Not Quite Fit For Awards Season
Detective Hayseed is a man of humble origins; a country bumpkin with an easy personality and a never-give-up attitude. When the list of Oscar winners goes missing, every private-eye in Hollywood is suspect. The list could be anywhere, and there are a mere 36 hours before the start of the ceremony! With no other options, ol’ Hayseed himself is enlisted to solve the crime. Can he bring back the list in less than two days and track down the thief?
Detective Hayseed – Hollywood is a nostalgic return to the classic point-and-click adventure game, first popularized in the ’90s. The entire game can be played with a mouse, which is used to direct the brave detective through mansions, movie sets, and theaters en route to tracking down the list and solving the most high-profile crime of the decade.
The gameplay revolves around solving environmental puzzles by using whatever items you can find lying around. Each area in the game is marked by points of interest, and you can examine or manipulate each of these with a simple click of the mouse. This is the primary way of finding useful objects to cram your pockets and line your inventory.
Objects can take a number of forms; some are obvious tools like knives or saws, while others are oddities that no sane person should bother picking up. This includes things like stinky socks, chunks of dirt, and horse excrement. Regardless of what you find, each object has some sort of use. It may open doors, work contraptions, lure animals, or bribe NPCs. A crowbar might be found in a closet, which can then be brought to a crack in the floor in order to pry out a hidden cache. Most real-game examples are slightly more complex, as different puzzles have multiple components or require you to go back and forth between locations.
The basic formula carries the player through the entire game. You find items, you use items, you move on. The difficulty level rises with the amount of items you have at once, and how many possible places there are to use them. This doesn’t really coincide with how far into the game you are. The challenge remains more or less the same throughout, with a few peaks and valleys.
On the plus side, most of the item puzzles make sense, and the game does a good job of nudging you in the right direction. There are a handful of clever solutions to weird problems, and these are pretty fun to unravel. But this isn’t always the case. Some puzzles are absurd, like an early example that requires you to cheer up a blue-skinned child by giving them a black piece of rope. The child is pleased by this because it allows him to make a braid that will resemble those worn by the characters in the Avatar film.
Every environment is different, presenting new story threads and a new host of objects to pick up. This creates an assortment of puzzles and solutions, but it all feels superficial. Whether you’re in a sci-fi setting or a western setting, the formula behind collecting junk and using it in the right place becomes highly repetitive. The game does change the pace occasionally by introducing mini-games at a few points, but these are rare occurrences. It’s a shame, too, because despite their basic nature, the mini-games are fun and add a spark to the gameplay.
In a point-and-click adventure game like Detective Hayseed, presentation is key because the player spends so much time exploring the story and listening to the characters. The writing, voice acting, and visuals are all critical cogs to the genre, even more than they are in other kinds of games. Potentially, an otherwise well-crafted experience could significantly enhance or even compensate for average gameplay. Unfortunately, the presentation is a pronounced weakness for Detective Hayseed.
The visuals are the first concern, but they’re not without strengths; they’re colorful and diverse, with a nice variety of locations. The art itself is hit and miss. Buildings and backgrounds have a fun cartoony look with exaggerated angles, but the perspective often looks weird and cockeyed. Character models don’t fare well either, minimally detailed and plagued by stiff, awkward animation. The technical problems are one thing, but the style is nice enough to compensate most of the time.
The sound on the other hand? Yeesh.
All of the dialogue in Detective Hayseed is voice-acted, with the majority of speech belonging to the titular character. The actor approached the role with commendable enthusiasm, appropriately conveying the game’s lighthearted tone. Beyond that, though, lack of experience shows in the way that words and thoughts are enunciated, and this is compounded by bad direction. Each time the character is depicted reading, he does so slowly, as if he’s barely literate, stumbling and mispronouncing big words. This is probably intended to depict the detective’s humble education, but in practice it’s dreadful to sit through. Notably, Hayseed also has one of the most obnoxious laughs in the history of media. The annoyance only begins there, as the rest of the actors contribute bad accents and celebrity impersonations that are worsened by some oddities with the mixing. The music’s not bad, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that everything else calls for the mute button.
Sadly, the mute button won’t improve Detective Hayseed’s uneven writing. The story is filled with absurd twists and turns, which isn’t so bad given the game’s tongue-in-cheek atmosphere. The jokes, however, tend to fall flat, and the sometimes mature humor feels out of place in a game that’s kid friendly 85% of the time. In fact, it’s important to note that the game advertises an E rating on Steam, despite containing explicit references to cocaine, prostitutes, masturbation, and sex, while exhibiting audible profanity throughout.
Detective Hayseed – Hollywood functions as a point-and-click adventure game, faithfully capturing the highs and lows of the genre. The puzzles are at times satisfying but suffer from repeated elements and a stagnant difficulty that fails to challenge players. These shortcomings force the game to rely on its story and presentation, which fail to impress. Nevertheless, Detective Hayseed is a digestible sort of game, easy to play for brief stretches and faithful to the genre that spawned it. These features may give it a home in some players’ libraries, but most would be better served sitting this one out.