IFComp 2013 – Bell Park, Youth Detective – Review

Another CYOA style game.  This one I actually sort of enjoyed.  We play as a Bell Park, a youngster that is put in charge of solving a murder so that the police don’t need to be involved.  OK, the premise is pretty far-fetched, so many problems with that.  Why would someone entrust a murder investigation with a youngster.  Also, what do we do with the body?  At some point, the police will need to be involved.

So let’s set that little suspension of belief aside and just accept that little plot point.  The story then becomes a matter of interviewing the different suspects and attempting to solve the mystery.  Unless I’ve missed something, it seems to matter little what your choices are for investigation.  The questions simply reveal the story and the background of the characters, but really offer little in the way of helping you solve the actual mystery.  The ending appears to be fairly static and while interesting (and I won’t give too much away), the solution to the mystery is really pretty fantastical; in fact so much so, that it was actually a bit of a let down for me.

Now having said all that…and it appears that I’m coming down on the game pretty hard….if you can look past the unrealistic premise and solution and see it for what it appears to be, a crazy story aimed at the pre-teen audience, I could actually see where this has some appeal.  The writing is actually pretty good and the characters, while not deeply developed, give it enough variety and depth that your interest is held for the short time they are on scene.

Bell Park, in my opinion is actually a decently likable character.  She seems to have her self-doubts on whether she can solve the mystery, yet presses on so as not to be seen as, just a stupid kid.  Her initial incorrect conclusions she makes seems to be within that character of what a young person would react if put into a difficult situation that she is not equipped to handle.  So actually her character was pretty believable.

Overall, decently done.  While many parts of this are over the top, it actually works well if taken in the complete fantastical style….reminds me of some of the Goosebumps style stories.  No puzzles to speak of, and since I’m more of a puzzle person, that was a disappointment, but as a story….not bad.

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