Before you read this, check your local TV listings for the next episode of Cold Case Files on A&E. Make a note in your daily planner of this time, and commit it to memory so you can watch it later on. Clearly this show is lacking in ratings and attracting viewers like you will keep sequels to bad games like these off store shelves.
I mention the show being in trouble because this game, based on the real-life crime TV show hosted by Bill Kurtis, is really just an advertisement for it. There is a commercial for the show when you start the game. There is an A&E logo present at the bottom of your screen for the duration of the game. The main menu has A&E pasted all over it. There is a bonus case available for download at the A&E Cold Case Files website. I can’t think of any other explanation why A&E would go through so much trouble to get across to gamers to watch their show. But it certainly won’t help, and that’s why I’m pleading for you to do so. (Note: It appears that Virgin Music has some deal with A&E, too, because its logo can be found in almost every case.)
The game features 5 cases, not including the bonus case, that take about 20 minutes to complete. They open with a short narration of the cold case and then your chief gives you an even shorter briefing. Your toolbar sits larger than life in the bottom left corner of the screen, resembling a desk. It has large icons for Messages, Chief’s Office, Your Office, and Lab. You can also access the Evidence Room from your office. It looks awkward in all of the scenes, and like everything else in this game, not much effort was put into it. A&E really wanted this game out the door as soon as possible. An easier example of this is made by the mouse. When accessing the list of cases, I could click PLAY only by having my mouse below the word. And when using inventory, it would take the placement of the mouse several inches away in order to click on something. Obviously this is a huge hassle and I found it a struggle to use the mouse effectively at times. There is also no back button to close out of close-ups in the laboratory or your office; another sign of hurried design.
Graphics aren’t bad, but they’re not that good, either. All of the male characters look the same, and their lip-synching isn’t up to par. The voiceovers are pretty raw, too, lacking in emotion and flow. It’s easy to see that some voice actors struggled with reading the script, and others simply couldn’t attain the effect needed to deliver. But it was good enough for the developers, because, remember – this was a rush job.
Most importantly, the cases are terribly unoriginal, leaving little room for creativity with suspects, evidence, and locations, and huge plot holes. With titles like “The Apartment” and “Murder Motel,” you can tell that there was very little effort put into them. Gas station robberies and barroom brawls are the generic cold case you’re solving here. Some of the dialogue options are also misleading at times, with questions that can only be asked after a previous question.
The biggest hurdle for this game was difficulty. But this game is simply a walk in the park, with no work that needs to be done by the player. While the game advertises the idea of “high-tech forensic tools and the most sophisticated technology” to help solve the cold crimes, this is no C.S.I. There are no puzzles to solve, no reluctant witnesses to bargain with, no evidence to mull over with your mouse. Simply put, this really isn’t an adventure game. You don’t have to think, you don’t have to work, you don’t ever have to put pen to paper. The paths are literally laid out for you with neon signs, and you just have to follow them. When you’ve reached a point where there’s nothing to do and you have very little concrete evidence, you can hit ARREST and still win the game. If anything, this game is a joke. And if A&E thinks it’s going to earn viewers from this piece of junk, they’re wrong. Cold Case Files is too simple to be taken seriously.
If you’re looking for a forensic thriller, CSI 2 is the way to go. But Cold Case Files will simply gather dust and turn cold on store shelves this winter.
Final Grade: F