The belt-action beat ’em up is popping up in some unusual places this year. We’ve got Treachery in Beatdown City arriving in April, which is stapling the brawler to a turn-based RPG. And here we have BROK the InvestiGator, which has fused it with a point-and-click adventure. Perhaps we’ll get one mixed with a match-three puzzler or a karting game.
It actually makes a fair bit of sense for a point-and-click adventure. The genre has never handled threat and combat particularly well. If you ever get in trouble, the screen will go dark and you’ll be dumped out of a castle or whatever. Or you’re sword-fighting with insults, which is obviously brilliant, but can’t be done by every game. In BROK the InvestiGator (that capitalisation is going to get annoying), if there is a threat, BROK just tosses you at it.
BROK the InvestiGator imagines a far-future world populated by animals, but with just as much poverty and division as we experience now. The rich are ‘Dromers’, living in a domed city that is an oasis in a world that looks like it is recovering from an apocalypse. Outside of the dome is everyone else, with honest people just trying to make a living – like BROK and his son Graff – and criminal gangs, roughing up anyone who can’t pay for protection.
BROK is a private investigator, and – as anyone who watches film noir will tell you – that means he is a troubled soul. He has partial amnesia about the death of his wife, and carries a fear that he was involved in it in some way. He’s also desperately trying to make ends meet so that his son, Graff, can pass his citizenship tests and become a Dromer, moving out of the wasteland. But Graff is a textbook teenager and doesn’t see the point. He mostly wants to stay in his room and play on his tablet.
One morning, BROK gets a case. He’s hired by a cop called Sin, who wants to recover his stolen handgun (confessing it to his superiors would mean getting fired, and he’s not doing that). It’s not the most high profile of cases, but BROK goes along with it. Needless to say – and film noir fans again will know – that this is a single thread that, once pulled, causes all sorts of other plots to unravel. Before long, BROK is in jail, fighting in sewers, and generally switching between the Dome and the wasteland to clear his name. Even his son, Graff, gets roped in, with you controlling him for large swathes of the game.
This is, as mentioned, achieved in one of two modes. Most of the time, you will be playing BROK the InvestiGator as a graphic adventure. There are the usual 2D scenes to explore, with items to pick up and slot into your inventory, occasionally using them on one another or on things in the environment. There are people to chat to, with options on a radial menu, so you can Distract, Confront, Charm and more. How you approach dialogue will often determine how helpful your opposite number is.
The graphic adventure controls are pretty darn good, actually. You can skip from interactive element to element by tapping on the d-pad, which ensures that you exhaust everything in the scene and don’t have to go pixel hunting. You can also see all of the interactive elements in one overview, while a hint system means you can always fall back on half-cheating if you want to know what’s next. It can’t be used relentlessly, either: you have to find hint ‘ads’ in the scenes if you want to use them.
As a pure graphic adventure, BROK works like a bit of a dream. More and more areas open up over the course of BROK the InvestiGator’s rather ridiculous twenty-hour runtime, and the puzzles within them are perfectly logical. There were very few moments that we had to bring up a walkthrough or use the hint system, and we could always get the vague outline of what we were meant to do. Seen as a point-and-click adventure, BROK the InvestiGator is both easy to use and superbly constructed.
It’s everywhere else that we have a problem with BROK the InvestiGator. It’s not that the house of cards falls down thanks to its other elements; it’s more that the house gets boring after a while, and we found ourselves having to forcibly sit down to construct it.
A lot of the fault rests on the story. A far-future society filled with killer crocs, gangs full of mice and robot overlords should have been imaginative and enthralling, but it’s surprisingly dour. On the one hand, we felt like we had played the ‘animal gumshoe’ quite a lot, from Blacksad to Chicken Police, so the glamour wasn’t necessarily there to start with. But what surprised us most was how miserable everyone and everything is.
The writers want to poke and prod at class inequality, the hopelessness of being destitute, and the cruelty of autocratic governments. Those aren’t topics that are full of freewheeling happiness, and so it proves. We’ve seen enough Peaky Blinders to know that humour and joy doesn’t have to be a core component of a drama to make it engaging, but BROK the InvestiGator also doesn’t have the zip and interest in the dialogue to make it work. It mostly plods along, with slightly too much back and forth between each character, and very little in the way of colour (a friend, Shay, is about the closest that BROK gets to a memorable character over its runtime). We found it fascinating that a game that looks like this, with such a wild, varied cast could end up so dreary. It doesn’t help that the plot rarely goes anywhere, and we regularly had to forcibly remind ourselves of why we were doing what we were doing.
And then there’s the combat, which can’t hope to have the impact and depth of a Streets of Rage 4. Because of the flatness of the sprites, it felt a little like we were fighting with cardboard cutouts on sticks, which immediately softened everything that happened next. But we couldn’t get on with the fighting, mostly because the controls were so abstractly odd (we didn’t find or use the game’s block during the runtime – but we relied on a dodge-roll that was pulled off with an awkward back and B, away from the enemy), and because there wasn’t much depth to it to begin with. We found ourselves devolving to mashing buttons, mainly because we could juggle enemies on the spot as long as we were in their face and hit them enough.
A bit like BROK himself, BROK the InvestiGator is a bit of a hybrid. It’s a brawler spliced onto a graphic adventure, yet neither half of the gene pool is quite stable enough to support it. The graphic adventure logic is great, but we found the story to be a little meandering and dull. The beat ’em up stuff is nice in concept, but flat and awkward in execution. With their powers combined, you have a long, uninspiring adventure that we slogged through rather than enjoyed.
We loved the ambition of BROK the InvestiGator, but didn’t enjoy sticking around for the full twenty hours to see where it went.
You can buy BROK the InvestiGator from the Xbox Store
Edit: 21st March – Changed cop name to Sin | Amended mention of dodge/block-roll | Adding more personal comment in relation to the story arc
Inaccuracies in the review were rightly highlighted by the developers and some changes have been made. We would like to apologise to COWCAT for those errors. The changes did not impact on the final score.
- Some crisp comic book art
- Graphic adventure stuff is really solid
- Huge amount of content, branching and collectibles
- Combat is rickety
- Goes on far too long
- Story and dialogue is just a bit uninspiring
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - COWCAT
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 1 March 2023
- Launch price from - £20.99
I would suggest you to LEARN how to write a helpful review. Good reviews should not be purely subjective. You disliked the story you never finished? Why? You think the game is too dark? Why? There are things that are subjective and there are things that are objective. Your job was to tell others about objective pros and cons many or everybody would experience when playing the game because everything else simply is a “you” problem. That is called valid criticism. It’s a pity that guys like you are getting money for such rushed hack jobs (did not even care for the correct names or reading the included tutorial for the combat) while destroying the image of those who actually care for their work. You did not even mention how BROK aims for replayability which is a thing that is extremnely rare for any point and click. Hell, you even said the length of the game would be ridiculous even though a point and click adventure that is longer than just the usual 10 hours is a dream come true for every fan of this genre. My advise: watch some videos from Total Biscuit (RIP) to learn how a write helpful reviews. He critizised problems in games as well – but he knew the difference between objective and subjective. Maybe there is still hope for you.
Your review is very stupid and irrelevant. You’ve never finished the game and yet you have the major nerve to review with supposed mistakes and wrong names (Who the hell is someone named Ray in this game? The client is Sin!) proving your lack of reviewer ethics. And also I noticed you used an AI-written text to save your time. You have no professionalism by doing that.
This reads like it was written by chat gpt. If you haven’t finished the game why are you reviewing it? This review is almost completely irrelevant and makes blatant incorrect claims about the story.
…. Did you check the screenshots that you used before posting this? Some of them spit in the face of this review like saying it’s Ray that’s asking for the gun and when the screenshot show that it’s actuially a chartacter named Sin, or saying that there’s no block when the screenshot of the tutorial is telling you how to block- Not a dodge roll, a proper block.
This isn’t even getting into all the major errors in the review like the story recap, but I’d be here all day if I broke that down.
It’s fine if you dislike the game, but please do better next time.
Thank you for the comment. You are right, there were some unnecessary errors in the review. I confused two of the characters, and – somehow – didn’t find the block in my playthrough, and used the roll instead. Those have been updated with my apologies. I dropped the ball on this one.
Be honest, did you actually write this review?
There are numerous blatant errors spread throughout it, some of which are disproven by images included in the article itself!
Is this an AI review??