Blues and Bullets Episode 1 Review

Those of us who are unaware, first I should give a brief historical recount of the protagonist. 'Eliot Ness (April 19, 1903 – May 16, 1957) was an American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, and the leader of a famous team of law enforcement agents nicknamed The Untouchables'. For a better recount, I can recommend viewing the movie lightly based on these events titled "The Untouchables". Blues and Bullets gives us a brief recount of events that lead to its main narrative very early in the piece and has us confront Ness’ major counterpart Al Capone.

Blues and Bullets, from developers A Crowd of Monsters, at first comes across as a narrative based decision making walking simulator but as a whole I am happy to report it is anything but. First and foremost I need to comment on the visual style that was attempted here, much like the movie “Sin City”, it is predominantly black and white with tasteful yet sometimes saturated use of red. I have to admit that the graphics at first felt a little off though my summation would be that this was a budget issue. By issue I don’t necessarily mean a negative issue but it is just not on a level we have come to expect from a current generation game.

With its unique graphic art style and at first what felt like under par graphics coupled with a fixed camera angle and tank like controls, I honestly did have a moment where I muttered “oh here we go” but it is with a lot of joy I am glad to report otherwise. A dark and sinister intro that quite quickly took us to an innocuous diner setting in the early 50s, where we are introduced to retired police officer Elliot Ness. It is here we embark on a crime solving journey involving children and what appears to be a satanic cult. Based on decisions made by the player, unlikely alliances are made and partake in a world that could have been.

Considering a major mechanic in the game is to make decisions, I am going to take a leaf out of its book and decide to not allude to any more plot details because this is by far the game strongest and most prominent aspect. Blues and Bullets is an episodic game with 5 episodes slated for release and my initial reactions come from episode 1 'The End of Peace'.  I noted that it did at first present itself as a walking simulator where we are prompted to click on items of interest, take part in conversation and make choices based on our feelings with surrounding events.  Although walking around and investigating the world is a core aspect, there are two more main mechanics at play here that really help break any stagnation.

A very limited part of the game is its cover based shooter game play mechanic. This does also feel a little clunky and sluggish but it is also a very welcomed change from the core gameplay and adds an element of action that we can control instead of just watching, which is often the case with this genre of game. The other really well conceived and developed mechanic is the crime solving section. Firstly evidence needs to be gathered from a somewhat gory and confronting crime scene. We are then given the ability to open an evidence board and sort the evidence found into corresponding sub headings i.e. crime, motive, cause of death etc. Not only do we sort the evidence found, but Ness leads you with what is portrayed as his own thoughts and by these means we are able to get an insight into the detective’s train of thought and deduction.

With all of these mechanics bundled together and some very creative writing, I was able to be drawn into the narrative and was very pleased with the ability to take part instead of being a bystander. I very much look forward to bringing you my thoughts on the coming episodes and would like to invite you to join in our many gaming conversations across at our Facebook page.

Cheers Red

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