BROK the InvestiGator – Gator eats Gator World

Point & click and the beat ’em up genre combined, two genres that should never cross, like the beams in Ghost Busters. What is next, horror and comedy? Oh wait, that is a thing. Unlike that unholy meld, Brok the Investigator does the blending fairly well, which adds some gameplay to the otherwise pretty static adventure gaming. However, it’s not all happy sunshine, but COWCAT almost succeeded!

You play Brok, a crocodile detective in an anthropomorphized dystopian cyberpunk world filled with interesting, and topical themes. And not unexpectedly you are down on your luck. Don’t let the cute animal graphics fool you, this is an adult story for the most part. It starts with a dream that set the stakes. In the dream, it turns out Brok’s wife died in a fire, and he blames himself fully for what happened, guilt-ridden as he is. The incident left him alone with his stepson Graff, which he now cares for, and life hasn’t been easy living in the slum of the city since that event that turned everything around. Brok makes most of his money as a private detective, and when you get to take over for real, you get a call from a client that will change everything for the future.

The game relies on you not knowing much of the story, so I will not spoil anything here, or at least try to minimize it. In the sense of a typical detective tale, things are not what they seem, even if the game takes time to get the main plot going. The game has plenty of subplots, and you even get to play as Graff a few times, experiencing his part of the story. Most of these subplots are resolved at the end satisfactorily, however, I found the “canonical” ending a bit disappointing and off-putting. First off, as expected since the setting is cyberpunk, there is a deeper conspiracy to unveil. In the beginning, when this storyline finally opens up I found it intriguing, but unfortunately in the end, it turned way too simple for me – typical villain stuff forcing his will on the world. The other thing is the META the ending relies on, as it turns out there is some heavy “science fiction” involved that has a direct connection to how the game works.

The furry version of American History X

Regardless, I enjoyed my time with the game, and I found the narrative intriguing, and the characters charming. Even the world-building is interesting – overall, everything surrounding the story has a cozy feel to it. One of the few things that make it so is there is a lot of reactivity to the stuff you do. From a pure storytelling perspective, it’s a real joy – characters will often mention things you interact with and react to things you have done in the past. It’s a cool thing to see, and some RPGs can only dream of reaching that level of reactivity. What also is cool is that the narrative has several paths and endings, for example, people you meet can die, depending on what you do, say, and what sidequests you complete.

When someone takes the last pizza slice without asking you

The adventuring part works in the usual way, you pick up items, combine them, and scan environments for clues. Nothing too special here, everyone that has played any point & click game knows what’s up. However, the beat ’em up part is not common in these kinds of games, and in general, I think it works well. It works a bit like the classic sidescrollers, such as Street of Rage, or Double Dragon, except that you fight on a static scene. There are a lot of moves to learn, and it seems to have all the important basics down for a brawler, actually, I think this mode could have been a stand-alone game, it’s that functional. But I did find a few issues with it. I started on the hardcore difficulty, overconfidence in my ability to fight, and well, that didn’t end well. I managed to fight okay until I reached a boss fight that promptly kicked my ass. I should clarify with me being okay at fighting means me mostly flailing around until I win by pure luck. I’m not great at brawlers, and as it turns out, hardcore mode is hard and is way too fast and spastic for an elderly man like me.

What about normal mode? It’s like night and day, while hardcore proves to be a challenge, maybe a bridge too far for my skills, normal is unfortunately a cakewalk. The switch made the fighting way too easy, and made the aspect of violence no longer a risky path – so heed my warning, if you do well on hardcore, but perhaps hit a wall or two facing a boss – keep going still, normal is very easy, and after the swap, you can’t go back.

The fighting element of the game is more than just a simple beat ’em up since it adds to the narrative experience, and above all, it expands the puzzle solutions. You see, Brok the Investigator commits to the good old “brains or brawn” approach, which lets you solve puzzles how you see fit. Is a door blocking your progress, and you can’t scramble enough brain cells to get through? Well, just change to combat mode and smash through it like there is a free perfectly baked salami pizza on the other side! It adds a lot to the game and lets the gameplay aspect directly influence the riddles, which is just a great design. You will be rated on this of course, but I wouldn’t say the game passes judgment in any way, however, your mind might when it comes to that point. So, I recommend not trying to smash everything unless you are that kind of guy.

Someone had a little too much catnip

Other gameplay pieces of the game are doing investigations and collecting clues used for interrogations, having you go full Columbo at times. In this mode, you combine statements said from interviews and clues you have collected. What is interesting here is that these interrogations can fail, which of course will change the storyline, and ultimately the ending. However, it also means that you will have to pay attention to stuff that is being said and take notes of the environment where the crimes have been committed. Once again the game demands a little. Going from standard AAA-gaming to this is like jumping from elementary school to college in one go. It’s a fun aspect, though, and a bit stressful since most of us don’t want to send an innocent to jail. All these different gameplay designs mash together well, and nothing feels out of place. It’s clear a lot of love went into all these different modes, especially the interrogation scenes from a production standpoint. There are a lot of moving parts in these segments, and it’s impressive to see the scenes react to what you pick and do.

I’m almost a pacifist!

For the collector/hidden object lover there is some stuff to find if you are into that. In each scene, there are hidden “ads” to pick up, and they double as “help tokes”(use them to get clues on puzzles) and as an optional collectible that unlocks things. I should add I played the game with a controller. I tried to play it with a mouse and keyboard at first, but it didn’t feel comfortable – the fighting at least. However, with a controller, it felt much better, and the actual point & clicking didn’t suffer too much, except that it takes longer to move the mouse pointer with the stick.

Visually, it’s a stand-out game. I almost always prefer pixel graphics when it comes to point & click adventure games because of nostalgic reasons, and I like that style in general, but this one kind of feels nostalgic too in its own way. The style used reminds me of the 90s cartoon shows I watched as a kid on TV. It’s well-made and pleasing to watch. The only issue I found with it is that characters are a bit “fat” when fighting, and when several of them share the same screen it can get messy, as in a clusterfugg of the highest magnitude. Luckily, it doesn’t happen too often to become a greater issue, but it is there.

In the instance of sound, the voice acting is excellent all around. Everyone made a stellar job, and once again, the voices feel like they could be out of a 90s cartoon. It’s very charming, and everything is voiced in the game, from the dialogues to item descriptions. Sound effects are okay, I can’t say I noticed anything that stood out here, and the same goes for music except for one aspect of it. When you get closer to the truth in an interrogation segment the music gets louder, and much more intense. It makes you feel like you are about to make a great reveal, which in truth it often is. A minor thing perhaps, but it’s a nice design still, and should be mentioned.

Hey, I know that sundown

Brok the Investigator feels like a game you shouldn’t miss out on, especially if you already enjoy point & click and like when the genre tries something new. While I enjoyed the story, I have to mention once again that the ending can feel off, as it did for me. It’s not bad, but I think it undermines the plot a bit since this specific “aspect” of storytelling is never easy to do well. It’s also clear there is a setup for a sequel here, however, it doesn’t ruin the game as a standalone if a sequel never comes out. Do I recommend Brok? Yes, it’s a unique game, with interesting design decisions that work well together and are fun to play. The game also allows for replays since there are plenty of different endings, and storylines to unlock.

Thanks for reading.


– Review copy provided by developer –

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