When I was a kid, I loved the Carmen Sandiego series of video games. Yes, they were games, but hidden inside of them was a lot of education material that made you either ask your parents, or look up stuff in an encyclopedia (Wikipedia in book form for the youth). I had a blast chasing down that red coated maverick. So when I realized an hour into Chinatown Detective Agency, that I was playing what I felt to be a spiritual successor to Carmen Sandiego, a smile came across my face.
Chinatown Detective Agency, sets you in the boots of Amira, a former police officer that has moved into the private detective business, because she had issues with the way the police department was being run/used. However, business is not going great until her old boss sets her up with a mysterious client. This one case takes you on a sweeping story that can take you around the world, solving puzzles and mysteries leading to a surprising showdown.
Each of the cases that you take on will require you to keep a browser window open on a tablet as they will require you to do some research and investigation to solve the puzzles. In one instance, I was given a stamp that had a postmark with four letters on it, a phrase and a picture, and through than I found out that I needed to look for country capitol names from the early 1920’s that could have the four letters Ruth in it. Yeah, Chinatown Detective Agency can get that deep into the weeds. Normally, this kind of puzzle insanity would probably make me nuts, and yet, because it was about history and geography, I was completely in. I could see that if those were not your bag, this might not sell you on the merits of the game.
I will say that the graphics in Chinatown Detective Agency did leave me a little frustrated. I get it that everyone likes using 16-bit graphics nowadays, but I would have liked to had the game using something a little more modern for its graphic setting. The game takes you to some great, distinct places, but it always feels a bit chunky at the end of the day. It may be the flavor everyone wants to use, but variety never hurt anyone either.
Most of the game is voiced in Chinatown Detective Agency, and for the most part, it seems to all be voiced by Asian, or Asian American actors and actresses, which is a rare thing in the gaming world. I really felt that it gave a game that is based in Southeast Asia, a bit more realism. I know it is not a big thing, and yet, I thought it was as it not something you see every day.
Most adventure games like this that are fixed puzzles, can lose any replayability after the first pass, but Chinatown Detective Agency does had a little nugget of replayability, as the center of the game, splits you down three different paths depending on the person you choose to work with full time. This does allow you to go back a couple of times for a replay or two. Choices made in each play through will affect your final ending, as there are several ways the game can end. I got a pretty decent ending for my first session, but I can see a second one is not going as well.
If you have the patience to do some hard investigation to solve some historical puzzles, Chinatown Detective Agency will reward you with a satisfying puzzle loaded experience. It takes its subject material and location and mixes them together for a great time.