Review of The Last Case of Benedict Fox – Fair Deal

Like my favorite metroidvania games, The Last Case of Benedict Fox It is based on solving a mystery. He may go too far in his efforts to be deeply mysterious, especially in his first half, but the engaging puzzles and haunting art direction draw him in, even when lackluster combat mechanics and platforming get in the way of the fun. There’s an interesting story in The Last Case of Benedict Fox, one wrapped up in an interesting world of supernatural intrigue that I want to know more about. He just takes a while to fully discover the best parts of him.

In The Last Case of Benedict Fox, you play as the titular detective, who breaks into a strange mansion to investigate a ritual he wants to perform. The answers he seeks, unfortunately, reside in the minds of a young couple who are now dead. Fortunately, Benedict is connected to a supernatural demon that grants him supernatural powers, including the ability to enter the minds of the recently dead. Entering limbo, as Benedict calls it, transports you into a space of sprawling mind palaces, each filled with the deceased’s worst nightmares, insecurities, and traumas transformed into physical monsters. As he explores more and more, you find the memories needed to unlock new parts of the mansion in the real world and link the steps of the ritual.

If all of that sounds a bit convoluted and leaves you with a lot of questions, that seems to be what The Last Case of Benedict Fox is going for, simply plunging you into a densely layered situation without the build-up needed to fully understand what’s going on. . Unfortunately, the game keeps its cards too close to the chest, going so far as to hide for the entire first half of the game what exactly the ritual Benedict is investigating does and why he’s looking for it. The plot oscillates too far beyond the intriguing and mysterious into confusing territory for the first half of its runtime. This makes for a deeply unwelcoming opening, establishing a story and character motivations that are hard to parse, with names, dates, lore, and slang thrown at you quickly with little explanation. Once you manage to get into the game, The Last Case of Benedict Fox helpfully begins to answer some of the questions it raises, giving you all the more reason to want to explore its fascinating Lovecraft-inspired world, but it still just takes too long to discover. get there.

Which is a shame because, as it turns out, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is built on a fascinating world and deep lore that just begs to be discovered, a winning recipe for a metroidvania game given the genre’s traditional focus on exploration. . Once you’re incentivized to get out there and map the corridors of people’s dying minds, there are plenty of great supernatural threads to pull, all designed in a world that feels somehow eerily colorful for how heavy its narrative gets. Each part of Limbo is more hideously beautiful than the last. I particularly enjoyed how the minds of the people you jump into inform each level’s unique design and environmental puzzles. One moment may find you running through a maze composed within the logic of a scientist, for example, the rhythmic clock of your dying mind transforming space with a regular rhythm. And then, the next, you’re plunged into the mind of a woman who died at the end of her emotional rope, with pools of poison, ichor-lined walls, and a frigid belly, all that remains of her emotionally damaged core. her.

Exploring these spaces is key to solving The Last Case of Benedict Fox’s many environmental puzzles, which is the main means of progression in the game. At first, he discovers that Benedict needs to find three pages, each detailing a step in the ritual necessary to separate him from his mate. The pages are scattered throughout the mansion, which requires a bit of digging on your part, as whoever designed Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City Police Station was clearly also the architect of this mansion – it’s littered with an assortment of padlocks, each one of which hides secrets that allow you to further explore the mansion or discover more of the story.

The keys you need are found in the memories of those who once lived in the mansion, which means you regularly plunge into the dying minds of those who once lived there to discover their secrets. Is there a piece of paper with notes you need, but it’s burned and unrecognizable in the real world? Enter the mind of the person who last saw you and explore the part of their brain that represents the repressed guilt and anger of that moment. Does a locked door require three strangely specific keys to open? Better dive into the mind of the nearby corpse to see if it remembers that key that you can bring with you to the real world.

There is also a wider variety of puzzles within the worlds of Limbo. I found doors that required me to play a game of chess a certain way to get through, and combination locks where I had to take a picture of the clues with my phone to refer to as I entered the answer. The Last Case of Benedict Fox isn’t easy when it comes to exercising the brain, but he never gets so unpleasantly difficult that the tongue twisters become irritating.

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In true metroidvania style, there are also skill-related blocks. These come in two forms. There are some obstacles in the world (number locks and miasma walls) that can only be overcome by unlocking upgrades to Benedict’s gear, which requires you to find specific items in Limbo. Additionally, there are locks in Limbo, such as breakable floors and demon-covered doors, that only your demon companion can get past, requiring you to get tattoos of the inky blood carved into enemies. With these parallel paths, you’re regularly rewarded, whether it’s finding new areas and discovering gear upgrades or defeating enemies and collecting enough ink for a new tattoo. That said, as fun as it is to explore Limbo and discover the secrets hidden in people’s minds, the combat falls short.

The Last Case of Benedict Fox is routinely dragged down by clunky and unrewarding combat mechanics. Benedict is designed as a careful fighter: his combat repertoire consists of a simple counter, slow melee attacks, a flint rifle-like flare gun, and a meanderingly slow healing mechanic. These mechanics don’t match the pace of the enemies Benedict faces, as most enemies are quite agile and hit hard and fast, meaning you’ll often get overwhelmed quickly when attacked by more than one enemy. . It becomes a frustrating loop where you routinely get punished because Benedict can’t react to an enemy’s attacks fast enough and you have to keep banging your head repeatedly against the same challenge until you’re lucky enough to pass. he.

Platforming gauntlets also kill momentum. At certain points in the game, Benedict will find himself in a chase where failure to escape his pursuer is instant death, sending him right back to the start of the race. It doesn’t matter if you died right at the beginning or near the end; failing to perfectly execute each jump during these sequences sends you right back to square one; in some cases, that’s almost a minute of tense platform. These sequences wouldn’t be too irritating in an actual platformer, but The Last Case of Benedict falters on how poorly its jumping mechanics are suited to platforming challenges.

And that’s too bad, because here’s the thing: I actually like how the platforming works in the game: Benedict’s demonic companion uses his shadowy tentacles to grab onto nearby platforms and push Benedict forward with a slow boost. It’s visually creepy and narratively cohesive, explaining how a normal man can do a double jump. But the imprecise, floaty nature of these jumps doesn’t match the speed and precision needed for a platforming chase sequence; much like the combat mechanics, there’s an irritating disconnect between what the mechanics are and what the game is asking you to do.

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In response to its shortcomings, The Last Case of Benedict Fox has several great accessibility settings, allowing you to customize the degree of difficulty for combat, puzzles, and exploration. You can make combat much more difficult, where enemies take enough hits to go down, for example, or do the opposite and lessen the challenge so that all enemies (even some bosses!) are taken down in one or two hits. There’s even an invincibility mode which, when combined with the easier combat setting, essentially removes combat from the game altogether. When I tried playing the game this way, while increasing the challenge of the puzzles and exploration so that I really had to look in every nook and cranny to find the clues I needed, I actually started to enjoy the game a lot. further.

On their own, these accessibility systems are great for making The Last Case of Benedict Fox more welcoming to people who struggle with any of the three core pillars of the game, but they also clearly highlight that combat is holding this game back. When you only have the puzzles and exploration side of the game to worry about, it simplifies the entire experience and makes it easier to appreciate the attention to detail when it comes to the story and art direction.

The Latest Case of Benedict Fox is one of my favorite flavors of metroidvania: the kind that keeps you guessing until the very end about what exactly is going on. In the first half of the game, he goes too far in terms of establishing the mystery of himself, but the narrative payoff in the second half partially makes up for it. This is the kind of game where keeping a trusty notebook handy is a good idea because the world design and cryptic story, while wonderful, won’t do much to guide you beyond hinting at a possible path forward. The combat and platforming don’t match the game’s intriguing story and wonderful Lovecraftian-inspired art direction, but the game does include ways you can transform the gaming experience to make it more accessible.

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