July 24, 2015 10:46 PM | Sean Flint
[This review may feature minor spoilers, but I'll attempt to keep them to a minimum.]
Blues and Bullets is a game that I have written about before. Ever since I first spotted the game on Steam Greenlight a few months back, I have been enamored by its unique aesthetic and gritty detective theme. Episode 1 of Blues and Bullets was released yesterday on Steam, and I finally got a chance to try that game that I had been looking forward to for so many months.
Blues and Bullets is a gritty detective tale following famous Untouchables leader Eliot Ness. Ness, who is now retired from the police force, has finally settled down and taken on the simple life of the owner of a local diner. Little does he expect to be recruited to assist with a case by the one person who he never expected to see again in his life.
The game plays a lot like one of TellTale's famous adventure titles, such as The Walking Dead, or The Wolf Among Us, but has a nice twist. Every once in a while, you'll participate in a shooting sequence, which does a fantastic job of changing up the gameplay so you don't always feel like you're just walking around and speaking to people. These shooting sequences are pretty enjoyable. The movement of Eliot is handled automatically as he runs from cover-to-cover, but it is your job to aim and shoot enemies. The sequences were very simplistic, but also came in at the perfect times when the game really needed some action to break up the calmer areas of the game.
One of the greatest aspects of Blues and Bullets is its aesthetic. The black-and-white color scheme combines perfectly with the splashes of red, which often point out areas of focus, or are used to add some emotion to a scene. The color scheme definitely doesn't take away from the graphical fidelity of the game, which I found to be gorgeous. I took more than a few screenshots that I plan on using for various wallpapers on my PCs, as the game lends itself perfectly to grabbing some fantastic shots.
A large chunk of your time in Blues and Bullets will be spent exploring scenes. Whether it is the scene of a murder, or just walking around in a lobby, you will be able to move freely and investigate various objects to give you a deeper insight into the world and the story. While exploring basic areas is fun, the investigation scenes that require you to gather clues are amazing. As you explore the environments, you will gather various clues. You can then open up your task board, which displays various branching paths that attempt to put the events together in an accurate manner. There will be a subject heading that describes which part of the crime you need to find clues for, and then you must choose from the clues that you have found until you select the ones that fit the subject. Completing a section usually leads to another section opening up, until the board is completely filled. Once this happens, you will get a visual rundown along with Ness' description of the events based on the clues you found.
Interacting with other characters is also a huge part of the game. Much like other games in the genre, you'll find yourself with a limited amount of time to make dialogue choices, meaning you must react quickly in order to avoid having one chosen for you. While not every single choice will impact the game, there are still some small details that you'll notice will change depending on what you've said in the past. On top of these small details, you'll also take part in choices that will affect the game as a whole, much like TellTale's games. After you complete an episode, you will get a rundown of your choices, as well as the percentages of people that chose the same as you. I've always found those statistics interesting in other games, so it's nice to see that Blues and Bullets has that feature as well.
Without giving any of it away, I can easily say that the story began on a fantastic note. Right from the introduction sequence, I found myself hooked and unable to put the game down until I reached the end. The emotion and attachment that you find yourself feeling during the game is uncanny, and will keep you immersed from the minute you begin, until the minute that you wish the next episode was already out.
Blues and Bullets is an excellent game, it is as simple as that. From the aesthetic, to the story, to the characters, it is designed with such care and attention to detail that you cannot help but admire the work of developers A Crowd of Monsters. The voice actors chosen for the major roles are fantastic, and really form the glue that brings all of the amazing pieces of the game together.
In terms of my issues with the game, I did have some performance problems, mainly during the shooting sequences. There were times when the framerate would drop for no reason, and I would find myself having to restart a sequence because of a frame-stutter related death. One feature I would like to see added would be the option to walk a bit faster. While it often makes sense to walk at a normal pace, there were a few outdoor sequences where I felt like I spent just a tad too much time walking from Point A to Point B.
Finally, the thing that Blues and Bullets gets right more than anything is timing. Whenever you begin to feel a bit tired of speaking to other characters, an action sequence pops up, whether it is shooting or a quick-time-event. Whenever you feel like you really don't want to make the far walk from where you are to where you need to be, the game saves you the trouble and puts you at your destination. An example of this would be a large bridge that I really wasn't looking forward to walking over, and then once I got about a quarter of the way, it cut to Eliot walking off of the other side of the bridge. The game really understands pacing so well, and this manages to keep the experience entertaining and engaging throughout.
Blues and Bullets' first episode took me a little under two hours to complete without exploring everything in the game. I've seen some others log anywhere between 2-3 hours into the game for the first episode. There is definitely replayability if you'd like to see what the outcomes of different choices are, which is always a plus. If you'd like to get Blues and Bullets, you can get it on Steam for $4.99 for the first episode, or $19.99 for all 5 episodes.