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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Criminel review: Detective yarn anything but a hard case

Criminel: The faces of your companions are nicely animated
Criminel: The faces of your companions are nicely animated
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

AS if you couldn’t tell from the title, this noir detective yarn is a French-based whodunit. But its grand ambitions are not matched by its budget or its gameplay, which asks you to solve a series of grim killings by spotting clues at murder scenes and winnowing a list of suspects.

Criminel (iPad); rating: 5/10; age: 17+

The blurb for Criminel rather unwisely invokes the name of LA Noire, the innovative 2011 detective caper on consoles. Save for a limited helping of mo-capped facial close-ups, the comparison between the two is unfavourable.

But forget damning Criminel for what it’s not. You can see the germ of an interesting idea at work here – you take a job as a police photographer in 1890s Paris and tag along with a detective to collect evidence at murder scenes.

Through five separate “investigations”, you’re picking through the bones of a mystery, trying to join up the dots of the overarching plot.

Criminel: The red corridors are meant to be atmospheric but end up just annoying
Criminel: The red corridors are meant to be atmospheric but end up just annoying

But for all the sleazy glamour of the cramped locations and the creepy facial animations of your companions, Criminel doesn’t give you much actual detective work to do.

You stroll around each scene looking for a few clues. Then return to HQ via a peculiar David Lynch-ian red corridor and interrogate (I use the term very loosely) by tapping key words in the statements of witnesses. Finally, you choose which suspect to accuse from a brief list.

There is zero penalty for failure. You cannot leave each scene or suspect until you’ve exhausted the few possibilities. And even if you point the finger at the wrong guy, you simply move to the next schmoe.

Criminel was built partly to accompany a new exhibition about forensic science in London. For €2 as a standalone app, though, you’re getting maybe an hour’s entertainment, with no replay value. For once, it’s hardly to say Criminel’s place belongs in a museum.

Criminel: The clues aren't hard to spot
Criminel: The clues aren't hard to spot

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