Crime O’Clock is a hidden-object game by Bad Seed, in which you play as a time-traveling detective solving crimes by finding criminals and clues.
In general, the gameplay swaps between visual novel-style storytelling, wherein you hear about a case from your AI assistant EVE, and hidden-object gameplay, where you look for a crime, criminal, or clue on the large 2D maps from different eras of fictional history.
The crime-solving is deepened by the tick system, whereby each of the 5 maps has 10 pieces of sequential time available. In the first tick, a criminal might be approaching a crime scene, and in the next tick commiting the crime, and you’ll have to track them along the way. This keeps each round of finding characters or objects a little bit fresh, since you’re not just looking at an identical map over and over — you’re finding where people have moved and what has changed on the map since the last tick.
The crime theme means you’re focused on people. EVE comments on nearly every correct object or person you find and discusses the next step of solving and preventing the crime, as well as the human story behind the pictures you’re clicking on, and while it can sometimes be too much text, it kept me interested in the little stories of these dioramas.
There are minigames sprinkled in when your cases need information that isn’t visually available. You might perform a frequency analysis or decode some data by adjusting some knobs or playing a game of memory. These minigames aren’t particularly interesting, but they provide some much needed variety.
Structurally, the game is broken down into cases. EVE informs you of an emergency in the timeline, you enter one of the eras, click on something, get more dialogue from EVE, and repeat until the case is done and the game autosaves. At the beginning of the game, new gameplay elements and mysteries are being introduced at a solid pace, but by the end, this cycle feels repetitive — you’ve already found all the gameplay elements, the story is on its way to a now obvious conclusion, and you’re just here for clicking on people.
And to be clear, the core gameplay of finding people and solving crimes is fun. There’s a whole optional mode where you can visit the different eras’ dioramas and follow the stories of characters who aren’t involved in any crimes across all 10 ticks. Many of the game’s cases involve cute pop culture references, and the alternate history of the game allows for cool technological dioramas and anthropomorphic animals.
The story of the game is decent. It doesn’t quite manage to be compelling on its own, but it overall helps the flow of the game. The art is fantastic, both detailed and cutesy, while still being clean enough to find what you’re looking for.
But I still found the game a little repetitive. This is a game best played in short bursts when you feel like finding things, because the game doesn’t quite do enough to disrupt its gameplay.
If you like the idea of solving crimes by finding the culprits in a time-traveling diorama, you’re going to love this game. It’s a well-executed version of a hidden-object game, with enough charm and uniqueness to be worth your time.
Crime O’Clock is out now on Nintendo Switch and releases July 21 on PC for $19.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Crime O’Clock.