for a Joel Silver production), but in actuality, Crime Lab barely lives up to the quality of a sub-par CSI Miami episode, minus David Caruso dramatically taking off his glasses. The writing is to blame, with a sluggishly written script that’s sorely lacking in plot twists or, worse yet, any kind of worthwhile pay-off. The mystery wraps up with a “that’s it?” ending, and that’s really about it. Had City Interactive hired someone with some good detective writing skills (we would’ve even taken a second-hand Mickey Spillane scribe), this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s mostly stuff of the touch-screen variety. You’ll use items in the environment to figure things out in each of the locations, such as a screwdriver to unscrew something from its hinges, a crowbar to break down a boarded-up door or other objects. Occasionally, you’ll use detective skills to try and figure something out, but not often enough to really put Nicole’s talents on display. Half the time, you’ll probably be wondering how she got to be so famous in the first place.
The one thing that Crime Lab manages to get right is the assortment of mini-games. Throughout your quest for justice, you’ll be asked to take part in a quick puzzle solving activity, such as aligning items Bejeweled style or answering questions rapidly thrown at you. They’re not rocket science, but they keep the game from falling into a pit of boredom. There’s even one that works with the DSi’s camera, though poking at your virtual picture isn’t as entertaining as you might think.
Like City Interactive’s Vampire Moon, Crime Lab fails to impress with its presentation. The static game screens and environments don’t really stand out from other B-grade detective fodder, nor do any of the characters, aside from the somewhat vibrant Nicole. The music isn’t anything worthwhile either. You’d be better off blaring any given The Who song from any given CSI show.
Crime Lab isn’t the worst DS game we’ve seen, as the mini-games do manage to keep it from being a cold case. That said, the weak writing and otherwise plodding gameplay make it a mystery not worth tackling.