Red Johnson’s Chronicles is an amusing crime-solving game available on PSN. Playing as private investigator Red Johnson, you will solve the murder of a man with a shady past through suspect and witness interviews, searching in various areas for clues and solving tricky puzzles to access hidden evidence.
Everything about the game is stereotypical, from the suspicious characters you’ll meet to how the intrigue unfolds. Set in the familiar atmosphere of a not-too-distant past where criminals were kings, the plot is somewhat predictable. In fact, I guessed the culprits from the first set of evidence I came across. However, the result is still an overall fun and entertaining gaming experience. Read More...
Going from area to area, you will help Red Johnson search for evidence and witnesses. Scanning the scenes with your controller, you will find prompts leading you to objects or persons of interest. You will sometimes need to zoom in to notice hidden clues. You can then look at each item more closely and interact with it, to move Red’s investigation forward.
The investigation relies heavily on puzzles, some of which can be quite challenging and require a pen and paper to solve, or at least several attempts. They include math puzzles, sliding picture puzzles (to repair broken pipes or electronic devices), logic puzzles, word-image association puzzles to name a few. Here and there, you will also face action sequences played through quick-time events. In total there are about 35 objectives to complete in the case.
When questioning witnesses or other persons of interest, you will need to ask a series of questions which you usually answer yourself. If you give a wrong answer to a question, the interview will automatically end. Failing a puzzle or an interview will reset the action at the beginning of the failed section.
In addition, hints are available for every puzzle, which are accessed by paying off one of Red’s acquaintances, Saul, a hipster character who seems to know a lot about everything and is always on hand to help and can provide several hints per puzzle. The logic behind Saul’s know-it-all-ism lacks a bit, but serves the game well. You can also purchase hints to obtain information about the steps needed to complete other objectives directly through the game menu.
All hints cost $100, taken from the money you earn upon solving puzzles and completing interviews. Each successfully completed puzzle grants you between $0-500, based on the amount of time taken and the total number of attempts, and gives you a score ranging from A to E.
At Red’s headquarters, you can take use a computer to analyse and compare evidence. You can also search through his files to identify information about persons of interest and, later, unlock a map tracing your suspects’ whereabouts.
Once you have collected all the evidence in the case, which you can see by looking at the list of objectives in the game menu, you can fill out the indictment found in your desk. To completely solve the case, you will have to answer a set of questions about the case and get every discriminating question correctly. These questions are necessary to identify the murderer. However, even if you fail the indictment interview, you can retry it like every other objective.
The controls are simple and effective, with the required actions usually displayed on the screen. The only trouble I came across was during the quick-time scenes, where I found myself having to restart a few times when I ran out of time after looking down at the controller to press the right face button. However, most avid PlayStation gamers would probably not have this difficulty.
Most of the game’s graphics are intricately drawn 2D scenes where small animations add life to the static pane. It is through this wide first-person view that you will look for clues and go from area to area. Cutscenes are presented in 3D and only depict characters talking with a black background, which looks cartoony and reminds me of older video game art.
The soundtrack suits the game well and follows the action, like when you are looking for clues, going through fight sequences, sneaking into a character's house, etc. The game also features voice acting throughout, which adds to the game’s comedic value.
Though we learn little about our main character through this game, a cliffhanger ending shows that there is more in store and that other cases will follow, leading us to believe that Red’s character will be further explored in later volumes. Despite its lighthearted attitude and look, the game should not be seen as aimed to kids, since it does touch on many mature themes.
While it is quite caricatured and does not seem to take itself too seriously, Red Johnson’s Chronicles succeeds in creating an amusing journey. Thanks to the very generous hint system the game took me just under six hours to complete, but could probably be finished in as little as four hours. Priced at about $13, I would definitely consider playing the next volumes in the series when they come out.
+ Challenging and Varied Puzzles
+ Amusing Characters and Story
+ Hint System
+ Simple Controls
- A Bit Short
- Many Puzzles Are too Difficult to Solve Without Help
Game Forward Score: 3/5
Nathalie Caron > Game Forward
Red Johnson’s Chronicles (PlayStation Network) Quick Facts:
Genre: Puzzle / Adventure
Developer: Lexis Numérique
Publisher: Lexis Numérique
Release Date: June 1, 2011
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)