One size does not fit all
It’s apt that Nick Bounty and the Dame with the Blue Chewed Shoe is in black and white because it’s either funny or it’s not.
As the titular Nick Bounty, it’s your task to figure out who killed Sia Leyter, a recently deceased lady buried in a playground sandpit with one leg sticking out and a blue, chewed shoe – the first clue that something’s amiss. Upon collecting evidence from the crime scene and gaining as much information as possible from the nearby officers, you’re soon on your way to uncovering the suspicious death of Sia Leyter.
In spite of the fact this is a noir-themed point-and-click, murder mystery game, the plot quickly hops into the backseat of Nick Bounty’s black and white car as he swerves from one pun-filled quip to another slightly predictable, self-deprecating remark which focuses on his pervy character. The focus of this game is not the murder, but the countless jokes slapped over the top.
*Insert Joke Here*
From the moment you first set eyes on Nick Bounty’s plasticine face and vacant eyes there’s something deeply upsetting about his features; the proportions, his janky movements and his horrific fish tie, it’s like re-watching The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
Nick Bounty immediately sets the tone of this game with a tongue-in-cheek, overly dramatic narration akin to any schlocky crime show followed by rifling around a sewer before causing someone to accidentally fall to their death. If you’re not sold on this game within its first five minutes, you never will be.
There’s an instance about halfway through the game when you interrogate Aley Geyter – the sibling of the recently deceased cat lover – where the game demonstrates the range of jokes you’re in for.
The Q&A between Nick Bounty and Aley Geyter plays out as you’d expect from Pinpoint Games, a development team born out of Telltale’s devastating closure in 2018. You strip mine as much information from Ms Geyter, wander around the house to see if there are any clues which need unearthing, then return to the suspect to rinse, repeat and progress.
The World’s A Stage
During the series of conversations, you’ll be harangued by countless one-liners which will tire and yet, out of nowhere, upon hearing the word ‘fame’, Nick Bounty cracks out a song. It’s a strange moment yet pinpoints the nature of this game. For the most part, the jokes fall flat, yet occasionally, it sends a smile streaking across your face.
Aside from questioning suspects, you’ll wander around workplaces, homes and even a morgue, collecting samples which can be analysed back at Nick Bounty’s office. Occasionally there’s the odd item or two which fits snugly in your pocket, waiting to be used for one puzzle or another at a later stage. The puzzles are never particularly challenging and are paced well enough throughout the game so you’re not stuck on one for too long. What can be slightly annoying though, is trying to find out which thing you’re supposed to have clicked on or found before going to the new area.
Searching around the areas can be a bit sluggish when using a controller – which the game recommends – as the cursor moves slowly across the screen. Also, Nick Bounty will often walk into the environment and needs to be readjusted so he has an uninterrupted path towards whatever it is he’s wanting to collect.
But I guess the underlying factor is I found Nick Bounty irritating. And you’re very much supposed to. However, there’s no respite from his onslaught of jokes and it all becomes wearying. When he wasn’t the focus of the scene was when I started to settle in.
The supporting characters are fun and my choice of Emily Blackwater as sidekick paid off. As an ex-cop who wants to work alone, I found her more relatable as she too demonstrably suffered through Nick Bounty’s antics, often undermining him or wanting him to stop talking. But, it was perhaps a joke at the end of the game involving a laser, an electric panel and tech support which had me grinning. While the silliness of this game rarely had me laughing, that one instance almost made it worthwhile.
The voice acting of all the characters is impressive. Pinpoint Games managed to accrue some recognisable names with Melissa Hutchinson and Dave Fennoy (The Walking Dead’s Clem and Lee) and Cissy Jones (Firewatch’s Delilah). It adds a certain novelty to the game.
Please do take my complaints with a massive pinch of salt, though.
First, humour is subjective and while the majority of the jokes didn’t land for me, they could for you and the rest of this game’s Kickstarter backers who know what they like. Second, this month has been an absolute shitter and I’ve been more irritable, anxious and mentally exhausted. For a game which aims to guarantee a laugh (don’t get me wrong, we need more of these than ever) Nick Bounty had a perhaps tougher task than most.
Nick Bounty And The Dame With The Chewed Blue Shoe is a stereotypical comedy video game where it often references itself and other games or breaks the fourth wall with a wink to the camera so emphatic, it could make Borderlands blush – which may be just your thing.
[Reviewed on Nintendo Switch]