The DS has been a popular platform for graphic adventure games in its lifetime thanks to its touchscreen interface, seeing a number of great titles such as Hotel Dusk: Room 215 & Time Hollow. This time around we have Crime Lab: Body of Evidence, a new entry in the Art of Murder adventure series from City Interactive. Unlike other entries in the DS library though, it's unique in that it utilises the DSi Camera to help you solve puzzles and it proves to be a rather fun adventure.
There are three main game modes on offer here: story mode, crime scenes and minigames. Story mode is the main adventure of the game, which follows the story of FBI agent Nicole Bonnet who's put on the case to track down a serial killer who always leave a playing card at the scene of the crime, with over 300 different puzzles and riddles to solve. The game is presented to you in chapters and when you complete one, you can unlock minigames you played in that chapter or maps for you to explore in crime scenes mode, which simply involves you finding hidden objects across the map.
While the story isn't as interesting as other DS adventure games, and can be a little slow to get going at first, you'll find that it becomes rather engaging as the story progresses and fans of the genre should find some enjoyment here. You'll also occasionally be quizzed about details of the investigation by other characters so try to keep the story information in mind.
The game uses a point-and-click style gameplay interface, as you drag the stylus across the touchscreen to move the map and tap on the screen to pick up items or move to another area, with the option to use the D-Pad also available. You also have a PDA which you can use to make phone calls, look through case information and move between different locations. Crime Lab does a good job with the interface with a design that's fairly simple to navigate through and easy to control.
Throughout the story, you'll generally be required to do a set of tasks, such as finding a set of items across the map and using them to interact with other objects, people or areas in the area to uncover clues and make progress on your investigation. It's a game that requires patience at times and while finding items and interacting them with other objects may not be the most interesting thing in the world, the storyline helps make up for this as it motivates you to continue playing. However, it's not always clear what needs to be done next and it can be hard to find items at times. Fortunately this problem is rectified by the hint system available that shows you where an item is or where you need to go next, which is very handy when you're stuck.
The game also makes notable use of the DSi's extra functions, primarily the system's camera, making it one of a few DS retail games to do so. For example, sections of the game require it to be used to turn a handle or wipe a dirty screen using your hand and can even be used as a fingerprint. It does have some flaws, particularly in that it can have trouble recognising you at times – especially in a low light setting – and can be rather fiddly too, but It's a unique approach to using the camera and one that proves to make the game more fun and interesting.
There's also a points system involved, which you obtain whenever you find an item. You'll often be required to play a minigame as well to advance in the story, with a large variety available to play. These can also be played separately in the minigame mode one they've been beaten, with up to three different difficulties available. Some of these can be quite hard though but there is an option to skip a minigame if you fail on three consecutive attempts, though this comes at a 5,000 point fine. The minigames can be quite fun to play, there are a few boring ones included and some of them do feel a bit out of place, such as a connect-three puzzle game placed inside a DNA analyser.
The game also contains an extras section, which features things you obtain during gameplay such as hidden notes, cutscenes, character biographies and an awards section which shows you a unique collection of trophies that you can obtain as you play through the story mode, with up to 18 available and makes for a nice little addition.
Graphically the game is not too bad, featuring some nice but slightly generic character designs and some decent artwork for the locations, although it doesn't exactly do much to push the DSi. The soundtrack is also rather moody and atmospheric at times, with no voice acting featured at all throughout the cutscenes but it does get repetitive after awhile, particularly with the constant looping music for each area.
Overall, while it does have its flaws and the gameplay itself isn't terribly exciting, City Interactive have done well to create an enjoyable adventure game with Crime Lab: Body Of Evidence. With its engaging storyline and interesting use of the extra DSi features, it's a unique title and one game fans of the adventure genre should take into consideration.