Mysteries are in all places in The Final Case of Benedict Fox, together with a pair on the loading display screen. One is why a game like this put in on an SSD ought to want a loading display screen in any respect. The opposite is that it makes you stare at a clean wall, which you’ll scroll round for no clear objective. Till that’s you scroll far to the left and uncover a bit coated in images and scribbled notes summarising the story to this point.
If that explains what you’re , nonetheless, it stays unclear why your view of detective Benedict Fox’s case wall was centred on a nook of naked brickwork within the first place. There’s no ‘A-ha!’ second in unveiling the reality. It’s simply odd. The reply, you’ll study, is that this Metroidvania revels within the obtuse and the unintuitive, starting with an method to storytelling that appears eager to hold you at nighttime. Not in a Darkish Souls approach, thoughts, pulling you in with refined worldbuilding, however in a approach that looks like one thing’s gone incorrect.
What is evident within the plot right here is that the yr is 1925, occult magic abounds, and divisions exist between those that dabble and those that reckon it’s bother. The main points of who’s who and what precisely they need are much less straightforward to observe, although, not least as a result of the factions concerned are unhelpfully named the Order, the Group, and the Occult Society. Nor are they formally launched at the beginning, so when characters begin rambling on about them you would possibly wonder if you by accident skipped a vital cutscene.
As for our Benedict, he’s joined on the hip with a ghostly demonic entity often called the Companion, who helps him out with darkish magic powers. Benedict, it transpires, has put appreciable effort into monitoring down the occult-bothering father he by no means knew, and the game correct begins as he lastly arrives on the previous man’s home, solely to search out him lifeless. So what occurred to Dad, and where’s his second spouse? Effectively, because of the Companion, Benedict has the flexibility to make use of papa’s corpse to cross into ‘Limbo’, a hellish dimension filled with the reminiscences of the deceased, where many of the journey takes place.
What follows is a reasonably normal mixture of fight, platform vaulting and forging by means of a map stuffed with blockages that require key objects or capacity upgrades to interrupt. You’ll additionally should pop again to the home on occasion to go to a handful of characters that progressively congregate there, tossing out useful recommendation or servicing you with boosts of varied varieties when you cough up a few of their favoured forex.
Up to now, so fantastic. But like its ungainly narrative work, every little thing about The Final Case of Benedict Fox is considerably off kilter. Sometimes that’s a optimistic—for instance the best way the mundane technique of opening locked doorways is remodeled into an intriguing, multi-part puzzle. Early on, you’re confronted by locks inscribed with runic symbols, and all through the primary half of the game you gather objects and morsels of lore that enable you to peel again layers of which means till you decipher the entire system. It’s an ideal little sub-mystery to unravel.
Mountains of insanity
However little else within the game slots collectively so logically, forsaking a path of irritation and unfulfilled promise. Even the visible splendour of the home and Limbo, spectacles of twisted magnificence, grates in time. Initially it’s fascinating to look at as typical style places – rickety mines or caves dissected by streams of poisonous goo—are suffering from fragments of on a regular basis life akin to previous sofas, work, and iron gating, artfully fly-tipped into the environments. Whereas there’s seen creativeness right here, although, the jumble fails to conjure any distinct sense of place, and the intrusion of some writhing tentacles within the backgrounds isn’t sufficient to make the surrealness remotely horrifying. Certainly, it’s by no means actually clear what vibe the game is aiming for with its cartoonish tackle Lovecraft.
The design of the monsters is hardly more likely to provoke a slide in direction of madness both. Taking the type of zombified stick males, stumpy gremlins and hovering squid, they’d barely terrorise Scooby Doo. They’re, nonetheless, maddening to combat, as a result of fight’s slapdash guidelines of engagement. Some lurk simply off the sting of the display screen, for instance, prepared to offer you what for earlier than you even know they’re current. Others group collectively and get muddled into a large number of torsos and limbs, till timing parries and knife strikes in opposition to them turns into close to unimaginable. They usually can slice off all 4 of your valuable health factors in fast succession, providing you with no time to react between blows.
Platforming is much less lethal however no extra refined. Largely it boils all the way down to double after which triple leaping, since none of your different navigational upgrades require talent or judgement. But by some means The Final Case of Benedict Fox struggles to construct a satisfying expertise even inside such slim confines. It doesn’t assist that Benedict all the time feels liable to glitch, as a result of approach he erratically bumps off sloping surfaces, or typically rag-dolls dramatically from enemy contact. However on prime of that, the double bounce requires the Companion to shoot out a tentacle to seize onto partitions or ceilings and yank you up, which suggests you immediately can’t do it if no such latch level is close by. Extra of that useless obtuseness.
Even exploration is hampered, by a construction that breaks your journey into small chunks. Every section of Limbo rapidly culminates in locked doorways and inaccessibly passageways, which pepper the map with query marks. You’ll spend a big proportion of your journey scanning these, attempting to determine which of them are accessible after you’ve discovered an essential merchandise or gained a capability, then teleporting again to locations you’ve already been. With luck, you’ll open up one other small chunk and gather one thing else of use there. Otherwise you open up a brand new path solely to be rewarded with one other blockage nearly instantly, and again to the map you go. Such wasted journeys are doubly tiresome on condition that routes to and from teleport factors are sometimes needlessly convoluted.
Amongst all this, there are a number of fairly fascinating concepts in The Final Case of Benedict Fox, akin to its ink improve system, which awards the dear useful resource for killing monsters, however solely as soon as, eradicating any incentive to grind. In lots of extra methods, although, this black magic Metroidvania is awkward for the sake of awkward, and if this actually is the final case for Benedict Fox, there gained’t be an ideal deal to mourn. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall right from the beginning.