Up until possibly the newest generations of kiddos running around, everyone grew up reading a simple yet challenging series of books called Where’s Waldo? In these books, you look across a packed-to-the-brim park or cityscape and try to find the elusive Waldo somewhere on each page. While the premise isn’t hard to understand, it matches with a genre of games that have been released over the last several years called Hidden Object games, where you also search for something amidst a mess of items.
As you take this pretty open-ended genre and match it with the classic book series, you come to the newest title from developer Bad Seed and publisher Just For Games—Crime O’Clock. Set across five separate time periods, Crime O’Clock takes the Where’s Waldo? formula, where the player becomes a detective in order to keep the timeline intact, all while time-travelling and point-and-clicking your way through each case. Whether or not you can stop the perps and save the day is up to you and your AI, Watson-esque companion, E.V.E.
“Jumping into a few missions per day is really where Crime O’Clock shines, as trying to mainline through the whole story isn’t going to be all that enjoyable… “
While every detective game will always be compared to the classic Sherlock Holmes tale, and the setup is all there for it, the story takes a more futuristic approach, while the gameplay doesn’t really lend itself to solving a mystery with sleuthing and wits either. Partnered with the aforementioned AI, you simply have to identify your criminal, victim, or some items that take part in the case and follow their pathways in order to get the pieces put together and repair the timeline before these bad events can even happen. A series of mini-games get added in over time as facial recognition software or some other piece of tech, but otherwise, you’re just playing a fancy version of Where’s Waldo?
Crime O’Clock does a great job building a world that’s incredibly fun to dig into, with tons of pop culture references and side quests to jump into, but outside of those point-and-click, searching through the scene pieces of the gameplay loop, there’s not a lot of variety or enough diversity between settings to avoid monotony. Jumping into a few missions per day is really where Crime O’Clock shines, as trying to mainline through the whole story isn’t going to be all that enjoyable for anyone other than those that truly love the art style, charm, or simplicity.
“This is where Crime O’Clock does its best work—its maps.”
This is where Crime O’Clock does its best work—its maps. Whether set in the future, past, or somewhere in between, Crime O’Clock has so much going on, with multiple scenarios taking place on each map. The art style reminds me a ton of the characters from the old Arthur or Franklin TV shows, with animals in humanoid form and a charming cartoon feel. The black-and-white colour palette is perfect, as the splashes of colour that appear as you discover parts of the case you needed to find are brilliant and vibrant and ticking through time on each map and seeing the hundreds of characters moving around to new locations and doing different things is amazing.
The unfortunate thing about Crime O’Clock is just that that’s kind of where the great work ends, and a lot of mediocrity fills in the blanks. After making those maps that just ooze everything Where’s Waldo? used to be, the basic mini-games act as a way to try to break up the gameplay loop but fail pretty miserably. Crime O’Clock is simply best served for those who want to play some Where’s Waldo? on their PC or Nintendo Switch, and the art style, settings, and main gameplay loop can shine for those players.