Set in 2031 A.D., Chinatown Detective Agency Day One is a prologue to the upcoming detective adventure coming to Steam in 2021. You can download the demo for free now, courtest of developer General Interactive Co.
You play an aspiring detective, Amira Darma, who has recently set up her agency in Chinatown, Singapore taking on several cases to expand her business further. Seldom cherry picking tasks, she takes on bounty-hunting like cases to delivering stamps in an international setting.
The opening of the game looked the part, like an animated version of The Darkside Detective, only with a more cyberpunk feel. Alas, the narration lets it down a little and feels a little too disconnected from what’s being shown on screen.
Unfortunately, we’re sticking with the sound in Chinatown Detective Agency Day One for the wrong reasons as the music is way too overpowering and impossible to hear the spoken dialogue. Clicking on the settings only changes the language with zero option for audio adjustments.
It’s a shame as the soundtrack is like a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross collaboration and I don’t doubt for one second that The Social Network score played its part. Still, not being able to hear the voice talent was a bit of an oversight. Fortunately, the text appears on the screen.
It’s just as well, the voice acting isn’t up-to-speed and could probably we could have got away with text only. Still, the music… even as I write this, I feel like I’ve left Spotify on as the up-tempo track with the setting of a PI office shooting the shit is totally out of place, even if the music is excellent. I genuinely had to mute it.
With the sound off, I was able to concentrate on the introduction of the first case and finding my way around the initially cluttered UI. However, that assessment of clutter soon changed as the placement of world maps, a hotkey to the internet, mission log and more, was placed well and made the world easy to interact with.
A Hacker With Unlimited Budget
Once leaving the detective office, I had to hack my way into a system so that I could meet with my client – a competence test if you will. There was zero explanation on what to do, but clicking on a row of squares soon morphed into a memory game. Once I got that, it was intuitive.
After meeting with the client and investigating my first few clues, I entered a library with a tooltip that said:
One of the key mechanics of Chinatown Detective Agency is that it requires the player to figure things out on their own.
That said, what Chinatown Detective Agency Day One encourages you to do is actual research using the internet. Surely most of us do that anyway when we’ve played a game that touches on a point of interest such as an Assassin’s Creed title motivating that inner historian in you, or learning how to choke someone out after playing UFC 3.
But the difference here is that unless you know your Herodotus quotes off-by-heart (that Assassin’s Creed reference feels more relevant), you’re going to need to be proactive in your research. On that basis, I absolutely love this approach.
Enduring A Shoot-Out
After solving the first cryptic puzzle, you befriend a librarian, which the initial promo material made mention of your choice of associates. One I had a lead, I was heading off to another country courtesy of the flight booking system called Horus (noticing a pattern?).
On my adventure in Chinatown Detective Agency Day One, I flirted with a little gunplay, unintentionally. Combat involves unholstering your gun and shooting the assailant in their hand or harm so you can take them in, without any fatalities. Maybe it was because this was the demo, but it was pretty easy.
Amira doesn’t run solely on beans and has to sleep to renew her endurance levels. Food replenishes endurance, but you need to sleep to take the maximum back up to 100. If she gets too tired, the in-game clock speeds up (already fast), without enough sleep. She’s already a hardened pro, opting to sleep in her chair.
Ignoring the rocky start with the overpowering music and questionable voice acting, Chinatown Detective Agency Day One has been an excellent experience, and I’m genuinely looking forward to the full release date. I don’t recall a single game that had me as frantically researching international postmarks or looking up literature as if I had an essay due the next day. On that basis alone, this is a fantastic concept, and I’m keen to follow Amira on her adventure.
Chinatown Detective Agency is scheduled for release in 2021.