Sam Fortune: Private Investigator

Here’s a game that could easily have been a comp entry. It’s about the right length (it took me a bit less than three hours and a couple of peeks at the in-game hints to finish it), and it’s about the expected quality, a solid midrange effort. That is, it has no obvious major bugs, but it also isn’t terribly inspiring. I’ve said before that a lot of detective-themed adventure games don’t actually ask the player to solve a mystery, but instead are simply, well, detective-themed adventure games. This game is in that category.

I may be a bit biased against it right now, because I’ve so recently played Make it Good, and Sam Fortune really suffers from the comparison. In MiG, the bottle of whiskey in your car is meaningful: it’s a part of the central character, a sign of what brought him to his sorry state, a temptation to give up, a cause for reprimand when it’s seen in your possession. Sam Fortune also has a bottle of whiskey, sitting on his desk, but it’s only there because a bottle of whiskey is a standard hard-boiled detective prop. It doesn’t have anything to do with the case, or Sam, or anything else. And that’s kind of how the whole game feels. It’s trying very hard to be hard-boiled by going through the motions and talking in detective lingo and so forth, but there’s nothing underneath it.

If it has a saving grace, it’s that it makes a point of that shallowness. The whole thing is presented as a old radio drama, complete with an act break and cigarette commercials. When you find some cigarettes in the game, they’re the sponsor’s brand, and described in the same glowing terms as in the commercial, just to draw you out of the fiction for a moment. Dying or otherwise failing in the game is immediately followed by the listener’s mother turning the radio off and telling him to go to bed.

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