James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D on the Nintendo 3DS is Ubisoft’s attempt to tackle the video games adventure puzzle genre, a genre which has become increasingly popular thanks in no small part to the Professor Layton games. James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D moves away from the cute visuals, prefering something much more realistic, and is set in the early 1960’s where you start your audition for a hit US TV show called ‘The Incredible Puzzle Masters‘.
The TV Company is searching for two opponents to appear on the show and battle it out against each other by solving a series of puzzles. You begin your journey by sorting out the general paper work of who you are and where you come from, while the game asks you politely to smile for the camera and your photograph is taken to be added to a newspaper broadsheet, after you’ve been accepted by the show.
After being announced as one of the contestants, you’re contacted by an old friend who you haven’t been in touch for a while. Your friend currently works for the FBI and desperately needs your help in solving a selection of puzzles. It’s been reported by the news that a killer is running free in the city and has been leaving elaborate puzzles and clues which give the location of the victim. In a strange, yet fortunate for the game, twist of fate, every victim just so happens to be a past contestant of ‘The Incredible Puzzle Masters’ TV show.
The story revolves around piecing together the killer’s cryptic puzzles, whilst competing in rounds of the TV show. The TV show puzzles are split into different levels of value from easy to very difficult and you score more points for the harder puzzles allowing you to progress quicker. Once you’ve reached the designated score, the show moves on to the next round of puzzles. Once a particular “episode” of the show has finished, the main story continues before the next “episode” begins.
There are no time limits for the puzzles and you can easily quit and move on, but you can’t go back and revisit them at a later date within the story. Each of the puzzles have three hints available, but personally I found that they were not too difficult and never nedded to use the hint option. You, and your TV show opponent, build up a fan base from being on the TV and you will even recieve fan mail in the form of letters. This will be dependent on how well you’ve scored and how many of the hints you activated.
Your Hollywood life as a TV contestant allows you to visit your Hollywood Hotel room and replay some sections of the story, or retry a puzzle from the ones you’ve unlocked within your fan letters or the ones you didn’t complete in the show. The puzzles available are quite varied and entertaining, standard fare for anyone who has indulged in other games of this genre. The game makes some good use of the 3DS capabilities, with occasional puzzles requiring the movement of the 3DS or rotating a 3D image in order to find a hidden number, but the actual use of 3D is fairly minimal.
When I first picked up the game, it came across as a less enthusiastic Professor Layton game. The storyline was intriguing, but less immersive than other games of this genre. This was in part due to not having to complete the puzzles in order to fill the storyline. Although there is a healthy 140 puzzles in the game, there is no real incentive to go back and complete missed puzzles once the story has been finished. It should also be noted that there is quite a lot of repetition in the puzzles.
The visuals of Hollywood Crimes had an overall “B Movie” feel to them, with the characters portrayed in full motion video and real actor’s voices being applied with no lip sync at all. Overall, it came across as being rather cheesy – partially due to the strange looking visuals and partially as a result of an unimpressive script and hammy acting.
The puzzles in James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes were plentiful, if a bit repetitive, but I think that the overall enjoyment of this title will come down to a matter of taste. The visuals and story are just a bit too unique to appeal to a larger audience.