It makes sense to combine the puzzle elements of an adventure game with the crime-solving formula of a hit detective show. The logic is there, yet, somehow, the math doesn't quite add up; at least when it comes to CSI: NY - The Game. This isn't necessarily a train wreck, but it is pretty mediocre.
The game lets you play to play as the two core characters of the show, hardened detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and intelligent gumshoe Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes). Through your mystery-filled journey, you'll also team with several of the show's other characters.
Unlike most modern adventure games with their 3D graphics engines, CSI: NY's style of gameplay is more of a throwback to the old-school, point-and-click adventures. Instead of 3D polygonal models, you'll interact with characters through static, hand-drawn artwork. Using your mouse, you conduct a variety of tasks, including talking to various individuals. Questioning/interrogating is really straightforward. Essentially, the character speaks and you pick key phases to press on for more information. These interactions usually just end up with you exhausting all the dialogue options.
When you're not interrogating suspects, you'll spend the majority of your time participating in about a dozen or so repetitive minigames. Some of these minigames require you to quickly swipe fingerprints off of different pieces of evidence. There are annoying minigames that require you to trace the outlines of blood stains. There are plenty of what's-wrong-with-this-image puzzles, and more. When not questioning or performing minigames, you embark on pixel-hunting fetch quests.
While I imagine some may enjoy participating in these click fests, most may found it a little annoying. Apparently, the designers of CSI: NY recognized that this formula inadvertently encourages clicking every dot of the screen, so they attempt to dissuade you of this by penalizing your brashness. Fervently clicking all over the place will make your cursor temporarily disappear for a second or so.
Luckily, CSI: NY never gets particularly frustrating because every puzzle is accompanied by a helpful hint feature. However, these hints are often too helpful, as they basically tell you exactly what you need to do. While you can try to beat the game without the use of these in-game cheats, you'll sometimes need them just to get more detailed instructions on what you're supposed to do. There are times when you have to construct convoluted contraptions and not know where to begin. If you do feel flustered by any one particular puzzle, each of the game's episodes allows you to skip two puzzles of your choosing.
Speaking of episodes, there are four in total; although the game promises to have a fifth downloadable episode sometime in 2009. Each of the four existing episodes starts off by introducing you to a mysterious death. The first episode has you figuring out why a man has fallen off of a skyscraper. In the second, you discover a dead food critic frozen within the confines of a restaurant's freezer. In the third, you find a dead girl's body at a small town circus theatre. Finally, the fourth episode has a girl murdered while she's filming her video blog. Not to give anything away, but each episode ends with you in the interrogation room and the killer announcing how or why he or she did it.
For the most part, it's a pretty hard to predict "whodunit" as many suspects have their appropriate reasons and motives. While this keeps you somewhat engaged, the game's share of problems really hurt the overall experience. First, there is usually a disconnect between what you do and why you're doing it. Often times, through your click fests you collect "evidence" that has no logical bearing on the actual crime; or you analyze data that seems to come out of left field. However, the game's biggest problem is that it simply uses the same repetitive mechanics over and over. You conduct click fests, partake in simple dialogue trees, play some annoying minigames, and repeat for several hours. It gets extremely monotonous to say the least.
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