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James Noir's Hollywood Crimes is a slightly more serious take on a Professor Layton style puzzler, only with a slightly narrower focus. Rather than being able to freely explore a city looking for clues, instead, you're guided from one puzzle to the next by way of a series of cutscenes, where real life actors explain the story, from the backstage producer, who hurries you on stage, to the presenter Glen Darby, a cheesy, yet friendly enough take on a quiz show host. It's an odd effect, similar to point and click games of days gone by, but it's a bit of a cool one.
The game alternates between asking you to take part in the TV series, and helping to solve the crimes by lending a detective from the FBI a hand in his investigations. When you're on stage doing the TV show, you'll be presented with a grid from which to choose a puzzle, with the top row being easy puzzles, and worth a small number of points, while the higher value, and higher difficulty ones are found at the bottom. It's up to you to complete as many puzzles as you can in order to beat your opponent's high score. Luckily for you, they have their turn first, so you'll have a set target in mind when you're choosing your challenge. Strangely, you don't have a limited number of puzzles in which to try and beat their score, so if you really want to, you can just build up from the easy puzzles and keep going until you've managed to beat their score. Stranger still is that the game tells you what puzzle each tile represents before you've chose it, so there's no surprise here, and no real gameshow-like challenge. It's a bit disappointing really.
After putting your opponent to shame each and every week, you'll be called out by the FBI officer to have a look at the latest crime scene, and help pinpoint any clues that have been left behind. Again, you don't actually get to examine the crime scene for clues - instead, all you have to do is solve the puzzles you get given. Offering a nice break from the TV puzzles, the crime scene ones feel a lot more original, and are arguably that little bit harder too - after all, this is a criminal you're meant to be hunting down.
Like most good puzzle games, though, when it comes to completing the puzzles, you're not on your own. Touch the arrow at the side of the screen, and you'll open a menu that gives you a few extra options, including the ability to doodle notes on a layover, or ask for a hint. Each puzzle has three hints available, but, as with games like Professor Layton, you have a limited number of total hints you can ask for. The more puzzles you complete, the more hint tokens you earn - but as you only earn one per puzzle, you'll be out there on your own for at least a few if you use all the hints you can get. Unfortunately, though, when you need them the most, the hints aren't actually all that much help. On one of the few occasions we called on them, the hints explained the most obvious part of the puzzle (that we'd already figured out), and then talked us through how to get to the point at which we already were - which obviously wasn't help. What a waste of three tokens!
With an interesting film noir theme, a strange storyline that comes to a rather bizarre ending, and a lot of repeated puzzles, it's safe to say James Noir's Hollywood Crimes isn't a clear replacement for everyone's puzzling Professor - but, if you're looking for a puzzle game to tide you over on the 3DS, there's a fair few brain teasers in here to keep you going. If you can find it for a decent price, it's well worth picking up.
- A lot of puzzles to keep you going - even if they are fairly similar.
- Interesting storyline, to begin with.
- Lots of nice touches for the 3DS.
- Too short.
- Story feels like it cuts off too soon, and has a very weird ending.
- Same puzzles every week. Chuffing snakes!
Recommended for: 12 and up
For more information, please see the parental perspective
A bit puzzled.