Crime O’Clock review for PC, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PC
Also on: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Just For Games
Developer: Bad Seed
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It’s tempting to look at Crime O’Clock and just write it off as a Where’s Waldo-style hidden object game. I mean, you have a giant image, and you have to find specific people and things. If that’s not Where’s Waldo (or any other hidden object game, for that matter) in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

But just describing it as a regular old hidden object game does it a disservice. It’s the first hidden object game I can recall that takes advantage of the fact that it’s a video game, and that recognizes the possibilities inherent in the medium. That may sound crazy, seeing as the genre’s been going strong for a couple of decades now, but that’s the only way to describe it.

What Crime O’Clock does that sets it apart is that it realizes hidden object games don’t just have to be a static screen where you’re searching for something. Rather, the image can evolve over time – a concept that Crime O’Clock takes very literally. So instead of giving you a single screen and telling you to find a list of objects, you trace the movements of people and objects over the course of several images. In other words, you don’t just have one screen on which to search for things, you have several.

I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when you see it in action, it works really well – especially in the case of Crime O’Clock, where you’re tasked with solving mysteries by looking through time for clues.

An innovative approach to its chosen genre isn’t the only reason why Crime O’Clock works so well, either. It helps immensely that its images are so full of personality. If you stop looking for clues and start looking at the world in which these stories are happening, you find all kinds of other little dramas unfolding – unrelated to the task at hand, true, but they show how much care went into building these little worlds.

The only real downside to the game is that it kind of holds your hand every step of the way. To some extent, this is unavoidable: it’s trying to tell you a story about being a time-traveling detective and if it didn’t give you context for what you’re doing, it would make it nearly impossible. Still, I can see how that could get grating if you’re just after a more traditional hidden object game experience.

Personally, however, I’m happy to see the genre evolve – particularly since I didn’t even know evolution was possible. Crime O’Clock shows that even within a genre like hidden object games, evolution is possible, and the end result is a lot of fun.

Just For Games provided us with a Crime O’Clock PC code for review purposes.

Grade: B+