It was near-enough half a decade since the point-and-click game Jenny LeClue – Detectivu was successfully funded by backers. The team at Mografi worked hard to create a charming tale about the adventures of a young, daring teenage girl solving mysteries, only to stumble across a conspiracy that could put her in a lot of danger. It’s a bit like a contemporary Tim Schafer ‘clicker – while it may have great writing and fantastic visuals, it’s let down by the shallow and dull gameplay.
The eponymous mystery-solver Jenny LeClue is a character in an ongoing series of detective novels by acclaimed author Arthur K. Finkelstein. Sadly, due to sticking to a safe, predictable and family-friendly formula, his books have only gotten more and more scathing reviews over the years (his latest entry was about a missing sandwich). Hesitantly, at the request of his publisher, the writer sets off to write a darker and more thrilling story. He narrates the unfolding events, all the while Jenny either resists or caves in to the narrations.
At first, Jenny’s going by her usual routine of looking for something exciting to solve. Outside of the pointing and clicking, the game plays like a simple side-scroller. The level design is never that complicated, so getting lost is not an issue here, but you won’t be able to seamlessly backtrack to previous areas or explore anywhere meaningful. There’s a lot of collectibles, those being stickers for Jenny’s notebook and scraps of a piece of paper, but there’s no real incentive to snag ‘em all.
Looking for clues is not fun at all. Whether you’re examining a person or a part of the environment, all you need to do is to drag the cursor over anything that stands out, like stains, tickets, etc. You can ask or answer questions, but the dialogue choices you make affect very little of the game as you progress. The same can be said about deducing, where you wrap up the case by piecing together the relevant clues you’ve collected. All you need to do is to highlight the correct ones and let the detective write down her notes around them. There’s no penalty if you get it wrong; Jenny erases her scribblings a few seconds afterwards, and you just keep whittling away at it until you get it right.
Finkelstein drops a bombshell of a twist in his book: a murder has taken place, and Jenny’s mother is in custody as a result. Despite some creative, cinematic transitions and peculiar encounters, the gameplay remains just as samey as before, albeit with a few additional puzzles that require little effort to solve. Sometimes you’ll need to examine the environment for clues or other important bits in the background, though on-screen prompts will notify you when you need to use a magnifying glass to look around. It’s like its holding your hand as you progress.
As stated before, its only real saving grace are things like the witty writing, the befitting soundtrack, and its paperwork-like visuals. The backgrounds and characters are eloquently designed and animated, with a diverse palette of colours that makes it look like something out of a children’s book, appropriately enough. A lack of voice acting isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, even if it was promised in the teaser trailers all those years ago.
The thing is about Jenny LeClue – Detectivu is not that it’s a bad game, or a poorly-designed one. It’s just a very milque-toast point-and-click detective game with little interactivity or effort required on the player’s part. Even if it was the team’s intention to create something that accessible, its dull gamelack is not enough to make it something worth revisiting anyway, let one purchasing at full-price. The biggest mystery yet to be solved is the case of the missing fun-factor.