I’ve always been a fan of point and click adventures and the strange mysteries they’ve sent me on, though it’s been a genre I’ve neglected over recent years. It’s a shame too, because there’ve been some really interesting titles released – heck, even genre legend Ron Gilbert returned recently with Thimbleweed Park, which is a heck of a blast to the past for me after loving titles like Maniac Mansion in my younger years.
With the release of Detective Gallo, the point and click adventure from Italian game developers Footprints Games, on the Nintendo Switch though I’ve found myself returning to the genre. It’s a family-friendly murder-mystery starring a detective Rooster after all, which was more than enough to get me excited to try it out.
You’ll be put into the shoes (do birds wear shoes?) of Detective Gallo, your vintage stereotypical no-nonsense detective who has been hired by an eccentric billionaire to find out who has murdered his plants. Yes, that’s right – someone has murdered his plants. Now I know this might not seem like the most horrifying of crimes, but this is a world where plants are held in high regard (Gallo’s closest companion just so happens to be a cactus named Thorn) so it’s a pretty serious case. Either way, it certainly adds a unique family-friendly twist to your traditional murder investigation.
It’s as weird as it sounds though and it carries over throughout the entirety of the game world. Everywhere you go is littered with silly little details whilst the characters themselves are all riddled with eccentricities, whether it’s the billionaire himself and his nervous crying fits, the sweetshop owner Candy Bop and her obsession with Gallo (this affection isn’t returned), the gangster-baby who speaks with a pacifier in his mouth, or the taxi driver who’s incredibly bizarre and can’t seem to get his story straight. Everyone you meet is incredibly strange, yet they all fit in the world perfectly.
Of course, this is helped by the fact that Detective Gallo has some great writing that proves entertaining throughout. The game is littered with jokes, whether it’s Gallo’s constant dry and cutting remarks or just some of the observational absurdities that other characters come out with – admittedly, some jokes do end up falling flat, though the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in this regard.
Some of my personal favourite quips were found in Gallo’s ‘Rules’, which offer small bits of advice that have an undeniable sense of ingenuity to them regardless of how illogically they’re presented. They’re all so silly, but work thematically with the tone of the game. Add to that the fact that they’re spoken by a character that sounds a little bit like Solid Snake, and they’ll certainly keep a smile on your face during your roughly seven-hour adventure with the game.
Gameplay-wise, Detective Gallo feels like your typical point and click adventure. You’ll work across a variety of environments, all whilst collecting an assortment of odd items and using them to solve the puzzles around you. You’ll need to use your observational skills carefully to spot everything there is to pick up or interact with in the environment (a quick click of the right shoulder button highlights everything which is pretty useful), whilst you’ll also need to talk to everyone you come across to find out any details that you’ll need to progress. Detective Gallo certainly plays it safe and doesn’t do anything to evolve upon the genre, but it works. It’s also worth mentioning that playing on the Nintendo Switch brings touch screen controls, which is a nice way to play the game given that point and click adventures are usually best suited for a mouse and keyboard.
Of course, a point and click adventure is nothing without some good puzzles and thankfully Detective Gallo delivers on this front. Some of the earlier puzzles are a bit simpler, with tasks such as grabbing something from under a sofa or finding out the code to Gallo’s safe proving to be easy to solve, though eventually they become a lot more intricate and really demand some clever thinking from the player. That being said, they never become overly convoluted – the point and click genre has been one that’s guilty of making puzzles too complex and awkwardly designed to the point where players simply resort to just using every item in their inventory with every object in the environment, though I never found myself resorting to that here. There’s a good balance of difficulty in place that ensures you’ll never grow frustrated with the game, regardless of whether you’re a point and click veteran or not.
That being said, there were a handful of puzzles that were a bit frustratingly designed, though that’s not because they were hard to solve but rather because there felt like there could be multiple solutions. Sometimes you’ll have an item in your inventory that would be PERFECT for solving a puzzle, only for Gallo to repeatedly mock you for trying so. It’s a petty complaint because other point and click adventures have done similar things in the past, but it genuinely made me think that the game was glitching out on me at times just because of how obvious the solutions initially seemed.
One thing that stuck out to me about Detective Gallo was just how confined its world felt. Point and click adventures are known for making players backtrack and return to previously visited locations to solve different puzzles, but their worlds are normally quite large – the world of Detective Gallo doesn’t have too many environments to visit, so you’ll end up seeing a lot of the same sights over and over again. It ended up leaving me with this sense of familiarity that actually started to wear on me a little bit, even if the puzzles I was solving were fun. It doesn’t make Detective Gallo a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it does make it feel inferior to similar games in the genre which offer vast worlds for players to explore.
At least each environment looks great though, with some creative designs on show that manage to feel full of colour and silliness whilst still maintaining the ‘noir detective mystery’ vibe. I enjoyed seeing where the game would send me next, and whilst the options were limited they were all packed with personality. The same goes for the character designs, though their animations weren’t always the best – there was one scene early on in the game where Gallo walked across the street but seemingly through the objects ahead of him for example, which actually felt a little jarring to watch. Overall though, it’s certainly a pretty game.
The audio design is absolutely on point too, with a top quality jazz-noir soundtrack on offer that suited Detective Gallo’s mysterious vibe perfectly. Add to that some great voice acting and it all comes together nicely to make for a well presented little adventure.
Detective Gallo offers an enjoyable point and click adventure that’ll not only amuse you with its quirky and bizarre tale, but also keep your puzzle-solving skills tested throughout with its clever little enigmas.
Admittedly, some of the puzzles can feel a little awkwardly designed at times and it’s a lot more limited in scope when compared to similar titles in the genre, but Detective Gallo still manages to provide a fun little escapade that’ll keep fans of point and click adventures entertained throughout.
Developer: Footprints Games
Publisher: Mixed Bag Publishing
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC