Chinatown Detective Agency
By Dwayne Jenkins,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
A cybernoir detective game has never been more unfulfilling.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Though there are good people within the story, the world itself can be quite unforgiving, featuring corporations preying on the less fortunate, the glorification of thieves and their reasons for stealing, and groups who aren't afraid of using manipulation to control the general public. While the game tries to emphasize the tried-and-true sci-fi moral of "never giving in to society's dark temptations and refusing to allow injustice to happen no matter how small," the story itself doesn't do enough to earn that lesson.
Positive Role Models
The protagonist, Amira, opens her own detective agency in the hopes of being available to help more people, enforcing kindness and compassion. Though the world around her is cold, unforgiving, and opportunistic, she maintains her sense of justice and is willing to fight for anyone regardless of age, beliefs, or social class. No matter how difficult things get, Amira always makes the best out of whatever's presented to her.
Most of the central characters are Asian, with many other Eastern-centric historical notes, nationalities, and lifestyles being highlighted.
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Ease of Play
It's easy enough to navigate the world, but sometimes, the game has a difficult time registering certain items if they're too close together and players want to focus on a particular object in a set. Additionally, the many menus players will switch between may become overwhelming.
Violence & Scariness
The game's pixelated, retro graphics make sure its few instances of blood and violence are less graphic, but there are still moments where characters will get shot, bleed, and potentially die. There are also infrequent implications to more aggressive forms of violence, but it's never seen by the player.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's a sex dungeon featured in one of the missions, and although there are no explicit onscreen acts of sex, there are sexual objects and attires scattered around the room, as well as sexually-charged dialogue from certain talking objects.
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Characters curse infrequently, but there are still instances of "f—k," "s—t," "damn," and "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many corrupt businesspeople and down-on-their-luck characters indulge in alcohol and drugs, but it's never a major focus.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Chinatown Detective Agency is a downloadable single-player adventure game available for Microsoft Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S and X. Players will travel throughout Singapore in the year 2037 as Amira Darma, a detective ready to tackle the region's many corruptions and conspiracies. From seedy government officials to a shadow group of thieves that have a certain eye for art, players will travel the globe, assemble a team of like-minded sleuths, and right the wrongs of a lost, desperate world. The game features a diverse cast consisting mostly of those of varying Asian nationalities, highlighting their nuances and history in positive ways. The controls, while simple, can get frustrating when choosing specific items that are close to one another. The pixelated visuals of the game lessen the intensity of its violence, and while there's strong profanity, it's infrequent.
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Chinatown Detective Agency
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What’s It About?
In CHINATOWN DETECTIVE AGENCY, the titular agency is created by a former police officer, Amira Darma, who's eager to go into business for herself. After meeting with a mysterious man who refuses to disclose who he works for, Amira becomes entrenched in a case where an insurance broker has stolen millions from his company and disappeared without a trace. When Amira finds the answers she's searching for, it becomes apparent that some of Singapore's shadiest secrets should've perhaps stayed hidden. A family fighting over the belongings of their newly deceased father. A rogue group of art "enthusiasts" who believe in their crusade to restore culture and class. A global conspiracy that spans entire governmental bodies and corporations. Amira is clearly in over her head, but can she and the companions she'll meet along the course of her investigations bring balance to Singapore—and perhaps the world—or will they be buried with the rest of the country's sins?
Is It Any Good?
A game occasionally comes along with amazing ideas, trying to carve out a niche for itself while offering potentially new, exciting gameplay opportunities. Chinatown Detective Agency, ironically themed around humanity's arrogance and inevitable downfall as a result, stands out for all the wrong reasons. Clearly taking inspiration from the Carmen Sandiego edutainment (media designed to both explicitly entertain and educate) games of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Chinatown Detective Agency thinks highly of itself, with its main gimmick centered around using your own means of research to solve its mysteries. This means players will be required to have the Internet available to hunt for clues -- with the thrills of busting criminals taking a noticeable backseat. This is less about being a detective and more about being a historian, and it's difficult to see those who don't have a specific interest in history or art being satisfied with this game. You'll spend at least half of your time glued to your phone (or computer), trying to decode something that's either needlessly frustrating or insultingly simple. The reasons why the world has fallen so far is hidden within walls of optional text and the main characters feel detached without any growth or development, making it hard to care about what's going on by the climax of the game.
Perhaps the uneven puzzles and thin characters and plot could be forgiven if there also wasn't a laundry list of bugs and glitches attached as well. The game abandons voiced narration where it would've mattered the most. Sentences are missing words, while mission objectives blend together, confusing player progress and occasionally creating new bugs that launch players into the final case of the game. Chinatown Detective Agency is doing everything it can to be the next big Carmen Sandiego-type phenomenon, but it gets in its own way time and again. Players may find themselves permanently choosing to play with their phones or laptops instead.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about innovative concepts in games and how they're used, a factor Chinatown Detective Agency uses as its main selling point. Can you identify games that have done something differently from most other games? Did you enjoy the game more as a result? What worked and what didn't?
When confronted with a negative environment, is it better to just go with what everyone else is doing despite the likelihood that what you're doing might be bad, or is it worth it to go against the grain and fight for the greater good, no matter how difficult that may be? Why or why not?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows, Mac
- Pricing structure: Paid ($24.99)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Humble Games
- Release date: April 7, 2022
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, History, Robots, Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: T for Violence, Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol And Tobacco, Language
- Last updated: December 1, 2022
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