by Dr Marker
Imagine this, you’re at the scene of a crime as a detective, hunting for clues as to what happened, who the suspect is and where they are now so that they can be brought to justice, solving cases with a mixture of intuition, deductive reasoning and both hard evidence from the scene along with CCTV footage, all just waiting for you to put the pieces together and solve the mystery. Well, I hope you’re having a good time because this game falls drastically short of that little flight of fancy in several ways.
Cameo: CCTV Detective is a puzzle game which, as the title implies, puts you in the shoes of a gumshoe solving various crimes through the collection of evidence as well as pouring through CCTV footage to find vital details, in concept, this sounds like a really great idea for a game and encapsulates something I really enjoyed from games like L.A. Noir and Condemned: Criminal Origins (well, at least when I wasn’t beating homeless people to death in the case of the latter) stripping out the more combative elements those games have in favour of leaning purely on the puzzle side of things.
This is a great idea in theory but in practice is let down by very shallow puzzles that actually punish you for being thorough by wasting your time extensively underlined by the very ramshackle animation quality and visual design that made the large amounts of dead air in this game’s central mechanic harder to sit through.
Each investigation begins with Buzzard (your partner/superior) calling you with a short brief about the crime in question, ranging from robberies to assaults to missing person’s cases, before you appear in the crime scene in question and are presented with two objectives:
Find the clues.
Find the cameras.
This portion of Cameo: CCTV Detective essentially boils down to a first-person hidden object game with the only part that gave me any kind of difficulty being the time they mix things up by throwing in a dashboard camera in a car as one of the cameras you need to find rather than them all being ceiling mounted (along with a few red herring cameras that are placed out of bounds and made me wonder if the game had just soft locked), all of the clues are highlighted with yellow number graphics floating around them meaning that you’d actively have to try to not find them in almost every case (so imagine a hidden object game that paints the hidden objects in bright, neon green).
Completing this search will result in you going back to your office to receive an email from Buzzard detailing the one, and only one, piece of information they want you to pick out from the CCTV footage pulled from the cameras you found (the clues you found have absolutely no bearing at all on the events proceeding), for example, the first mystery surrounding a robbery in a jewellery store has Buzzard tasking you with finding the registration plate number for the van the robber was driving, a description of the robber, the way they entered the store, what they stole or anything else doesn’t matter, just the number plate.
This means that in this, and every other, investigation a good 98% of the footage they present you with is completely irrelevant as it in no way contributes to the brief you’re given, so in the robbery, every camera inside the building (where you’d imagine the most interest should be) is just wasted time since you can’t get the number needed from anywhere but the one camera which has the correct angle on the van for the number to show up clearly.
On its own, that’s pretty bad for a detective game (one that actively disincentivises actual investigation) but it’s compounded when you factor in the length of some of the clips presented, ranging from about a minute each (and remember, you have 5 angles to go through so that totals to 5 minutes) to one mission where each clip is an egregious 6 minutes long for a whole half an hour of footage to sit through, of which only about 4 seconds is needed to get the information to answer the mystery (yes, I sat through all of it, no, it was not worth it) making cameo: CCTV Detective feel simultaneously both bloated and empty at the same time.
As previously hinted at, the visuals in this game, both in terms of model quality and animation are frankly very amateur from the very stock looking characters and textures to the fact that many of the video clips feature literal freeze-frame animation of characters warping across a room bit by bit (including one moment where I swear I saw a character model T-posing) resulting at first in comedy and later on in frustration as the clips you’re made to sit through get longer and longer and the realization that your time is being wasted begins to set in.
I’ve not really talked much about the story or writing of Cameo: CCTV Detective because, to be frank, it’s rather non-existent. Some of the scenarios you’re provided make perfect sense for a detective, robbery? Sure. Missing person? Makes perfect sense. Assault in progress? Isn’t that more a job for regular police rather than a detective? Armed robbery in progress? Where are the police?
To compare to another police-themed game, SWAT 4 didn’t have an awful lot of story to it either but it still managed to be engaging and immersive because while the writing wasn’t especially deep it was at least internally consistent and functional, it made perfect sense why you’d send a SWAT team into an armed robbery or a hostage situation or a massacre at a hospital, as weird as the jobs got sometimes it all at least had a certain flow of logic to it that didn’t distract away from kicking in doors and nailing people in the genitals with beanbags.
Cameo: CCTV Detective is implied to have an actual plot when you get to the end and… It’s a reveal that comes out of nowhere, doesn’t mean anything and frankly isn’t earned.
I could rant and rave for hours (and trust me, in the course of writing this, I have been) but in conclusion, this is a game that I cannot in any good conscience recommend to anyone, it has an interesting idea at its core but the execution both visually and mechanically make this an experience only fit for the exceptionally curious, I wanted to try and give it the benefit of the doubt for being an indie title that (as far as I’m aware) is still in progress but the severity and number of failings on a design level simply prevent me from being able to extend that mercy with any degree of sincerity.