Review: Investigate This: The Scourge of the Scarecrow

TITLE: Investigate This: The Scourge of the Scarecrow

DEVELOPER: Twist-edGames

PLATFORM: Xbox Live Arcade

GENRE: Action/Adventure/Puzzler

PRICE: 240 Microsoft Points

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013

Being a fan of indie games, particularly good ones, it’s always fun when I receive a code to download a recently-released (or soon to be released!) title to play and potentially review. There are a lot of great indie games that get overlooked these days because of the huge, imposing shadows left by major game companies (like lately, with the releases of God of War: Ascension, Tomb Raider, and Bioshock Infinite), but there are also some bad apples out there too. I am always careful to tell people that, while I am a fan of indie games and do believe in supporting smaller companies, lately there has been an inundation of titles that has resulted in lots of lack-luster games being available on the mass market. So, you always have to be careful about that.

Anyway, I was recently given a copy of Investigate This: The Scourge of the Scarecrow, an indie title released for the Xbox Live Arcade by a small group called Twist-edGames (whom I had never heard of before). I was told that the game was an investigative adventure that would require some puzzle-solving, and in many ways it was kind of like a junior version of something like Myst or The Seventh Guest, both huge PC titles back in the early-1990s. However, I was also made aware of the fact that the game intentionally did not take itself seriously and was meant to be fun. And so, with all that in mind, I sat down, fired up my Xbox, and decided to give the game a shot.

The game sets players in the role of either Hannah or Carson, two young private investigators out for adventure. It seems that a scarecrow is terrorizing an older woman and her son on a rural farm just outside a small town, and a mysterious benefactor hires these two to travel out there and investigate the matter. Much along the vein of something like Scooby Doo, the pair says they aren’t naïve enough to believe that a spectral scarecrow is haunting these people, but they do think that someone is obviously trying to scare them away from their home for some reason or another.  It is our role as the player to guide the pair into solving this mystery.

Right out the gate, we already find ourselves with the promise of replayability. Since you must choose to take the role of one of the two investigators, you will only see the story from their point of view. Obviously, there is some overlap when the two are together, but you will miss out on whatever the other person does when you are not around. For example, if you opt to send Carson to the town archives to research information on the farm, you will be privy to his summary of whatever he discovers, but you will miss out on anything that happens there or any choices he could have potentially made while there (or things you could have done as the player that the computer will not do). Also, there is the fact that each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. In the previous example, if you had selected to send Hannah to the archives, she is terrible with remembering exact information – whatever she discovers will be somewhat broken and inconsistent, so it is important to choose what each person does carefully.

Gameplay is conducted essentially as a series of events. Much of the game involves talking to NPCs and your partner, deciding what places to visit in order to find more clues to solve the mystery, and figuring out what these clues mean.  As such, gameplay isn’t incredibly “active” in any sort of strict sense, as this becomes more of a thinking-person’s game. You will have to walk around and explore certain areas; this is done in a first-person point of view by moving to a series of points, just like you might in Myst or a similar point-and-click game. Whether that is to your liking or not will have to be a personal decision, but for what it is, it is executed well enough.

Because the game is so heavy on plot development and the like, I found it a shame that the developers, perhaps for budgetary reasons or other limitations (or just to save time) did not include any sort of voice acting at all. So instead, all of the story and character development is conducted through text. I suppose this does encourage people to read, which isn’t a terrible thing, and the writing is actually pretty good. Just simply reading what Hannah or Carson says will really help you get a feel for the characters. I could hear them talking, and they had a “voice” of their own, so the team did a good job bringing them to life even with this limitation.

I rarely choose to read any other reviews when I want to review a title, because I feel it could potentially cloud my own review, but in this case I did skim a couple, because I saw that others did not rate the game terribly high. One writer said that the game was too juvenile and they thought it was just like a hokey version of a poorly-executed Scooby Doo episode. I found this to be quite harsh, in fact. To me, it was pretty obvious that the game wasn’t meant to be overly serious, and the writers seemed to make this pretty clear. The story is rather light and fun, yet when you manage to complete it, you will have a sense of accomplishment. So, I personally found that comment to be rather unfounded and unfair.

Certainly, the game is not without flaws. Voice-acting would have been a definite plus with a game like this, a more active and free play style with fewer Quick Time Events would have been nice, and perhaps the game could have been a tad bit longer than it ended up being. Yet, for the current asking price, I do think you get your money’s worth with this title, and despite those complaints, it is a decent investment of your money.

Twist-edGames was very nice, and they seem very open to suggestions from their fans. If this game is any indication of where this company is heading, I think they are on the right track.

So, if you are looking for a fun adventure/puzzler game on the Xbox 360, I would recommend giving this game a shot.

FINAL SCORE: 84% (B)

“A fun indie mystery title that is well worth the price of admission!”

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This article was originally written for and used with permission by Anjel Syndicate.

For other news, musings, podcasts, videos, and more, please also check out Jessica’s gaming site Allahweh’s Domain!

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