Probably my favourite genres are those that force me to use my noggin. While strategy- and adventure games can provide such challenges, puzzlers like point-and-clicks hit the right spots for me due to how they demand creative and logical thinking. Yet, I do get a similar form of satisfaction from beat’em ups because of their simple entertainment in pummeling down foes. Blending these two styles together might sound impossible, which is why Brok: The InvestiGator caught me by surprise for doing this exceptionally well!
Within a basement apartment in the slums live Brok the detective who takes on different jobs to make a living and most importantly; supporting his adopted son Graff who is studying hard for a chance to move to the upper-class region known as the dome. Their days are not the easiest, but both do what they can to make the best out of them together. One morning though, the stepdad receives a call for a case that would serve as the beginning of something bigger than he ever could have imagined.
I believe the strongest aspect of this story is the various characters. While they come with familiar personalities, like the socially awkward scientist or the bully who is secretly struggling, they are all still diverse and some even go through arcs. A great example is Brok who is trying his best to keep a cool head despite being forgetful and floundering with modern technology. However, depending on your actions, he could succumb to his aggressive behaviours or keep up his smile throughout and evolve.
This is a fantastic inclusion since your progress and surroundings are directly affected by how you play. It can lead to Graff hating you, robust bonds with your buddies or completely bizarre endings! Strengthening this attachment to this tale are the memorable and interesting inhabitants, with clever hints to keep you guessing what is going on. Also, the two protagonists will comment on whatever they observe with their own thoughts which makes them relatable and distinct.
Additionally, it is here the game shows that it is not afraid of bringing in some humour. Be it a doctor called Hush, remarks on your brutal actions, or fun jabs at folk’s expense, there is always something worth chuckling about. Even if the lines are not your cup of tea, the actors do a phenomenal job with their deliveries to make them land. I also admire any product that contains references to other media that fits their universe, such as one monologue about how surreal technology will one day cause bears to fly.
Even the lore is presented sufficiently by having it discussed in a natural manner. You will quickly learn about the polluted air, religion, class system, commercialised health service, and much more to make this a fascinating world to dive into. This goes so far as to include some intriguing thoughts to share with others, like how all the animals here are referred to as humans or subtle reflections on problems our own societies face. None of these is just to tackle important topics, but are also intertwined with the overall story and you will experience how other people are affected by this through visuals or significant events, which is wonderful!
With all that is going on, I ended up forgetting that there is a plot unfolding here. Regrettably, this mainly comes from the lack of a red thread. It truly feels like you are going through the duo’s daily lives all the way up to an unforeseen conclusion and not much else. One could argue it is neat to have the finale sneak up on you, but it never leaves an impact because of its underwhelming presence. Maybe this is why there are endings where you do not even solve the central case.
This could also be said for the nightmares that haunt Brok. Despite that they are tragic and symbolise his own guilt, they are quite blatant and do not really play into the overarching narrative until the last chapters. It was honestly more interesting to see how Graff reacted to these whenever they were brought up, as they had a personal effect on him too and he is growing up with this trauma. Although, I should emphasise that the various scenarios themselves can be exciting, like when you have to get medicine for someone by sneaking into the dome.
However, I will also admit that the stepson’s tale is rather mediocre due to it focusing on his schoolwork and graduation. He will get caught up in his father figure’s world, but that is not until the finale and even then, certain versions of them can come off as rushed with too much exposition. Thankfully, I always cared about this universe’s transition and the cast, with the two protagonists having a beautiful chemistry that made me emotional. While the general plot might be forgettable, the rest of the package undoubtedly is not.
Story Score: 7/10
Brawn and brain in balance
Combining genres is always a tricky concept, but Brok: The InvestiGator does this with a brilliant setup. Instead of making you forced to get comfortable with a complicated control scheme, you basically have two modes that you can alter with the press of a button: combat and adventure. The former makes you ready to pummel anything in your way, while the latter takes on the familiar point-and-click style of gameplay.
Because of this, it becomes easy to choose a preferred approach and avoid accidentally hitting an NPC, which you can even kill! Since these cater to two unique playstyles, I wish to look at them individually, starting with the beat’em up aspect! Walking around on a multilayered structure, your main form of attack will be a punch that can be linked into combos and midair ones that change depending on how you hold the D-pad. All of these feel good to perform, including the special moves that you can execute through specific button combinations, such as a fierce uppercut.
Furthermore, you also have an AOE attack to knock everyone around you down at the cost of some health and a desperation move that will charge up whenever you are low on HP for quickly thrashing anyone still alive. These are fantastic additions to your offensive abilities for giving you a great number of options, and the defensive ones are no slacker either. Besides hopping, you can block, dodge, and even jab behind in case someone tries to sneak up on you. It is quite the nice moveset, and while there is no grab action, there are so many diverse enemies to deal with simultaneously that it is not missed.
Speaking of, you will get a solid amount of foes to face, such as ramming thugs, robots shooting lasers, and bosses that will require careful approaches! These fights can be rather challenging and force you to have a keen eye for anything happening, especially since opponents will try to flank you! However, it is never unfair and you can even prepare for what is to come! Around this world, you can find consumables to use later for boosting your status or replenishing your life bar, as well as tools like knives or pipes for bringing in some extra carnage to battles!
This is a gorgeous way of subtly combining the genres, as while you can discover stuff in combat, you mainly will by scouring around for useful goodies outside of these scenarios. After an encounter, your gained XP will be summarised, with levelling up letting you increase stats in either health, strength, or special attack. Since you can put up your knuckles at any time and will gather money from defeated antagonists, there is always an incentive to become better by either grinding or by skills, giving the player some neat options. It honestly makes me question the difficulty modes, as it only affects the beatdown. Admittedly hardcore is nice for veterans, but being able to skip brawls completely is simply disheartening when it is this thrilling.
You can even hit enemies into hazards to make them take damage or use your fighting stance for other functions! Perhaps a wall needs to be destroyed or you have to jump upwards to find a hidden trinket, making this have an effect on the puzzles. In fact, the point-and-click setup is just as exhilarating. You have the essentials here: inventory for taken items to use or combine, with every problem requiring you to use your noggin. I am also fond of any title giving you a button to see what you can interact with in the environment, making pixel-hunting nonexisting.
All of the brain-teasers are at least solid, whether they revolve around deciphering codes, red herrings, imaginative uses of knickknacks or gathering clues. I will also commend that you are encouraged to take notes of what is being said and seen, but the difficulty is regrettably all over the place and can make the easier ones seem randomly implemented. Despite that you have to be creative at times with your solutions or make sure you ask the right questions, this does make the adventure bumpy.
Being a detective, you will also have to talk to NPCs for various insights on different subjects. This will lead you to interrogate some of them too, where you have to put two statements or observations together to get to the bottom of a case! While you can brute force yourself by combining everything, you have to gather information by investigating and one such segment will keep you on your toes with limited tries, making these an enjoyable inclusion. You will even get acknowledgement if a combination is adequate, just not right for the current discussion or lacks evidence, which is clever.