This is another recent game that might normally go under "In a Nutshell," but hey. (And not as recent as I thought it was, I just happened to have it offered in my Gold Box recently and it looked interesting.)
Game type: adventure/mystery
Time demand: Not too much. The game itself isn't hugely long, each case takes maybe 20 minutes to an hour depending on the case and how well you do, and you can save whenever.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Released: September 30, 2008
What it is: This is an Adventure game, of the good old solving-mysteries type. As such, it's a welcome distraction, although not as long and beefy as I could have liked.
The skinny is as follows: You're a rookie cop, just entering the NYPD homicide division, back in the '70s. You're partnered up with *gasp* a more experienced female cop, whose sister is an up-and-coming model. There is an overall story arc concerning your partner's sister and Things That Happen, interspersed with unrelated cases that are your bread and butter on the job.
In each (normal) case, you are given a briefing, which you can repeat as needed, and are handed the profiles of the people involved in the case, preliminary statements, and evidence as it stands, all of which you can look over. You then go to the scene of the crime, and alternate between looking around at the scene, finding new evidence, and talking to your partner to answer "queries" which progress the case/plot. To unlock the different queries you need to find specific evidence, or answer previous queries correctly, things like that. Once you get through all the queries you've pieced together everything, and can give a final report to your boss. You also have a limited number of "stars" at the top of the screen that show your partner's confidence in you (and that of the force in general), and making a mistake in answering the queries takes one star away, while some specific queries/reports will give you an extra star when answered correctly. Lose all your stars, and you're off the force, and need to go back and try again.
The art and characters are interesting - really, as far as I can tell, they're pretty much computer-manipulated photographed people, making the art pretty much real-to-life, and the personalities and types are varied, realistic, and interesting enough. There wasn't anyone I absolutely fell in love with, but since this isn't an RPG or a game where characters really take the forefront (except for pieces in a puzzle), that's not a huge drawback. They're certainly likable enough to get the job done.
The controls are a bit... awkward to get used to, but not bad once you do, for the most part. The music... well, I don't really remember much about it.
Anyhow, to cut to the chase:
-Adventure game! Which we're getting more of, especially for the DS, but decent-quality entries are always welcome.
-A bit of a variety of things to do, so it doesn't get too dragged down.
-Realistic, not totally unbelievable. Maybe a bit oversimplified at times, but not to the point of, say, Phoenix Wright. (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that series, but btchplz.)
-Not as short as I was afraid it might be.
-Interesting gameplay system.
-Not too gruesome despite revolving around homicides.
-It's fairly cheap!
-A grading system, where you can shoot for higher grades by having less mistakes/shorter solving times, etc.
-The variety of things to do includes some pretty lame and annoying mini-games at times, obviously thrown in because "oh hey, we should do something with the capabilities of the DS!"
-Not as long as I would have liked, either.
-Not too much replay value, until you've pretty much forgotten the cases/correct answers, I suppose. (Which makes the previous point a bit worse.)
-Difficulty can be a bit odd. Some of the things are uber-easy to the eye-rolling level, while others it's really hard to tell what they're going for, and you end up losing a lot of confidence because you're not interpreting the question/answers quite correctly, apparently.
-The grading system doesn't actually DO anything, really, except give you a shiny number. Letter. Whatever.
So all in all, the game's fairly balanced. Good enough, but not anything to rush right out because you HAVE to have it.
Recommendation: If you really like this genre of game, it's definitely worth a shot, especially if you can find it especially cheap.