If you’re a typical DS gamer, chances are that when you think about the system’s vast library of games, forensic science is likely at the bottom of list of genre topics. Of course, crime scenes kind of lend themselves to a stylus-based platform-poking and prodding around a touch screen is about the most accurate way a game can effectively simulate the rigors of an actual forensic investigation, as both CSI and Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series have shown in the past.
However, Phoenix Wright takes place primarily in the courtroom, and the CSI forensic crime show model generally glosses over a lot of the details of an actual forensic investigation, with a forefront focus on the investigative leads (on television, anyway) rather than the entire team of lab techs, scientists, and analysts that aid their skills and expertise to the overall proceedings.
This is not the case with Crime Scene-this is actually much less of a ‘game’ in the traditional sense and much more of what I imagine real police work would be like (or at least a streamlined approximation of it). Although Crime Scene does focus on the work of one newly promoted detective, you are in charge of all the field work. While acting as a forensic jack-of-all-trades is probably not a standard MO on a real crime scene-particularly one dealing with homicides-taking the various components of evidence collecting and analysis and putting the player in charge of all of them makes Crime Scene serve as a great (and, actually, educational) honest-to-god forensic simulator. Think of your multiple areas of expertise as a spiritual tour of the different processes that go into criminal investigations.
This can be a little daunting at first. After arriving on the scene of a crime, taking witness testimony, surveying bodies, and examining for evidence, it’s hard to know exactly how to proceed, let alone how detailed even a simple investigation can be. That being said, Crime Scene throws you into the middle of an ocean and expects you to immediately swim. Luckily, you have a number of forensic tools at your fingertips to aid with your work. Everything must be looked over with a fine-toothed comb: fluid samples like blood must be collected with swabs, bullets and other objects collected with the use of a pair of tweezers, scenes dusted for fingerprints (which are subsequently collected with special tape), and corpses photographed, to name a few things. All stages of the investigative process are equally important, and no stone must be left unturned. Unlike a traditional point-and-click adventure, Crime Scene makes things a little easier on the player in their initial sweep of a crime scene. Using the stylus, you move the cursor around the game’s environments until it blinks, indicating something of interest. Things get a little trickier beyond this point, since, assuming the average player knows very little about forensic science, this kind of procedural analysis can be a little vague.
To run through a typical scenario, when analyzing a corpse, your first course of action is to collect photographic evidence. Next, you need to analyze a blood sample. If there are other biological materials (such as hair), those need to be analyzed as well. Additionally, you need to examine your surroundings-is there a discharged bullet nearby? How about other evidence? Is there a murder weapon on the scene? Like any good sim, Crime Scene forces you to think critically and approach any given situation with logic.
The investigation is only half the battle, however. The minute details of Crime Scene appear in the thorough analysis you have to perform on every piece of evidence. Once you collect fingerprints from a scene, you have to scan them in to the police computer back at HQ, then look through the precinct’s archive of prints on file; ballistics analysis is necessary for any bullets you find, involving both matching the caliber type, and (in most cases) then checking the bullet’s markings for a match on a bullet from a murder weapon; fluids samples are analyzed using a microscope, which employs a laser to get rid of unwanted particles that would otherwise dilute the quality of said sample (white blood cells in blood work, for example); DNA analysis can also be performed using other biological samples.
Further complicating the process, bullet trajectories must be analyzed and checked against police reports for accuracy, as well as other particulars of the crime scene itself. Later on you also get access to specialty tools like a black light and reagent spray. Needless to say, it’s a very involved process, and the examples given here aren’t even everything.
As a result, Crime Scene is absolutely not for gamers with short attention spans. The sim element to the game’s design makes the procedural forensics methodical, and its pacing very deliberate. There will be many times in the game where you’ll have to thoroughly investigate a scene, talk to witnesses or other police personnel, report to your superior and then go back with newfound knowledge, and then do it again.
Solving a case can be a process of trial and error (as far as knowing which tools to use, as well as when to use them), and you have to pay attention to the details of each case, as your superior will grill you for information, as well as evidence to support your theories, before she’ll grant you permission to get a search or arrest warrant and close the case. However, rather than being an irritant, the educational element of the game (while probably streamlined compared to real police work), makes Crime Scene very fascinating for fans of cerebral, adventure-style game design.
It should also be noted that despite being on the DS, this game has a Mature rating for a reason. Although kids would likely be turned off by its methodical pacing anyway, the crime scenes you must investigate are particularly gruesome compared to more ‘typical’ DS fare-there’s a lot of graphic murders and shootings here. The only downside to Crime Scene, if you’re old enough to appreciate the game, is that it has occasionally very finicky controls-in particular, using the stylus to cut out a piece of evidence with a scalpel can be aggravating, given the obtuse way the game will occasionally only give you the most vague instructions. But, once you learn the ins and outs of a procedural police work, there’s a surprisingly deep and detailed adventure to discover.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Crime Scene’s visuals aren’t super, but they’re functional enough. 3.5 Control
Investigating a crime scene and analyzing evidence is mostly easy, aside from the occasional vague instruction. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is fine, if generic. Sound effects sound like Star Trek. 4.2
The deliberate pacing and educational value of simulating forensic investigations makes for a great adventure-style gameplay.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.