NCIS is one of the most popular shows on TV due to a combination of reliable mysteries and character dynamics. NCIS The Game is a minigame collection tied to its namesake through character likeness alone. NCIS: The Game is short, easy, and a failsafe way to earn 1,000 achievement points; it's the participation ribbon of video games.
I know I'm not the target audience for NCIS: The Game. I've seen the show a handful of times, but don't know the intricate relationships between the characters. NCIS: The Game assumes you know every character and their nuances as demonstrated by the interstitial "story" segments full of throwaway banter. NCIS: The Game is broken into four episodes that feature a TV-style intro as though each one's an episode of the show.
The majority of NCIS The Game plays out in non-interactive cut scenes until an obvious button cue pops up to progress things forward. NCIS The Game is a point and click adventure without the venture -- it's just a point and click ad for an already popular series as referenced by the "Buy the Season 8 DVD Trailer" in the main menu.
As a game NCIS: The Game gives little power to the player. One simply can't lose. Fail a hack? Try again. Miss an interview cue? Restart it. While challenges offer up a finite amount of tries (Caf-Pow), running out of them simply means restarting from the beginning of the challenge (generally the exact same moment the Caf-Pow ran out).
The interactive elements of NCIS: The Game are ripe for a children's game, but due to the graphic nature of the murders it's built for adults. The NCIS team scours crime scenes for clues (which glow in case you miss them) and can't be completed until every detail is found (usually just a handful). When tying clues together on the "deduction board," NCIS offers four options as to why they're connected. This element of actual investigative work holds promise, but the multiple choice options fall hard on their own easy face (hint: "all of this is just coincidence" is wrong).
While interviewing a suspect, the option to prove them wrong via evidence pops up. No matter what the evidence is, blood samples, phone records, or fingerprints, the interviewer holds up the exact same generic piece of paper in front of the interviewee for dramatic effect. Take that, terrorist! And of the other investigative procedures, tracking GPS coordinates is the most frustrating. Not only is it awkward to use the Xbox 360 controller to move a cursor for an entire game, but the tracking minigame requires holding that cursor over a small, sporadically-turning car. As the tracking zooms in closer and closer, it's more and more annoying to stay zoned in. But then again, you can't fail.
The climax of the fourth episode should be a heart-pounding climb across the ledges of a skyscraper. Instead, it's a slow-paced point-dragging sequence that ends with a whisper instead of a bang (despite high-stakes that I won't spoil).
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