STAFF REVIEW of BROK the InvestiGator (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
by Peggy Doyle

BROK the InvestiGator Box art I’d never heard of the game genre “punch and click adventure” before looking into BROK the InvestiGator. It’s primarily a hybrid of two classic styles: Beat ‘Em Up and Point and Click. It didn’t really make sense on paper to me, but it worked really well in practice. BROK the InvestiGator is developed and self-published by independent French studio, COWCAT, using GameMaker Studio 2 and was successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter. It released on Steam in August 2022 and is now here on console.

Smaller indie adventure games often get a bad wrap as being too short. I can understand the criticism when spending your hard-earned money on entertainment but it’s funny how things have changed over the years. There used to be at time when this style of game would take a ridiculously long time to complete. As a gamer of a ‘certain age’, I remember all too well the time spent trying to figure out how to finish game levels. Now with the internet, walkthroughs are easily available. This means most people can fly though these games in just a few hours making some of them think that the value isn’t there. While I can understand that opinion for some people, I also try to not look at games simply from an hours played vs price paid comparison. Either way you choose to look at it, BROK gave me about 20 hours of gameplay on a first playthrough and it comes in at a fair price of $25 USD/$32.99 CDN. You’ll get even more hours if you are a completionist and want to go back and work through all the alternate endings. Even if you look at dollars vs hours played, I think this is a great value.

Set in a cyberpunk light world, where environmental hazards are plenty and anthropomorphic animals have replaced humans, you play primarily as Brok, an alligator. He is a former fighter turned private investigator. He continues to fight in illegal fights at night to provide for his family and seems to be a decent enough fella who happens to just be having some really bad luck.

BROK the InvestiGator starts out in a quite intense manner for a game whose art style is reminiscent of the Disney 90's cartoons a lot of us watched. Your home is engulfed in flames and you hear your wife, Lia, yelling to you. You find her trapped under rubble that you are unable to move. She tells you that you killed her, and you’re a liar. When you say you’ll stay with her until the end, she calls you a liar again. She calls you worthless and dangerous and it’s a very alarming start to the game. You eventually wake to realize it’s all a dream, but Brok is clearly holding onto some intense guilt about Lia’s death 5 years ago. Since Lia’s death, you’ve been forced out from under the protective dome of the city and now you’re living in the slums and raising Lia’s teenage son (Graff, a cat) and your relationship with him is tenuous. Whether it’s simply because Graff is a teenager, or there is more going on will eventually play out.

It’s clear that Brok cares for Graff though, and even though there are choices made that lead Graff to believe otherwise, you see that Brok always has Graff in his thoughts. Brok is somehow unaffected by the “Haze”, a deadly pollution that is detrimental to most of the population, so that puts him in a perfect position to be a private investigator and not have his mobility limited due to health concerns. Class limitations still exist though and that comes into play when Brok needs to go into domed areas of the city where those who live in the slums are simply not allowed access.

Brok’s first case has him hired by someone named Sin, a police officer who has lost his gun, and without giving the case away, BROK the InvestiGator is a game all about choices. There are multiple ways to answer and solve most situations and often these will have consequences that play out in the future. Along with having choices and multiple paths also comes the possibility to do something VERY wrong leading to major consequences. Your cases take you through theft, corruption, manipulation and even murder. As you work though the cases, you find clues that help you to solve them, but even with having every clue available to you, it is possible to still accuse an innocent person of the crimes.

Gameplay unfolds in adventure mode, using point and click to interact with hotspots on your screen by walking up to them. There are intermittent bouts where Brok must fight baddies but using the variety of difficulty settings available to you, you can skip fights if you don’t feel like battling, or even turn them off completely and play the entire game in pure Point and Click gaming glory. Fights appear to be simple on the surface, but you can employ a variety of techniques to battle as well as find and use many types of weapons. Food and drinks can be consumed for buffs in defence or attack, but you must play a bit of a tactical game when consuming them. Brok needs a quiet moment in the fight to use them or they could be knocked out of his hand.

Along with the brawls and investigating there is also interrogating your suspects. This involves a bit of mental puzzle solving at times and you must use info gathered to uncover more questions to ask the suspects. You can use contradictions in their story to find the truth and play good or bad cop as needed.

Besides playing as Brok, you also have an opportunity to play as the stepson, Graff. He’s a student at the Consciousness Center (fancy name for a school) in the process of studying for an exam that will allow him to become a “Drumer” again. That’s a person that gets to live under the dome of the city vs the slums (a Slumer). It’s a much better place to live with protection, safety and more opportunities for employment etc. You can switch between Brok and Graff relatively freely and how you choose to act as each character had differing impacts on the story as you progress. Each section/chapter of the game has three hidden QR codes call ads that you can use to give you hints when you are stuck on what to do next. These can really come in handy in some sections.

For me, the highlight of BROK the InvestiGator is the complex world in which it takes place. What appears at first glance to be a bright and cheery 90's cartoon hides a sinister and dark, complicated world. The scariest part was that, as playing, I could draw a lot of real-life parallels. Without getting too political in the review, the story covers a vast amount of topics from politics and class systems to socio economic division, how the world relies on technology and how money and power can be both good and bad depending on the situation and what side you’re looking at it from. Automation for ease and convenience for the wealthy, leading to job losses for others was also evident. It was much darker than I anticipated and it often gave me pause to stop and think about things in the world around me.

It also covers compassion and relationships. From the beginning of the game, you are hit with real life things like struggling to pay bills and helping a homeless person. While these topics could make you think that the game could come across at preachy, this wasn’t the case at all. The information was there. How you choose to process it will depend on the player. There were also many moments of levity and even some definite laugh out loud moments for me. Some of the interactions were truly ludicrous, especially ones involving pranks.

The voice acting is exceptional. From the very start of the game, Bryan J. Olson as Brok pulled me into the world, the gruff investigator and caring father was easily identified. Teenage Graff, voiced by Michael Kovach was the perfect amount of edge, angst and self doubt. Their interactions felt real and plausible and lead me to some heartbreaking situations at times. Other voices were equally well done. Shay, the super smart and tech savvy bird voiced by Daisy Guevara, was another highlight. She has some great lines and was used to bring a lot of the story together by providing skills and components needed throughout the journey. All three of the voice actors mentioned here have multiple credits to their name and bring such a high level of acting to the game. Even though COWCAT is a small studio, this is huge talent. Animations were fantastic and close ups were very much in sync with the voice work.

BROK the InvestiGator has multiple endings, and I still have to go back because there is at least one more that I haven’t managed to unlock. Once you roll credits you are given a nice flowchart that provides you a visual representation of your choices and how other players matched your decisions. This helps give you some idea of what ‘mistakes’ you may want to go back and change on another playthrough.

I fully recommend picking up BROK the InvestiGator. I had a lot of time to spend playing it before writing this and I enjoyed my time to leisurely learn and explore. The story was excellent and thought provoking and the voice acting was some of the best I’ve enjoyed in a game of any style and budget. Point and Click adventure games often get a bad wrap and the combining of genres often ends in a messy final game, but somehow COWCAT managed to create something wonderful and interesting, and I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.

**BROK the InvestiGator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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