The Last Case of Benedict Fox Review – Half Fun

An intriguing mish-mash of genres that shines creatively but is held back by uninspiring combat and a shoddy PC port

It is not easy to craft a satisfying mystery narrative, and it is even more difficult to do so while juggling multiple different game genres including action adventure, platforming, hack and slash, puzzle solving, and more. Perhaps this is why players have been looking forward to indie developer Plot Twist’s new game, The Last Case of Benedict Fox. After winning the “Most Wanted Microsoft Xbox Game award” at Gamescom 2022, expectations for the game are definitely high. The game immediately draws you in with its striking aesthetic and creative setting, but how much does it deliver on its original promise? This is GameGrumble’s review of The Last Case of Benedict Fox played on PC:

Story – A Gratifying Medley of Classic Genres

The Last Case of Benedict Fox - starting area

The Last Case of Benedict Fox draws inspiration from many genres, but at the heart of its narrative is a mystery – a deep, dark web of secrets with fatal consequences. You play as the eponymous Benedict Fox, a self-styled detective investigating the death of your father and his wife, as well as the disappearance of their child. Despite the game’s animated movie aesthetic, it tells a mature detective noir story with elements of supernatural Lovecraftian horror. Aiding Benedict in the quest for truth is his trusty demon companion, who grants him the eldritch power to navigate the limbo of memories of his dead relatives. And double jumping.

To its credit, The Last Case of Benedict Fox manages to make this mish-mash of genres work very well. The game is a little light on the details at the beginning, but as you explore the world little bits and pieces start to fall into place, and it is immensely satisfying to see the bigger picture emerge. There’s a secret organization involved, occult rituals, domestic misery, and filial heartache. The brilliant art direction and atmospheric storytelling ensure that there is just the right amount of intrigue and a general sense of uneasiness enveloping the narrative. The dialogue and writing can occasionally be a bit awkward, but that does very little to take away from the overall quality of the storytelling – it had my attention from beginning to end.

Gameplay is a Mixed Bag

Much like its narrative, the gameplay of The Last Case of Benedict Fox straddles the line between multiple game genres. I would describe it as a narrative 2.5D platformer Metroidvania that combines hack and slash combat with exploration-based puzzle solving. However, unlike the narrative, the gameplay is much more of a mixed bag. While the game gets a lot right, there are also a few crucial missteps.

Broadly speaking, gameplay consists of two parts – hack and slash combat, and exploration-based puzzle solving. Like any true Metroidvania, exploration is what you will be doing the majority of your time with the game, finding various clues, relics, and items that help move the narrative forward. Some of the clues and items are used to solve one of the game’s many puzzles, most of which are of a cryptographic nature. These particular aspects of the game are immensely satisfying, especially because they can offer a rather robust challenge. I even had to pull out some pen and paper to work out some of the harder puzzles.

As you explore and fight your way through the limbo of memories, you accrue two types of currency – standard gold used to purchase items such as health potions, smoke bombs, etc. as well as a currency known as “ink”, which is tied deeply with the game’s progression system. Basically, you spend ink to get certain tattoos, each of which grants you a new demon ability. Some of these abilities allow you to reach areas on the map that were previously inaccessible, making ink a very crucial commodity indeed. So how do you get ink? Why, by engaging with the game’s combat of course.

Unfortunately, the combat part of gameplay is where The Last Case of Benedict Fox slips up. While every other aspect of the game oozes creativity and intrigue, the combat is downright generic in comparison. In fact, the combat seems to be at odds with the fundamental design of the game itself; the nimble platforming and fast-paced moveset including double jump and dash don’t dovetail very well with the clunky and lackadaisical combat. The combat animations feel unresponsive and Benedict’s offensive options are limited to a light attack, heavy attack, and single pistol shot on a timeout until later in the game, when you unlock a few largely lackluster demon attacks. There simply isn’t enough variety in the combat to keep you engaged throughout the game’s runtime, and what’s there isn’t particularly great either. In a game boasting such a meticulously crafted narrative and aesthetic, it is a shame that the combat itself feels like such an afterthought.

Graphics & Technical Presentation – Gorgeous But Not Without Fault

The Last Case of Benedict Fox - Beautiful Limbo

First things first – the game looks amazing. The game features a charming animated movie aesthetic, with beautifully rendered levels full of details both small and big – look closely, and the world of The Last Case of Benedict Fox tells a story in itself. The art direction is fantastic as well – the main mansion is suitably decorated in a Gothic perspective, and there is a grim vibe that permeates every desolate room. The surreal limbo of memories is even more striking, with flowing rivers of fluorescent ink, bleak ruins, colorful flora, and any number of suitably disconcerting Lovecraftian monstrosities.

In contrast, the voice dubbing in the game, while passable, is nothing to write home about. The quality of the voice acting itself is mediocre, and it is occasionally exacerbated by a slight delay in line delivery. Nothing too off-putting, but certainly noticeable. And the same can also be said about the general performance and polish levels of The Last Case of Benedict Fox. The game runs well on PC for the most part, but there can be some perceptible hitching when Benedict moves from one room to the next and there are a few too many loading screens for my taste. However, if you planned on playing the game on a Steam Deck, you might want to reconsider – performance is currently well below expectation, and it was very difficult to maintain a smooth 60 fps lock despite turning down some graphics settings. Even more problematic is the UI scaling (or lack thereof), rendering most text on the Steam Deck’s 7-inch screen too small to read comfortably.

However, the single biggest technical issue with the PC version of the game is the barebones Options menu and a complete lack of customizable controls. The default controls of the game are very counterintuitive and I found it rather difficult to get used to them at first, so imagine my disappointment when I delved further into the options menu and realized that there is no option to rebind controls at all. The menu itself is somewhat clunky and hard to navigate, particularly if you are using a controller. Some of these issues are relatively easy fixes, so here’s hoping the developers are working on some sort of patch to fix the frustrating lack of functionality in the Options menu.

Developers

The Last Case of Benedict Fox is the maiden project of Krakow-based Polish indie game development studio Plot Twist. The studio comprises over 30 industry veterans with experience working on games such as the original Dead Island, Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs 2, etc. The game is published by indie publisher Rogue Games, best known for games such as Dust & Neon, Wipeout Rush, Super Mega Zero, and more.

Where to Play The Last Case of Benedict Fox?

The Last Case of Benedict Fox is currently exclusive to PC and Xbox Series X/Series S. The game is now available on Steam for a launch price of $19.99. However, if you are subscribed to Xbox Game Pass you can currently download and play the game for free from the Microsoft Store.

Candid Verdict

Promising - The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a creative mish-mash of genres that is held back by lackluster combat & a shoddy PC port.

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Promising - The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a creative mish-mash of genres that is held back by lackluster combat & a shoddy PC port.The Last Case of Benedict Fox Review - Half Fun