Name: Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Here’s a brief excerpt from Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos that gives a good example of how the game’s story progresses;
“Agent, Dr. Chaos is still at large
Informants fed us a tip that his associate, Mister Smith, will be arriving r has already arrived in New York. Whatever Dr. Chaos has Mister Smith doing there, locating and capturing him would deal a serious blow to Dr. Chaos’ intelligence network.
We’re sending you to investigate the locations that our analysts have marked as possible places that Mister Smith might turn up. Find what you can and report back to us as soon as possible.”
Sounds intriguing, right? Sounds like you’ll be skulking around New York, investigating clues and solving mysteries, a-la Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, right?
Instead, this juicy mission briefing is fulfilled by standing in a room and finding butterflies, ankhs, flash drives and tennis rackets. How that helps you find the evil Dr. Chaos or his lackey, Mister Smith, is beyond me.
Interpol is a picture hunt game where players must locate between 8 and 14 specified items within a still picture of an extremely cluttered room. This sort of game pops up on the MegaTouch machines found in bars, but isn’t well-known as a console staple. Sadly, the more people who download the full version of Interpol, the less likely the genre is to become mainstream, because Interpol is just about the worst example of how to do this type of game, and anyone exposed to it may well swear off picture hunts forever.
When making a game in this genre, there are really only two things that need to be done right in order for the game to be successful. The first is to give players a clear, high-resolution screen to search, and the second is to make sure your clues are clearly understandable and consistent. Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos manages to fail at both of these vital aspects. While the game’s searchable rooms are chock full of stuff, the actual images are extremely grainy and difficult to see. Even at 1080p on a 42” television, the images are muddy, dark, indistinct and generally ugly. There is a magnifying glass that allows you to zoom in on small areas of the board, but in practice, all this really does is blow up an already blurry image into a very blurry, pixilated image. In picture hunt games, players find themselves staring very closely at a screen for extended periods of time, trying to find that last widget. When the picture is this bad, though, this becomes an unpleasant chore, and finding anything on the screen becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Once you find them, the items for which you search are usually clearly visible, even though hidden. Sometimes, though, there are items that are nearly impossible to see. For example, one level asked me to find a passport; something I’d done on multiple previous boards. This time, however, the passport was represented as a small, featureless black rectangle, making it just short of impossible to identify it without using a hint.
Aside from the visual problems, Interpol also has a tendency to confuse, baffle, and even infuriate players through unclear, confusing clues. In one level, the game requests that you find a fig leaf. Michaelangelo’s David is rerpresented in the room, and while he is clearly wearing a fig leaf, clicking his crotch does not fulfill the “fig leaf” requirement. There is another fig leaf in the room that the game is looking for, but it is so small and blurry, I honestly can’t imagine anybody being able to find it or recognize that it’s supposed to be a fig leaf. Examples like this are rampant, and not confined to a few select items. The game has separate entries for “Bottles of Wine,” “Bottles of White Wine,” and “Fine Wine,” none of which are interchangeable. Sometimes, the clues are just too obscure for most gamers to figure out. Would you know what they meant by a “Swift” if they asked you? I sure didn’t, until I randomly clicked the bird out the window and got credit for it.
Technically, Interpol is a mess. From a presentation standpoint, however, it’s more of a joke. For some inexplicable reason, developer TikGames attempted to connect these sloppy puzzles with a plotline. If you pay attention to the story, there’s plenty of globe-hopping, counter-intelligence and intrigue going on, and something about the Tunguska Incident, but it's paper-thin and none of it has a thing to do with the gameplay. I guess you can’t blame them for trying to dress up an otherwise cut and dry experience, but for a game like this, a story just doesn’t make sense.
The story is nonsense, the puzzles are ugly and blurry, the clues are often indecipherable, and the game reeks of laziness, lack of polish and bargain-bin production values. To top it all off, it’ll run you 800 Microsoft Points, which is too much by half. There are a few mini-games included, which basically boil down to “what’s different in these two pictures?” but they suffer from the same problems as the rest of the game, and fail to significantly help what’s essentially a steaming pile of a game. Blecch.