Game Type Thing

An archive of enjoyable flash, indie, and abandonware games.

Fedora Spade Playthrough

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I downloaded Fedora Spade after coming across a screenshot and seeing that it was clearly styled after one of my most beloved games of all time: Deja Vu (more on that game in a future post).  But instead of a game that puts you in the shoes of a seedy detective, Fedora Spade is a game that tries to beat you to death with exposition.

There are two things this game really wants to make sure you are constantly aware of: that Fedora works in the crappy Special Homicide Unit for Rejects, and that he drinks a lot of bourbon. It will remind you of this, continuously, throughout the game, just in case you might forget.

Fedora Spade starts out by waking up in his office, having slept off half a bottle of bourbon. He downs the other half as he reminisces about his sad-sack story of how he was once a great detective, but now he’s just a drunk detective that they barely bother giving cases to anymore. Since waking up in a stupor seems to be the norm for him, is rambling about the nature of his job and what got him there also part of his daily wake up ritual? Probably, since repeating himself seems to be his, and every other character in the game’s favorite hobby.

When he’s finally drained the bottle dry we meet Baldie, the only other person who works in the department. For the duration of the game Baldie will be the bane of your existence because his only function is to make Fedora repeat whatever he’s just said. Baldie tells Fedora the suspect is waiting in the interrogation room. This prompts Fedora to remember that: 1.) oh yeah, he has a case, 2.) oh yeah, if he doesn’t solve it Special Reject Unit gets shut down, 3.) oh yeah, Special Reject Unit doesn’t get very many cases, 4.) oh yeah, the suspect is waiting, cause if this case doesn’t get solved today the Unit gets shut down (wait, did he already remember that one? Doesn’t matter, he remembers it again), 5.) and oh yeah, he’s forgotten everything about the case cause he’s a sloppy drunk.

He decides he’d better review his files and for the first time in the game, the text stops. And this is pretty exciting for you because now you actually get to do something. Well, you get to do more reading, but this time at least you get to pick the order in which to read things. You can also check out the cabinet or desk if you want to hear him complain a little more about how his job sucks. Otherwise, just read through all the files. He’ll whine a bit more about how his job gets in the way of his drinking, and what a huge pain in the ass his one and only case is before he finally puts them in your inventory. We learn that the case is the murder of Dr. Sandy Fabulous, who must have been some kind of Doogie Howser to become director of a hospital at 23. Maybe it was one of those sexy hospitals where everyone is under 35. Anyway, she was stabbed in her home, in the heart and in the back. It appears to be a robbery gone wrong.

Ok, you’ve read the files and know the case. You’re finally ready to get to the action and do some interrogating! Let’s go! Of course, you’re stopped in the hallway by Baldie who reminds Fedora again that the suspect is in the interrogation room, the very place you were just headed. He also wants to have a talk, so they bicker for a while about whether or not Fedora actually has time to talk. It’s here that the game plays a cruel trick on you by pretending you have choices or maybe even actions to make. The dialogue stops! Baldie has disappeared! Yes, enough talking! We’re going to waltz right into that interrogation room and get to work. Except no, Baldie’s still there, and still wants to chat, the game has just decided to graciously acknowledge your existence by letting you press the talk button.  And letting you choose the topic, which is really easy cause there’s only one.

Baldie wants to know what evidence Fedora has on the suspect, but hell if drunky Fedora can remember. He tries to bullshit a bit but that fails, so Baldie has an attack of the vapors over how he’s going to lose his job, and Fedora is all, “yeah, probably” and this is all just to remind us yet again that this a crappy department that will be shut down if the case isn’t solved. Fedora also takes this time to think about his drinking some more.

Now we’ve finally made it to the interrogation room. The actual gameplay is so close we can almost smell it. But we aren’t there yet. There’s more text to get through. Now, that’s to be expected in an interrogation scene, but unfortunately you the player would also probably be expecting to have some control over the interrogating at some point. But if this game has one core belief, it’s that games are best played with as little input from the player as possible. If it had another one it would be why say something once when you can say it three times in a row?

Fedora greets the suspect. It’s Juste Exellente, the victim’s boyfriend. He thinks for a while about how this guy is the only suspect, but he can’t remember why he’s a suspect. He does however, remember a lot about how he doesn’t like him and goes on at some length about that.  He breaks the fourth wall for a bit to explain to you how the commands work in the interrogation room, and that weirds  Baldie and Exellente out and they want to know who Fedora was and talking to and blah, blah, blah, Fedora’s a drunk. You know, all of this would be fine if the game had not been 99% scripted talk and 1% player control at this point. When does this actually become a game?

Whenever the characters disappear from the screen, that’s your cue to actually do something. I’d kind of  zoned out at this point, so when this actually happened I got totally flustered and had no idea what to do. But I needn’t have worried, turns out there was nothing to do except hit talk to start the conversation up again with another one of those one-option dialogue trees. There is never more than one option in the entirety of the game. So do that, and Fedora finally gets around to asking the suspect his name. It takes over ten dialogue screens to get this question asked and answered. Man, this interrogation is off to a good start. So there’s more and more talk, and every once in a while it stops, and Fedora asks you what he should do, and the game gives you one option to “choose”. I’m reminded of those children’s shows where the host asks the kids at home a question and then pretends they can hear the answer.

Eventually Fedora implies that the scene of the crime was no robbery and that he has evidence to back it up. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far, because we have finally arrived at the actual gameplay portion of the game. You have to present the right piece of evidence from the inventory to prove Fedora’s theory. This works logically enough, and if you don’t get the right one you can try again with something else, but you’ll have to go through the wrong evidence dialogue bit each time and that gets wearisome. This is also Baldie’s time to shine. It’s the most actiony part of the game, and he still manages to slow it to a crawl by interrupting all of Fedora’s dialogue to ask him to explain what he was just explaining. Which he does, and then Baldie or Exellente re-explain it for good measure. I just can’t even convey to you how painfully drawn out all this is.

Eventually Fedora will manage to corner the suspect on some pretty flimsy evidence, a few taunts, and some weird sexual innuendo about the guy’s parents. It probably won’t hold up in court, but meh, that’s good enough for a drunk detective. And good enough for me, I’m exhausted.

Now having said all that, there’s really nothing wrong with this game that some editing and tweaking of the game mechanics wouldn’t fix. Dialogue heavy games are fine, but it seems like the developer had zero faith in the player to be able to retain any information about what’s going on. So much of the text is just rehashing things we already know. It’s really unnecessary, the story and the case are pretty simple. Letting the player have a little control over the direction of the conversations would have done a lot to improve things. Getting to choose what questions to ask, or when to joke, and when to just get down to business would have made a huge difference.

The game had a lot of positives. The art is great, it’s what drew me to the game in the first place. It could have come right out of the classic NES era. The characters had personality, and except for the redundancy and some typos it wasn’t badly written. All in all, it seems like a game from someone still learning the ropes. There are four Fedora Spade games, and I’ll be giving the rest of them a try. If they learned to balance dialogue and gameplay a bit better I think they could create something great.

Download Fedora Spade

Fun Fact: When I was little I was obsessed with the movie Dick Tracy. One time at the grocery store I saw a paperback novelization of the movie and begged my mom to buy it for me. I don’t know how old I was, but I guess not quite at full length novel reading age because my mom was skeptical about me actually reading it. She opened it up to a random page and pointed to one of the words. She said if I knew what the word meant she’d get me the book. The word was fedora, and I proudly exclaimed it was a hat. I got the book, and read the whole thing, and it taught me never to read books based on movies again. And where did I learn what a fedora was? That’s right, awesome classic detective game, Deja Vu.


Written by Nurse Edna

December 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

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