[This post is part of the Completionist series. Check out the other entries here.]
Telltale Games are pretty popular these days for applying their now-trademark episodic formula to various well-known multimedia properties, from graphic novels (The Walking Dead and Fables) to television shows (Game of Thrones) and video game series’ (Borderlands). But what a lot of people don’t know is that, once upon a time, Telltale also made shit like this.
Like the show, the CSI games offer passable whodunnits based unsurprisingly around the investigation of various crime scenes. It’s a first-person point-and-click affair, the player steering around a nameless, newbie investigator as he pokes, prods, nips and sprays with numerous bits of technical kit (like tweezers!). It’s a simple form of adventure gaming that maintains the enjoyment of finding a well-hidden item, but loses the frustrating moon logic of early genre fare like The Secret of Monkey Island (which is still a wonderful game, but, y’know… it’s weird).
Where the CSI games fall neatly into chalk outlines is in how atrociously they’re written, acted and animated. I’ve droned on and on about the inherent failings of video game storytelling, but most games at least have the decency to meet the story halfway. The CSI games serve up mysteries involving dead-eyed digital marionettes; they don’t emote, they barely move, they’re hardly able to speak. You can almost see the ones and zeroes. It’s a shame, really, as a part of me has always wanted to be the guy spraying Luminol in your bathroom sink, but the rest of me can’t bring himself to care about the affairs of weird-looking morons who may or may not have killed each other. It’s the same reason I don’t watch reality TV.
Still, if you’re achievement hunting then all three of these games are worth looking into. The first, Hard Evidence, is the easiest – it only requires you to complete the five cases. The other two (Fatal Conspiracy and Deadly Intent) ask a bit more of the player, but not all that much. You could always use a walkthrough if you don’t have much faith in your investigatory abilities (or to cut down on the amount of hours-long loading screens you have to endure), and I wouldn’t blame you, but really, how hard can it be to properly solve a case that Laurence Fishburne can manage? It took him about twenty years to figure out his daughter did porn, and I cracked that case in a couple of minutes.