Red Johnson’s Chronicles: One Against All (PSN) Review

It has been a long, long time since I have played a point-and-click style adventure game.  I have fond memories of playing games like Maniac Mansion, Day of The Tentacle and Full Throttle.  These days the point-and-click genre has all but disappeared it seems.  Red Johnson’s Chronicles aims to change that and bring this style of game to consoles players via PSN.  It starts out a little slow but if you have patience this isn’t a bad game.

One Against All is a sequel to the original game that came out for PSN last year.  Admittedly I have never heard of the Red Johnson Chronicles series before being assigned this game for review.  The game fuses point-and-click adventure style gaming with several puzzle elements.  The result is a game that’s completely different in its pacing than most other games out there.  You play as private detective Red Johnson who, through your investigative activities, has wronged the mob.  With a sizable contract on your head, you are tasked with investigating and finding your kidnapped brother.

The game’s plot is used to present puzzles that need to be solved in the course of your investigation to find your brother.  One Against All certainly doesn’t hide where it got its inspiration.  Being a big fan of and having played the Professor Layton games on the DS, the similarity is obvious.  The puzzles in this game are also easily my favorite part.  These things are challenging! They will test your ability to think both logically and outside of the box.  In fact, I recommend playing this game with a pencil and paper by your side.  That came in handy for me.

Upon successful completion of puzzles you are awarded a cash amount that is reflective of the number of attempts it took to solve the puzzle and whether or not you used any hints.  This acts as both your score and a resource for the hints system.  Again, borrowing from the Layton games, One Against All offers a system of hints where each successive hint for a puzzle costs an increasing dollar amount which is taken from what you’ve earned along the way.

As much as I love the puzzle and investigation parts of the game, I loathe quick time events.  I can’t think of a bigger buzz kill for me in a game and this is how One Against All handles combat.  When combat does occur it amounts to nothing more than repetitive exercises of trial and error.  Being focused on what button to press next takes me completely out of the atmosphere the game is trying to pull me in to and having to repeat these events over and over until you get it right is just needless.  Thankfully, game play skews more towards the investigative and puzzle solving side of things but ugh, I just don’t see how this sort of thing in any way enhances the experience.

Visually, One Against All has quite a unique look.  Thanks to the point-and-click game play the game is presented as a series of interactive set pieces.  There’s some animation here and there.  As you move a cursor around the screen elements that are interactive are highlighted as you pass over them.  These highlights indicate what sort of activity they present whether that be leaving a room or area, engaging a conversation with a character or solving a puzzle. Certainly nothing I’m describing taxes the PS3 but the art style is nice.  I can best describe it as something dark and moody like what you might see in a graphic novel. Certain cut scenes play out in a monochrome palette with occasionally high contrast images like blood splatter that add dramatic effect.

Right from the get go the soundtrack in One Against All sucked me right in to the drama of a detective versus the seedy underbelly of the mob.  Unfortunately the great soundtrack is tempered by some questionable and inconsistent voice acting.  At times it is just fine but literally in the midst of conversations I heard accents change.  That’s never a good sign. To make matters worse, some dialogue dangerously approaches sensitive stereotypes.  Usually you wouldn’t think that an abundance of voice acting is a bad thing but (this might sound a bit weird) I found there to be too much dialogue at times.  With the point-and-click style nature of this game, this is really the only means to progress the narrative.  The story is enjoyable enough, just be prepared to sit through a lot of conversation because there’s a lot.

Just because I’ve made a reference to the Professor Layton games don’t assume Red Johnson’s Chronicles: One Against All is appropriate for the younger crowd.  Not only are the puzzles challenging, the game earns its M rating with plenty of mature dialogue and content.  The game isn’t without its issues either.  The pacing is too slow at times, dragged down by excessive dialogue, but the $10 price tag is a welcome price point.  Overall I found One Against All to be a nice change of pace from other games but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

The Good


The Bad