Episodic stories are a dime a dozen these days with the number that Telltale release and the many that have followed suit. Sometimes it is necessary a la Telltale’s development formula, other times it feels forced. Blues and Bullets, which is being created by indie studio A Crowd of Monsters, is an episodic mystery noir style game which is fundamentally a point and click adventure game that blends different gameplay elements.
First and foremost it is a point and click adventure title. You will spend a lot of time walking around clicking items and clues, as well as choosing dialogue, but it also blends aspects such as investigating and shooting mechanics to bring some new flavour. The shooting mechanics themselves are average at best, with your character travelling along a path, then moving to cover, then swapping between two cover points and when you kill the enemies there you are moved on to the next section. You cannot reload your gun, the game just automatically reloads when you are out of bullets which I found mildly annoying. Though the shooting certainly is functional, it is not used often so it works well to create a break in standard point and click gameplay.
Character models and scenery in the game look very good but are not cutting edge, but this is easily overlooked by the colour scheme. It is mostly black and white, with a lot of objects being red, think Frank Millers Sin City series. It looks fantastic with that colour scheme and at times there are light touches of yellow but it is very rarely used. The shading in the black and white elements looks really good and the solid red used is very striking in each scene. This is used for generic items like ties and flags, but is most notably used for blood. The blood splatter from characters is exaggerated and in its solid red colour scheme it really does look fantastic. I cannot stress enough just how much I loved the aesthetics and it does so much to add tone and really helps enforce the noir style of the title.
The story itself is really quite interesting. Episode One drops you into a prison cell as a child, as she tries her escape. With no knowledge of what is going on and the dark colour palate it is a very grave mood to start the game in. Post this chapter you take up the role of Ness in his diner as he deals with life. Then a flashback chapter explains his past and indicates at why he is no longer an officer. This flashback brings us to the first instance of gun combat and really gets the story rolling. This scene is followed by Ness’ introduction to the case that he will be following and the game starts to get dark, graphic and weird, but interesting. Post the initial credits you have a final scene which comes back around to the start of the game which was very morose and twisted, but it certainly pulled me back to the start of the episode and had me itching to dig in to Episode Two.
Episode Two starts with another flashback, this time just giving a little more colour to Ness’ backstory. I cannot touch on the story too much without spoiling Episode One but it is solid, albeit not as strong as Episode One and a tad slower. It certainly has dark scenes and sets, but is not quite as graphic as Episode One. One thing that Episode Two brings to the table is first person scene that is cleverly implemented and very suspenseful.
Both episodes keep a good pace, there is minimal wasted time and the plot moves very quickly in the couple of hours of each episode. This is definitely a plus as the story is the most important feature in the game and it does minimal dilution of the plot. The weakest element of the game is the voice acting, which is not bad, just slightly above average. Fortunately this is another element overlooked easily as the music really setsa noir mood throughout the entire game.
Functionally the game operates really well, which is a nice surprise from what I have come to expect from episodic point and click adventure titles. I did not encounter a bug or a glitch throughout my playthrough of either chapter. A nice surprise in the gameplay is that some of the dialogue options come with a timer, but some are very quick, which means you have less time to waste pondering and you need to be paying attention. Added to this is the rare QTE scene with a much shorter timer than I am used to from other games. Honestly I really enjoyed it as it was used relevantly for scenes, sparingly to not become a main gameplay element and so quick that there was little room for error, but only punishes you by dropping you back at the start of the QTE.
I was considerably more impressed with the first two episodes of Blues and Bullets than I expected. The episode length hours is perfect being just short enough to do an episode in a session but long enough to have a lot of story with minimal dilution. Good graphics with a fantastic colour scheme makes it easy to be engaged with the worthwhile story, and now I am looking forward to the release of Episode Three.
Released: March 2016
Platforms: PC Gaming (Windows 7 or higher)
Developer: A Crowd of Monsters
Publisher: A Crowd of Monsters