Time is of the essence, as a band of rogue AIs have begun disrupting the timeline by influencing crime across different eras. Tasked with quarantining the timeline, it’s up to you to prevent these crimes before they can occur and send ripples through the continuum. Partnering up with an AI of your own, EVE, players will deduce and resolve crimes in this time traveling point-and-click adventure.
This is certainly a game about solving crimes, though the gameplay that takes center stage is rather simple. At its core, Crime O’Clock is a point-and-click, meaning that it is more of an intricate Where’s Waldo than a Sherlock Holmes game. Thankfully, each of the five maps are expansive and absolutely filled to the brim with detail. Each level is charming in its own way, and themed after various eras and locales such as the cog-and-gear Steam Age or the mythical Atlantean Age.
While there is a narrative to follow along with, it likely won’t be what you come here for. It’s serviceable, and at times presents some interesting moments, but a lot of the story is dispensed through narrative text on screen, meaning it can only go so deep. I did enjoy learning more about the crew of rogue AIs as I progressed though, and undermining their techniques to elude capture.
Most of the missions involve locating a character hidden somewhere within the map, and then retracing their positions to locate clues about a crime. This is where the main mechanic of time travel comes into play, with each level having ten “ticks” to traverse. Each tick moves time forward or backwards, meaning that the people and items in the map will shift around as well. This is a fun gimmick, and it was amusing to see just how much detail was put into every single character on the map, with nearly everything moving between ticks.
With this being the basis for the entire game, there isn’t much in the way of innovation or new mechanics between levels. However, more investigation tools unlock through EVE as you progress, which helps alleviate some of the monotony. One tool allows you to click on various objects to reveal their contents, like looking inside of a bag or opening a box, while another lets you peek inside previously hidden interiors. The most useful of the tools is definitely the CFE Analyser, which acts as a sort of scanner that informs you if you’re looking in the right area. This essentially gives you a place to begin searching, which is a great way to give a hint without directly telling you where something is.
There are also some mini games during the investigations to help break up the gameplay loop, although they are often too simple for me to feel engaged with. They amount to small distractions, like lining up spinning slots to match an identity, or a hidden tile match. The mini games were always short, and didn’t overstay their welcome when they did show up, though they didn’t really provide much excitement either.
Beyond the story mode, Crime O’Clock also features a Story Archive mode, which acts as a sort of free-play of each of the five levels. This mode focuses on following various NPCs as they maneuver through each tick of time, with each level having their own set of seven or eight characters to catalog. There is no connection to the main narrative in this mode; it is purely for fun and to explore the maps. These characters are typically pop culture references and more light-hearted, which made for a fun diversion, but they don’t go much further beyond that. All of the EVE tools are disabled in this mode as well, which only simplifies things further.
Crime O’Clock is at its best in short intervals of play, which lends itself well to the nature of the Nintendo Switch. There’re a plentiful amount of story missions to investigate on top of the Archive mode. Although the gameplay is quite simple, I did still find myself enjoying combing through the densely populated environments looking for clues. While completing the same point-and-click action was repetitive at times, the charm and style kept the experience a positive one.
Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.
Preserving the true timeline alongside my AI companion was certainly an interesting investigation. Finding clues amongst the crowds was a simple yet entertaining gimmick, often making for enjoyable short play sessions. With a large amount of story missions alongside a decent free-play mode, there’s definitely fun to be had even if the gameplay lacks complexity.