App O’ The Mornin’: NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Services Review

My original plan was review the new iOS 4.1 and Game Center for today’s App O’ The Mornin’, but Game Center-compatible games didn’t start appearing until late last night. I’m going to hold my comments on the new features until more developers release updates, which may take some time. Short version: it might be good. Or it might not. Sorry, that’s all I have for now.

So, that leaves us with a big fat hole in our morning programming, which I’m going to stuff full of the new mystery/forensic game based on the CBS show NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Services.

This is a marginally competent little detection game based on the characters and themes of the show. It offers four “episodes,” which are short mysteries that follow the format of NCIS and take about half an hour or less to finish. Gameplay is a mixture of screen searching, interrogations, and forensics.

Each case requires you to poke around a scene touching interesting objects in the wan hope that they’re clues. The clues are fairly obvious, but there’s still a fair amount of pixel hunting as you scan the scene for items of interest.

Items are taken back to the lab, where you can manipulate them, examine them more closely, match samples, and do other forensicy-type things.

Finally, there’s suspect interrogation, which involves choosing the attitude in which you approach a suspect: neutral, friendly or hostile. At certain moments, you also need to show evidence to suspects. Choose correctly, and a little bar fills up. Choose incorrectly, and it goes down. The goal is to fill the bar and get the suspect to crack. This is mostly a matter of trial and error, and generally fails to grip.

The technical side of the equation is adequate. The music from the show is included, but none of the voices or sounds. No one is likely to be wowed by the stiff still images of characters with goofy little animated mouths and eyes, but the visuals get the job done. Still, characters seem to behave and speak like their TV equivalents, and the game does a fair job of capturing the tone, pace, and banter.

If it seems like I’m lukewarm about NCIS, that’s because it’s a fairly tepid game. Serious fans of the show may get much more out of this than I did. (Or maybe not: fans tend to be pretty picky about the way a show is handled in other media.) As detection games go, this is a fair example: no more or less.

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