Sometimes you go into a game thinking the formula is so brilliant that it can't do wrong. When things don't go as smoothly as you expected, you begin to make excuses for not enjoying yourself. Finally, you realize what you were afraid of all along: that the game is just not that good. If you've ever had this happen to you, you'll know exactly how it feels to play Touch Detective 2 1/2.
Let's start with the basics. On paper, the game seems like a great idea. Essentially, it's an adventure game published by Atlus with a delightfully charming artistic style. The story itself is cute enough to make even an emo band smile. You take control of Mackenzie, a child detective with a mushroom sidekick, and solve adorably ridiculous cases. Your first case, for example, is to find out why all the pink and green noodles in the town disappeared.
The innocence behind the story is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. Even when the fate of the town is in Mackenzie's hands, the game never ceases to be silly. When the most evil character is a anthropomorphic stalk of corn, you know that this game isn't trying to take itself too seriously.
Despite the fact that Touch Detective 2 1/2 is enjoyable on a superficial level, when digging in deeper it's easy to notice the game's many flaws. One gapingly absent element was humor, which is essential in an adventure game of this nature. Sure, the situations are kooky and the storyline is enjoyable, but the dialogue itself just fails to deliver. The conversations are weird, certainly, but never actually funny.
Another flaw in the speech are the awful noises that come along with it. When the characters talk, their words make annoying, repetitive sounds. Each person's noise has a different tone, which is the game's way of assigning individual voices. The result in such a text heavy game, though, is a constant grating on the brain. To make things worse, one of the locations in Touch Detective 2 1/2 has construction sounds clamoring in the background, thereby committing further crimes against the ears. Playing with the sound off is the best option for this game, which is a shame because the music is pretty decent.
Additionally, the gameplay in Touch Detective 2 1/2 leaves more to be desired. The simple idea of "point-and-click" works well enough, but there are some things that fall short. For one, the inventory could have been more interactive. Perhaps that's getting too nitpicky, but having an inventory is less fun when you can't thoroughly examine your collection. Also, using and combining inventory items isn't as amusing as it should be, because the game doesn't let you know when you're wrong. There's simply no response when you use something incorrectly on your surroundings, or when you try to combine two elements that don't mix. I think the writers could have used this as a chance to insert more humor into the game.
It's nice that Touch Detective 2 1/2 includes extra features, but the bonus chapters are pretty worthless and not much fun to play. The tasks in these chapters mostly consist of talking to the characters of the town, and picking arbitrary answers to the random questions they present to you. Only the true "completionist" will feel the need to finish these extras and conclude their detective notes.
So, here's the game in a nutshell:
Controls: The controls are fine for the most part, but using or combining items in the inventory can get very frustrating.
Visuals: The visuals are where this game really shines. The cel-shaded world and characters make this game one of the most visually appealing on the DS to date.
Sound: This is one of the game's biggest downfalls. Touch Detective 2 1/2 is really only enjoyable on mute, due to the annoying sound effects. Fortunately, you can check out any music you've missed with the game's jukebox feature.
Story: The overall premise and the storyline in each episode are silly and refreshing. The stereotypes given to each character, however, can lead to stale and repetitive conversations.
Difficulty: You might struggle in the first chapter, but once you figure out what the game wants from you, it's not too difficult. If you're stuck and are sure that there's nothing you haven't clicked, you probably just have to talk to a specific character in the town or show an item to someone. Oh, and the game is short. It will probably only take you about 6 or 7 hours to blow through the main story.
Final Score: 6.5/10 -- Touch Detective 2 1/2 has some good things going for it, but the game unfortunately fails to come together. The charming art and story don't make up for some of its more aggravating points. This game will mainly be enjoyable to hardcore adventure fans, or fans of the first Touch Detective. For the rest of you, the other adventure game that's available this month (cough, Phoenix Wright) is the safer bet.