In Insecticide, Crackpot Entertainment are giving two genres an honest bash, doing their best to combine a 3D platformer in the vein of Psychonauts and a 3D point-and-clicker like Telltale’s Sam & Max series. The game takes place in the city of Troi, where a sudden crime wave has kicked off, giving newbie detective Chrys Liszt a great deal of work. You travel the city, pummeling perps with your selection of pun-laden weapons, solving crimes and jumping between genres like a grasshopper who can’t decide where to use her triangular abdomen valves to dig a hole and lay her eggs.
If Crackpot wanted to create some kind of fresh-faced genre mix-up, they’ve fallen short. The 3D platforming feels awkward to control. You use the WASD keys and the mouse to move, but it never feels tight enough, and there are way too many jumps that feel like leaps of faith. This platforming isn’t bad – although it gets repetitive – but it feels dissonant with the rest of the game. You see, most of your time will be spent with the adventure game, picking up evidence and uncovering clues, like Steve Purcell’s animal duo. This is where Insecticide inspires and frustrates the most. The voice-acting is superb and the characters interesting, but the dialogue is intent on beating you over the head with insect-related puns. I suspect that the writers returned to the game to add more, just in case somebody missed the fact that you are playing as an insect, in a city full of insects, in a game called Insecticide.
That said, it also has moments of brilliance (for example, the hista-mine), and the premise, characters, city, and art style have the potential make this a truly brilliant series. Insecticide Part 1 is middle-of-the-road, but it could have been great fun with a bit of self-reflection and polish. Given the episodic nature, and Sam & Max’s ability to respond quickly to the worries of its critics, we genuinely hope that Crackpot will be able to improve matters to something we can completely recommend. At the moment, it’s not there. However, considering the budget price, you could do a lot worse on your quest to find an original adventure game this summer. Especially if you love insectoid puns.
Aug 27, 2008