Spanish developer A Crowd of Monsters releases their second Xbox One title (also available on PC) following the release of Funk of Titans back in January and the two couldn’t be anymore different. Moving away from the bright light-hearted tone of Funk of Titans is the complete polar opposite Blues and Bullets, an episodic noir fiction style investigation game about a retired police officer who runs a diner being dragged out of retirement to investigate the case of a missing child.
For this review as its episodic I’ll give an overview of the gameplay mechanics based on the first episode which I doubt will change much then talk about each specific episode as they release, without spoilers! When a new episode releases I’ll update this post.
The first thing you’ll notice is the distinctive look which is based on classic American comics and noir fiction and it looks great with splashes of red and other colours too. It’s an impressively styled game that I think was a very good choice and represents this dark and corrupt city of Santa Esperanza you’re getting into very well. When I call it a dark and corrupt city [no spoilers], in Episode 1 this becomes clear quite quickly with what to expect from the game going forwards.
For an episodic game the gameplay is mixed up well between each scene and that variety is important as more episodes release with the key pillars being interaction with other characters, action scenes, and investigations, it’s a 3D title so there’s a bit of walking around and exploration but it also sets you down a fairly narrow path for now.
When it strays from the slower paced looking around and talking into action scenes I was impressed at how well it did being a third-person shooter, it felt reasonably fluid and like a lot of effort went in to avoid it being just a bullet point on the features list. It has popping out of cover to shoot enemies and to switch to different places to get a better viewpoint, it is a bit restricted in how much you can move around which is to be expected but I thought it handled well, I liked being able to blow up barrels too, the fire glowing yellow/orange was a nice touch too.
Conversing with other characters doesn’t offer the amount dialogue options like a Telltale game does where you are constantly making choices but occasionally you are given 2/3 different paths to take that don’t hold much significance outside of that specific scene. There are also bigger choices which it notes where you make decisions that I suspect will come back to help or hinder you in the future but its good and lets you choose your choices with how you wish to handle specific and conversations without overcomplicating itself.
Finally the investigation section which happens in the latter half of the episode I enjoyed a lot. You walk into a crime scene of some nature and as you’d expect its all about piecing together the evidence and trying to find out what happened. It’s also a pretty gruesome section so if you’re squeamish this might not be a game for you! As you find clues you will talk through what you’ve found and what you need to do next, clues are attached to the relevant section and if you’re wrong it doesn’t let you (as yet anyway) go down a false path, it just beeps at you and if none of your clues match up then you obviously have more to find.
I enjoyed the gameplay a lot, having played Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments recently the investigating felt like a slimline version of that but the only criticism I’d give it so far is that it seemed a bit narrow and there was no wrong answer however only being the first episode of five that is probably a bit harsh and we will see it expand as it goes on.
I am certainly very encouraged by what I have seen so far in Blues & Bullets, it has a great style it, good gameplay and it has a lot of potential, I’m looking forward to episode 2.
Episode 1: The End of Peace
It’s certainly good start to the story with an intriguing and even possibly chilling scene that wasn’t what I expected, it will be interesting to see how they build on it from there. It has no problem with being bold in what it’s doing either in imagery or the story, Santa Esperanza is definitely a rather dark place.
As you’d expect from a first episode most of the time is spent setting the scene for the main character Eliot Ness, what he’s doing now and in the past before moving on to what role he has to play next in this story when he gets back into the investigating business which will form the large part of the story.
There was one part where I thought it was strange one character didn’t help another in a situation you would clearly think they would but perhaps he was just trying to protect himself. I am also keen to see how the decisions made in the episode are relevant later in the story, in the front menu it rather helpfully lists all of your choices and what others chose too which is a nice touch.
The ending sets up the next episode well and I hope the story goes in a good direction, it has definitely been set up that way and I would definitely recommend trying the first episode from what i’ve played.
Price: $4.99/£3.99 (Episode 1)
Formats: Xbox One (Played)/PC
Release Date: 28th August – Xbox One, out now PC
Developer: A Crowd of Monsters
Publisher: A Crowd of Monsters
Official website – Xbox Store – Steam