Jenny LeClue - Detectivu Review

Published: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 11:00 | By: Joseph Allen
Developer
Mografi
Publisher
Mografi
Release Date
September 19, 2019
Platforms
PC, Nintendo Switch
Monetization
One Time Purchase
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
GOG Nintendo Store Steam
Tru Blu Detectivu

Like most things, being a detective is nowhere near as glamorous as it is in fiction. For the most part, detectives are likely to be solving routine cases that don't involve TV crime staples like murder or massive criminal conspiracies. This goes double for private detectives, who are far more commonly involved in proving the infidelity of cheating spouses than uncovering international drug rings. It's precisely this dichotomy between truth and fiction that concerns the intrepid main character in Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, a point-and-click adventure game serving as the inaugural gaming project of developer Mografi.

Of course, Jenny is only one of two protagonists in her story. The other is Arthur K. Finklestein, the author of a series of children's books bearing Jenny's name. Finklestein is in trouble with his publisher as his books are seen as increasingly tame in a world where children would rather read murder mysteries than Famous Five-esque adventure stories. Finklestein's latest - and possibly last - story sees Jenny's mother accused of murder, in keeping with Finklestein's publisher's request to raise the stakes for his series. Both narratives intertwine with one another; Jenny must prove her mother's innocence and Finklestein must, well, keep things exciting for the "reader" (i.e. the player).

 
 

Jenny LeClue - Detectivu Is Sweet And Gentle

Dean Strausberry in Jenny LeClue
The characters in Jenny LeClue are sweet and well-written.

Detective mysteries live and die on their stories, so it's a good thing Jenny LeClue spins an engaging and compelling yarn. A murder whodunnit is a simple, effective setup; if you have a particular aesthetic or set of characters to introduce to an audience, a murder mystery can be a paradoxically safe and welcoming space in which to do that. This is exactly the approach Jenny LeClue takes. Its central character is likeable and plucky, and over the course of her adventure, she interacts with lots of quirky and fun characters. They won't take home the Dostoyevsky award for depth, but they're fun to spend time with.

That's due in large part to the quality of the writing. Despite some shaky missteps - some less-than-appropriate adult jokes and a couple of creaky pop culture references - the writing in Jenny LeClue is great. Each character has a distinct voice, and dialogue never feels clunky. The voice acting, too, is excellent, helping to lend a sense of authenticity to Jenny LeClue's slightly surreal sun-dappled world. The presentation elements all come together to create a warm hug of a game that never feels provocative or mechanically progressive, but always feels like a nice way to kill an afternoon or three.

There's Nothing New In Jenny LeClue

The deductive process in Jenny LeClue
The detective process in Jenny LeClue usually feels like joining a simple set of dots.

It's a good thing the characters and writing are strong, because Jenny LeClue offers nothing new on the gameplay front. If you've played Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes titles or the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series, you'll know exactly what to expect here. Despite some surface-level similarities, though, Jenny LeClue's puzzles are degrees less complex than even the easiest conundrums in those franchises. Most of the time, solutions are laughably obvious, and most environmental puzzles don't demand anything more complex than walking around the environment until you've found the thing on which you need to press a button.

Although it may be an unfair comparison, there's nothing in Jenny LeClue that made me feel half as clever as I did solving puzzles in, say, Return of the Obra Dinn. Where that and Outer Wilds might watch you solve puzzles on your own like a parent with an especially precocious child, Jenny LeClue is aggressively linear. This isn't really a detective adventure game; it's a visual novel wearing an unconvincing detective adventure mask. Though Jenny LeClue contains elements of point-and-click games, you'll never find anything here to challenge your gray matter.

Exploring Jenny LeClue's World

Jenny explores a library in Jenny LeClue
Jenny LeClue's world is a little flat and uninteresting, even if it is beautiful.

The action in Jenny LeClue takes place entirely in a 2D sidescrolling plane. You'll never be able to move between background and foreground if Jenny doesn't want you to, and everything you can examine is pretty clearly highlighted. There's a "Search" function that allows you to discover hidden details in the world and on characters you're interrogating, but you can only ever use it when prompted. This results in a slightly stiff, linear feel not only to the gameplay itself but also to exploring Jenny's world. "Exploring" might be too grand a term; it doesn't really feel like exploration when your hand is being held this tightly.

It's a shame, too, because Jenny LeClue - Detectivu's world is gorgeous. The aesthetic, which sits somewhere between papercraft and old-school Nickelodeon shows, renders the larger-than-life characters all the more exuberant. Simply wandering around Arthurton and taking in the sights would be a delight if only Jenny LeClue would actually let me do it. As it stands, it's a well-told story, but it could certainly stand to take its hands off the reins. There are optional stickers and other extras to find, but they rarely require more than a cursory glance at Jenny LeClue's gorgeous but ultimately empty environments.

Jenny LeClue Will Win You Over

A pig tells Jenny she's his best friend in Jenny LeClue
There's a simple charm to Jenny LeClue that will win you over despite its shortcomings.

Despite feeling a touch slight and lacking in serious challenge, it's very likely Jenny LeClue - Detectivu will win you over. The smart, sassy back-and-forth between Jenny and some of her friends is consistently funny, and some plot twists and character beats are genuinely quite shocking despite the overall predictability of the endeavor. Just as you're feeling frustrated by the lack of cerebral puzzles in Jenny LeClue, a character will crack wise or a genuinely emotional moment will happen and all of your annoyance will dissipate.

In today's world of overstuffed triple-A multi-hour epics, Jenny LeClue is almost a breath of fresh air. It's a straightforward, simple yarn (albeit one with a slightly galling ending, so be prepared for that if you play it) that doesn't overstay its welcome and offers a surplus of charm in place of a structured gameplay challenge. Get yourself a mug of hot cocoa, settle in for an afternoon and give Jenny LeClue some of your time and you won't walk away disappointed. If you're expecting anything even remotely more involving or engaging than that, Jenny LeClue certainly won't satisfy.

 

Jenny LeClue - Detectivu | Final Thoughts

Jenny stalks a corridor in Jenny LeClue
All in all, Jenny LeClue is a pleasantly diverting detective game.

While it won't rock any boats in the detective gaming world, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu is a perfectly fine way to spend a little time. The narrative twists and turns neatly, even if it doesn't entirely take you by surprise. Arthurton is a pleasant enough place to while away your hours, and one or two of Jenny LeClue's puzzles are compelling enough to evoke minor "eureka" moments. For the most part, Jenny LeClue is a gentle, soft-hearted game that offers almost no challenge, and in a world of increasingly bloated live-service monstrosities, that's no bad thing.


TechRaptor reviewed Jenny LeClue - Detectivu on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the publisher. It's also available on PC via Steam.

Review Summary

7.0
Jenny LeClue - Detectivu won't trouble even detective novices, but its sweet-natured world and strong writing see it through.

Pros

  • Well-Written Story And Characters
  • Beautiful Cartoon World
  • Some Minor Eureka Moments

Cons

  • Lack Of Challenge
  • Can Feel Too Safe
  • Overly Linear

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Staff Writer

Dark Souls changed my life, and I'm here to spread the good news. I like pretty much all sorts of games, but I judge everything by its proximity to our Lord and saviour, Dark Souls.