Procedural crime shows like CSI (Crime Scene Investigations) can be difficult to adapt to games. But one genre that fits those shows (and mobile) very well is hidden object games. Just as the cops and detectives have to search for clues in order to solve a case, so can players search for items and perform minigames relating to the police work simulated by these shows.
Thus it comes as no surprise that Ubisoft’s CSI: Hidden Crimes is a hidden object game. But Ubisoft Abu Dhabi has done something unique with this particular game – they made it completely free to play. I don’t mean a free demo with the option to unlock the content. The whole thing is free with the energy system and social features common to free to play titles.
Dancing with Danson
In Hidden Crimes, players take on the role of a new crime scene investigator hired by D.B. Russell (Ted Danson). By casting gamers as a new character, the game provides both the opportunity for character customization as well as interaction with pretty much the entire cast of the show. In total, 11 of the series cast show up in finely illustrated form. There isn’t any voice acting unfortunately, but the game’s story comes from one of the show’s actual writers: Jack Gutowitz.
Seeing as how Hidden Crimes has some strong social integration through Facebook, the ability to customize your character feels like more than a throwaway feature. Players can select a gender, skin color, hair style, shirt, and facial jewelry such as glasses. You won’t have access to everything right off the bat; several customization options unlock over time. That said, more parts and color choices would have been appreciated.
Some crimes go slipping through the cracks
Each level of the game consists of one “episode” or crime for players to solve. The first one involves a woman who has been strangled. You’ll start out by arriving on the crime scene, which is expectedly littered with objects. Now the hidden object fun begins!
Hidden Crimes has a fairly robust hidden object setup. During each scene, players must locate six items. Finding objects in quick succession will activate a combo bonus and improve your score. Some item names appear in gold and are worth more points than others. If you don’t know what an object looks like, you can press and hold on its name to see a preview – a welcome feature in this type of game!
Each visit to a crime scene earns you a certain number of stars, depending on your score. It takes one or more stars to examine evidence and proceed with the case, so you might need to visit crime scenes more than once. The hidden objects change with each visit, naturally. Players can also earn more rewards by inviting Facebook friends along on the investigation.
After you’ve searched the scene thoroughly enough to progress, it’s time to examine the evidence! Each piece of evidence has its own forensic minigame. These include dusting for fingerprints, going over objects with UV lights, and more.
Once all of the evidence has been examined, you can finally arrest a suspect based on the information collected during the episode. The whole process closely matches the format of the actual TV show, albeit without much of the interpersonal drama outside of the actual investigation.
These gumshoes are picking up the slack
As I mentioned before, Hidden Crimes is a free to play game with in-app purchases. Everything you do in the game costs energy, which slowly refills over time. The in-app purchases consist of coins (soft currency) and cash (hard currency). If you can live with those free to play trappings, the gameplay and elements from the show are quite enjoyable.
CSI: Hidden Crimes is a truly cross-platform game, provided you link your Facebook account. The Facebook connectivity provides cloud save support with the option to resume progress from any iOS or Android device. With that cross-platform support and the promise of new episodes in the future, Hidden Crimes might just last as long as the show whose name it shares.