Combining genres is an easy way of creating something fresh and full of potential. Or at least, it was around 10-15 years ago. Adding RPG elements to just about any genre, be it a first-person shooter or even a sports sim, is commonplace nowadays. To shake things significantly up and garner interest, developers need to be both brave and creative when it comes to splicing genres. Enter BROK the InvesiGator – a point ‘n click adventure that’s also a scrolling beat’em up.
It works how you would expect. BROK – an ex-boxer, now a private detective – can rummage around and navigate environments via a cursor-driven point ‘n click interface or be controlled directly, gradually building up an inventory of random objects and a collection of clues. Every so often you’ll stroll into shady locations and face hoodlums, calling for fisticuff action. The ability to jump, punch and kick comes into use when investigating too, with wooden boxes sometimes blocking the way, and the occasional wall or object in need of a clout.
The combat system falls into the messy and chaotic variety. The good kind of chaotic, we should note. Enemies are easily launched into the air, and can be bounced off the sides of the screen. BROK delivers a satisfying array of kicks, punches, and tail whips, and can also perform a special attack that deals heavy damage. Proficient use of damage and defense boosters helps even the odds, becoming essential to stockpile as the story progresses. There’s even a side-scrolling beat’em up mode on the main menu, available to jump straight into.
The story is spread across six chapters, each lasting around 2-3 hours– resulting in a modest 15+ hour runtime. BROK – resembling a reoccurring character on an ‘80s Disney cartoon series – is a gumshoe for hire, known for being far cheaper than the competition. Being a single father, he’s responsible for Graff, a teenage feline who’s getting ready to leave school. This means exams are on the horizon, along with potential future career choices. BROK must find time to juggle his investigations and Graff’s personal struggles, all while paying the bills and putting food on the table.
Not only this, but BROK is haunted by his past, with themes of love and loss evident. Indeed, despite the cartoony exterior, BROK the InvestiGator isn’t a game for all and sundry. There’s nothing in the way of sex, gore, or swearing, but it does often touch upon mature themes. The difficulty level, too, suggests that it’s aimed at older gamers – puzzles can be tricky, interrogation scenes call for careful thinking, and progression can come to a swift halt if you fail to pay attention. Thankfully, there’s a robust hint system – with each hint requiring an in-game collectable to unlock. These are mercifully easy to stockpile. Pressing ‘X’ will also highlight every interactable item within a room, which again, is very handy.
Initially, the way the story unfolds implies that we’re merely going to experience a few days in BROK’s life, taking on new cases while Graff – who’s also playable – sits his final exams. We’re enticed in with a quest to find a police officer’s missing gun, and once concluded, the second chapter commences with a brand-new case. After solving a murder mystery, however – with a choice of whom to name as the culprit – the present storyline and past events start to skilfully intertwine, with past characters reoccurring and threads unraveling.
Locations are compelling to explore, set in the far-flung 3000th century. Humankind no longer exists, with only relics from our past merely hinting at our existence. There’s a slight vibe of The Jetsons present; the world features advanced AI, robot cleaners and guards, holograms, and teleportation devices. It isn’t a harmonious place; however, there’s a clear divide between the rich and poor, with most of the technology available to the ‘Slummers’ prone to being temperamental due to age. Worst still is the high level of pollution, with every citizen required to take medication daily – something that’s later tied into the storyline.
There are a few surprises along the way, such as chances to talk your way out of potentially fatal situations, and an on-going optional quest to help a neighbourhood tramp. The ending screen features a breakdown of choices, Telltale adventure game style, and chances are you’ll be surprised by just how many moral decisions and different outcomes feature.
Aside from a slight inconsistency with the quality of backdrops, and perhaps the occasional goofy walk cycle, the presentation is generally impressive. The whole shebang is fully voiced, and the quality of the voice acting is excellent throughout. Character portraits are well-drawn and expressive, and both BROK and Graff are well animated. Although originally a PC game, it’s very easy to play with a controller thanks to the intuitive UI.
While the story did take a while to get going – which was perhaps to be expected, seeing this is an adventure longer than most – the conclusion felt fulfilling, and I also felt suitably challenged by the puzzle elements. As a Kickstarter-funded project, it’s safe to assume the team didn’t have a huge budget to work with – but the only evidence of this is the reuse of key locations. You’ll be stomping back and forth over the same turf, with only one or two new areas opening per chapter.
Minor issues aside, this is a commendable effort with fleshed-out personalities, impressive vocal work, and a heady mixture of concepts new and time-tested.
Developed by Cowcat, BROK the InvestiGator is out March 1st on consoles. It first launched on PC in 2022.