Red Johnson's Chronicles – first-look preview

An unfortunate name for a promising game

Apparently there are some people who feel the need to make a peepee-wiener joke every time they hear the word Johnson, but however you feel about its somewhat unfortunate title, Red Johnson's Chronicles has us intrigued. Although it's a classic point-and-click adventure at heart, RJC mixes an ambitious array of gameplay elements into its murder investigation story.

On one hand, the overall investigation is similar to the Ace Attorney series. You play at Red Johnson, an investigator who's looking into the mysterious death of a man who was seemingly hated by almost everyone he knew. To narrow down the suspects, you travel around gathering evidence and interrogating witnesses. The dialogue system is quite active, and requires you to choose the right responses to unlock clues and avoid getting Red killed. It requires quick thinking too – your responses are timed, and if you hesitate too long the consequences could be disastrous. Slower readers might take issue as the game gets tougher, but it seems like an interesting way to add tension to a gameplay aspect that can otherwise get tedious.

It's also full of Professor Layton-style puzzles, although we're told that greater lengths are being made in RJC to integrate each puzzle with the story and environment to feel like a cohesive part of the narrative. In one example, a sliding puzzle unlocked a window so that we could sneak into a suspect's apartment undetected. All the puzzles are unique too, so you won't see theexact type of sliding puzzle again after that. Along the same lines, it looks like great pains have been taken in RJC's presentation – the art is gorgeously detailed, the music is all original, and all the characters have full voice-overs.


Above: A different sliding puzzle than the one we saw in the demo - how many variations on the sliding puzzle can there be?

Although Red Johnson's Chronicles only covers one case, we're told that it will offer about 8-10 hours of gameplay in total. Interestingly, you can actually beat the game without solving the mystery in its entirety. Like a real investigator, you eventually need to submit your final report to the police chief, and if he's satisfied with your findings, you win. You can submit your report whenever you want, and like the game of Clue, you need to cover such details as the murderer, the method used to kill the victim, and the motive. If you haven't gathered enough hard evidence, but you're reasonably certain of your hunch, you can fudge your report and make an educated guess.


Above: Red must even engage in combat occasionally in the form of quick time events

It's impossible to vouch for the overall quality of Red Johnson's Chronicles at this point, because it will ultimately depend on how the story develops, and also on the quality of the various types of puzzles, of which we haven't seen much. Like its other PSN title, Amy (check out our previewhere), publisher Lexis Numerique is hoping that people will be willing to take a risk on a new IP, given its low $12 price point. Look for our full review when Red Johnson's Chronicles releases on PSN in early May.

Apr 6, 2011

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