Review Date: October 28, 2010
Developer: Area/Code Inc.
Licensed video games, whether they're on Facebook or not, have a terrible track record. But CSI: Crime City bucks this trend with fun and accessible gameplay that makes great use of the CSI license. It also features some solid production values and a great, cinematic presentation. There are a few issues that keep the game from being perfect, but problems aside this is a game that CSI fans will definitely want to play.
Who Are You?
You play the game as an up and coming crime scene investigator assigned to the Las Vegas unit. You can choose between being either a male or female character and there's a customization option, though it's not currently in place. From there you'll join a cast of familiar faces--including Dr. Langston, Catherine Willows, and Nick Stokes--in order to solve a wide variety of murder cases.
The game is divided into cases, which play out much like episodes of the TV series. Each episode is itself divided into different scenes, with each one taking place at a different location. You'll only be able to search a relatively small area of each scene, which will be denoted by a grid of squares. Investigation involves searching the scene one square at a time in a hunt for evidence. What this amounts to is simply clicking on various squares, hoping to find something. It's a familiar formula, but it works well in the context of crime scene investigation.
Investigation takes up energy and depending on what exactly it is you're doing the level of energy used up varies. So if you need to take pictures of a square or dust for fingerprints, it'll take up more energy than simply checking out an area with a flashlight. You'll actually use up energy pretty quickly, unless you happen to come across an energy mini-game during your investigation. This simple game involves matching up a series of symbols as quickly as possible. The more matches, the bigger the cup of coffee you'll get. And more coffee means more energy. You can also buy additional coffee with real money.
Scene Of The Crime
When you actually come across a piece of evidence, you'll then have to take it to the lab for it to be analyzed. Depending on what it is this will take a varying amount of time to complete, but usually it's not more than a few minutes. Completing a scene involves finding all of the available evidence, though to get 100% completion you'll need to investigate every single square. There a wide variety of cases to solve, taking you to different locations like a gun shop or a movie star's trailer. Prior to each scene, and book ending each case, you'll be treated to a simple text-based cut scene that furthers the story along. The cases themselves are unconnected narrative wise.
You'll also earn both cash and experience as you investigate. Experience will give you more available energy and unlock certain content, while cash can be used to buy additional tools for your lab or simply spruce it up with some nice decorations.
Despite having a stylized, cartoon look, CSI: Crime City still manages to nail the feeling of the dark and gritty TV show it's based on. All of the characters are recognizable, in spite of their diminutive stature, and the even with a cartoon look the areas you'll investigate still feel like proper crime scenes. It's pretty amazing how well the visuals are able to recreate the feeling of the TV show. And you'll even be greeted with the familiar theme song each time you start up a new game.
The Bottom Line
The only real flaw of CSI: Crime City is that you simply can't play it enough. The energy system is much too stingy, allowing for only short play sessions before you'll have to wait for it to recharge again. And for some of the larger crime scenes this means that it'll take several sessions before you can investigate everything. But when you actually get to play it Crime City is a great game that manages to nail the feeling of the TV show, both through its tremendous cinematic presentation and its addictive investigative gameplay.