Jenny LeClue: Detectivú Review

August 28, 2020
Also on PC, iOS
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Jenny LeClue Switcheru

Originally releasing on PC back in September 2019, Jenny LeClue: Detectivú has finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch, and we’ve had our grubby little hands — leaving grubby little fingerprints — all over it. There are a lot of reasons that make this the definitive way to play the 2D side-scrolling adventure, but there are also many reasons why you should play this on any platform you can. 

Jenny has sass.

You control Jenny LeClue, a young, truth-obsessed detective wannabe. Her mother is a school teacher in small-town America Arthurton, and she is soon arrested for murder, propelling Jenny into a journey full of mystery and intrigue in an attempt to clear her mother’s name and find out what really happened. Aliens, ghosts, conspiracies — these are all elements you must face on your journey. If you’re fond of ’80s and ’90s style sci-fi like the X-Files, then you’re going to be right at home with the story here.

The characters are what bring Arthurton to life: Jenny herself is witty and full of sass. CJ, the town conspiracy nut, oozes with comic eccentricity that is reminiscent of Doc from Back to the Future. Suzie is prima facie an overly optimistic bimbo, but hides a dark secret of her own. And the Switch version comes with the recently released Spoken Secrets update, which adds full voice acting to the game, and it’s top-notch. Creeping through a misty graveyard to have Suzie’s voice bark through your radio, scaring both you and Jenny, is a fantastic experience. 

Speaking of graveyards, Jenny LeClue: Detectivú has a vast array of locations and environments for you to sleuth through. From walking the golden brown campus of your school to boating on a dark lake to crawling through collapsed mining tunnels, Arthurton is full of interesting and beautifully crafted places to visit. Exploring the game’s world is accompanied by a glorious ’80s synthwave-esque soundtrack, which gives it a real Stranger Things vibe.

This isn’t creepy at all. 

And the graphics really are beautifully crafted. Jenny LeClue: Detectivú has a papier-mache style to its graphics and an enchanting blue palette to its colours. This makes it all the more obvious when other colours appear; whizzing down the road on the back of a moped as the red hues of dawn appear on the horizon causes the colour to pop off the Switch’s IPS screen. Needless to say, this is not a game that struggles with immersion. 

Okay, we get it, it’s good looking. But what about the actual gameplay? In short: it’s fun and varied. Jenny loves being a detective, and it shows in how you approach puzzles and “cases.” These cases appear when anything happens in the world. The case of the dead lab assistant, for example, is the first one, which also acts as a tutorial. 

In this case, Jenny is lying on the floor at school, feigning death so that her fellow students can practice criminology. You have to pan the camera around the area, and when your cursor hovers over something important it turns green. Then you press A (on Switch) and Jenny thinks out loud, lending exposition to the clue you just found. “The floor is wet and slippery,” in this example. Once you’ve collected the requisite number of clues — shown as a fraction the top of the screen — you move onto deduction. This brings up another screen, full of the clues you just found, requiring you to link the correct clues together to answer the question you’re seeking to answer. In our example case, this is “How do I know the victim didn’t slip?” Tie the correct clues together and the case is solved, usually with a cutscene that advances the story.

Moveable bookcases always mean something’s afoot.

Solving puzzles is another main facet of Jenny LeClue: Detectivú. These come in different styles. There are electronic puzzles that require you to twist dials so that power can flow through the right wires in order to open locked objects. There are radio puzzles that require you to match the frequency and wavelength of an incoming signal exactly in order to listen to secret codes. There are riddles that must be solved in order to find the right location which you must next visit. And there are environmental puzzles that ask you to move and rotate objects in the correct alignment so that you can open secret doors and access new areas. Its varied nature keeps things fun and fresh, and not once did I let out the “adventure game groan”; a grumble-like noise that unwittingly escapes as you encounter just another one of the same puzzles.

Did you think Arthurton was a strange name for a town? That’s because it is. It’s named after Arthur Finkelstein, a writer who pens books about a certain heroine named Jenny LeClue. He’s just had orders from his editor that he has to set a darker tone to his latest LeClue novel. As his work is getting stale, he has to kill his darlings. In a meta twist, Arthur narrates the game as you play, and the gameplay often cuts back to Arthur’s writing desk as he has to make decisions on what will befall his characters; decisions that you have to make. At times, Jenny responds to Arthur’s exposition too, so we’re left with another even stranger mystery to solve: is Jenny or Arthurton even real? Layers upon layers.

Killing your darlings, literally.

So what makes Jenny’s journey to Switch so special? We’ve already mentioned the voice acting that comes with this edition and the rich colours of the console’s screen, but you have to factor in portability too. The Switch is renowned for being the indie machine and a home for adventure games, and it’s no different here. There’s just something great about being able to see Arthurton on the big screen, then getting cosy in handheld mode and revelling in the game’s autumn atmosphere as you solve cases.

There’s not much to dislike about Jenny LeClue: Detectivú, but there is one glaring flaw: its ending. Your ten to twelve-hour journey into finding Arthurton’s hidden secrets and absolving your mother of murder leads you right to the precipice of answers — then stops. We do get some answers, so the ending isn’t totally abrupt, but it has a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more. According to the game's developers, Joe Russ and Ben Tillet, there is a sequel coming, but seeing as this one almost doubled its Kickstarter goal back in 2014 but still took this long to reach us, it’s going to be hard to remain enthusiastic for a sequel.

Moody autumn mysteries? Yes, please.

Jenny LeClue: Detectivú
is a fantastic game. It has an interesting story, gorgeous graphics and engaging puzzles. It oozes style, and the added voice acting makes this a completely different experience for the better. The world of Arthurton engrossed me in a way that is hard to do for someone so used to playing these types of games, so it’s just a shame that we can’t recommend this without the caveat that you likely won’t be satisfied by the game’s ending. I want more LeClue, but let’s just hope the sequel doesn’t take as long to make as the first.

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An adventure without the boring bits, Jenny LeClue: Detectivú is a sensational game that is well worth playing; just don’t expect to solve the case of the missing ending.
Jesse Gregoire

Starting with the Sega Mega Drive, I’ve been playing those video game things for what seems like an eternity. Anything with a good narrative is my passion, but you can also find me clicking the heads in FPS games, living a second life in a sim, or looking for those elusive objects in adventure games. I’m still trying to workout what happened in Metal Gear Solid.