Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Detective Grimoire is not the bonafide Professor Layton clone some may have been hoping for. Though it shares a few similarities, and even references the top hat wearing puzzle solver at one point, where Layton focuses heavily on brain teasers and riddles Grimoire is a pure detective game; something akin to an elaborate game of Clue crossed with an adventure game. While I could see developer SFB Games losing some people at this point, Detective Grimoire is actually all the better off for straying away from Nintendo’s franchise and carving its own original, highly enjoyable path for itself.
Set in a swamp located in the middle of nowhere, populated by suspicious individuals, and potentially home to a mysterious and brutal creature, a murder takes place. With little to go on, the police turn to Detective Grimoire (whose first name I never did find out), who arrives at the scene of the crime and begins to get to work putting the pieces together of just what occurred the night before.
And this is where you come in. When I said this was a pure detective game, I meant it quite fully, as the entire game is broken down to finding clues, questioning suspects, and gathering evidence to eventually track down the culprit. As a result, the actual gameplay is rather simple, and usually involves little more than asking suspect A about clue B to get clue C, and repeat this until you’ve exhausted what you can get out of who you’re questioning.
It’s a bit dull on paper, yes, but what kept me engaged throughout the 3 or so hour story was the brilliant writing, lively character, and dry humor and wit of Grimoire. There is a huge amount of personality in every character, every line of dialog delivered with some truly fantastic voice work leading you one step closer to the final reveal, and the vibrant and wonderfully animated art is just the character on top. The plot itself likely couldn’t hold its own among most other whodunits, but the way everything is presented more than makes up for the occasionally straightforward narrative and kept me entertained and guessing right up to the very end.
Perhaps some will miss the puzzles or elaborate plot of other detective games, but I for one found Detective Grimoire’s offbeat style, basic but enjoyable sleuthing, and buckets of personality one of the more uniquely enjoyable games I’ve played all year. It doesn’t try to do a whole lot, but focuses its energy where it counts and makes my only real disappointment being there is not more of it. Thankfully, if what is hinted at after the credits becomes a reality we’ll be seeing more of this detective soon, and that’s definitely something to look forward to.