Adventure games seem to be experiencing something of a revival these days, no doubt thanks to the likes of developers such as Telltale Games and Dontnod Entertainment, who’ve graced the world with some of the most emotional game narratives to date. Adventure games were perhaps considered to be some of the most sophisticated gaming experiences of yesteryear, and it’s great to see titles such as The Wolf Among Us and Life Is Strange heralding a new Renaissance for an otherwise forgotten genre. Blues and Bullets, an episodic detective story from A Crowd of Monsters, is the latest entry in the great Adventure Revival, and it brings some interesting new mechanics and a dark Noir themed story to the table.
Blues and Bullets definitely has an interesting premise: it’s a hard-boiled Noir tale that combines the gritty atmosphere of a gangster movie with the moody undertones of a Gothic Horror story, all wrapped up in a surreal alternate history version of the 1950s. Playing the role of grizzled retired detective Elliot Ness, you get to team up with a parallel universe version of Al Capone to unravel a dark conspiracy lurking in the seedy underbelly of Santa Esperanza. Along the way, you’ll get to make choices that shape the story, engage in some oddly touching characterization with a love interest, and even get into the occasional gunfight.
If you’ve ever played a Telltale game, you already know the basic gameplay of Blues and Bullets. At its core, it’s really nothing we haven’t already seen in games like The Walking Dead: explore a series of enclosed locations; pick up any items laying around; chat your way through tons of dialogue and occasionally make a choice to advance the story. However, Blues and Bullets also mixes in some basic third person cover shooting and a pretty interesting “detective mode” that tasks you with gathering evidence from a murder scene and linking it all together to solve a crime. Both of these mechanics are nothing special in terms of depth (the shooting is no Gears of War, for example, and the “detective mode” is a pale imitation of the mechanic in Batman: Arkham Origins) but they’re welcome additions to the game that punctuate the point and click gameplay and are used sparingly to increase tension during key scenes.
The main strength of Blues and Bullets, though, is probably its presentation and the way it conveys an authentic Noir movie atmosphere, even if it could do with a little polish. The art style is pretty cool (black and white with the occasional splash of red for blood, clothing, or noteworthy set pieces) and helps to establish the game’s dark and gritty undertones. The background music is also well done, and definitely sounds like something out of a classic crime film. Unfortunately, the voice acting for certain characters seems to be a little forced at times, and the dialogue in general isn’t up to the standards of a Telltale Game. There are also some awkward looking character animations at certain points and, if you look closely enough, the locations are full of muddy, low-resolution textures. Overall, there are definitely some rough edges, but the game still manages to be immersive enough thanks to its unique atmosphere.
In summary, the first episode of Blues and Bullets is a good start from a new developer and a worthy contender in the adventure game genre. It has some flaws, but ultimately it did its job and left me waiting with baited breath for the next installment. For $4.99, it’s a good way to scratch that itch while you wait for the final episode of Life Is Strange. I can’t wait to see what happens next. You can buy Blues and Bullets here.