Innocent Until Caught


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Mr Creosote (2018-10-06) [hide]

Avatar Writing a truly humorous game which really, really manages to make its players laugh, is so much harder than making it serious. The reason being that unfunny humor comes across as lame quite quickly, whereas mediocre attempts at a serious tone are still much more acceptable. It is not without irony that nevertheless, there are so many more games which try to be funny as opposed to serious ones. Even those set in "grim, futuristic scenarios", such as Innocent Until Caught.

Small time crook Jack T. Ladd (cringe!) is in trouble. Unless he raises the necessary amounts of money to pay his overdue taxes, the Shakespearian pound of flesh rule will be executed on him. Jack does what he does best: steal, lie and deliver bad puns, all in the hope to make a quick buck and possibly even escape prosecution.

Set on a planet full of dark corners and shady bars inhabited by gangs and prostitutes mainly, one may think that this should really not be comedy. Yet the developers fell into trap of assuming "something funny" will sell better. Which makes Jack a protagonist which is hard to like. Not even because he's a criminal, but because he just can't resist cringeworthy one-liners and totally inappropriate comments coming out of nowhere. Though if you think he is bad, just wait until he picks up an even more annoying sidekick at the beginning of the third act…

Gameplay is somewhat alright, with Jack spending much of the early game simply running chores. Person A wants object X, something person B is holding hostage due to a past disagreement, but won't give it back until receiving object Y and so on and so forth. Or it could be going to specific place N to snatch object Z in less legal or even conflict-resolving ways, because shady mastermind C would really like to have it.

None of the puzzles required on the way really stand out in a positive or negative way, but their execution is unfortunately hindered by the fiddly interface and the dark graphics. Introducing a new adventure engine in 1994 which still features the equivalent of Lucasfilm's early "What is?" command, revealing hotspots only when hovering the mouse in this mode, is truly baffling. "Take" and "Use" icons look way too similar. The inventory area, however, tops it all. It's just an empty space in which the player is supposed to arrange objects himself, which obviously gets overcrowded really fast. Did I mention that a lot of the scenery is really dark? So dark that it is easy to miss important hotspots at times. Hotspots which tend to be just a little too small to be practical. So be prepared to spend more time trying to mechanically carry out your plan for solving a puzzle rather than coming up with the idea for the solution.

Innocent Until Caught is not horrible. It's just that it neither scores significantly on any counts, either. Plot? Laughable, but not in the intended way. Characters? Wouldn't want to spend more than five minutes with them in real life. Gameplay? At the bottom line of the acceptability scale. Presentation? Alright, but hardly up-to-date anymore in 1994. The game isn't an insult to the genre fans, but it's not exactly asking to be played, either.

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