Jenny LeClue: Detectivu serves up sleuthy fun with charm to spare
Inverse score: 8/10
There's nothing like curling up in bed with a good mystery.
That's doubly true for mystery games on the Nintendo Switch. Jenny LeClue: Detectivu is a vibrant, stylish point-and-click adventure from indie studio Mografi that will inevitably keep you up past your bedtime. A consistently intriguing story, varied yet approachable gameplay, and surprisingly nuanced characters set this detective story apart from the pack.
Our story opens with a harried author, Arthur K. Finklestein, pestered by his editor to spice up his wholesome Nancy Drew-ish mystery series. For the 38th book in the series, Jenny won't track down missing kittens or misplaced diaries — instead, she'll find herself tasked with solving a real-deal murder, after one of Arthurton's most prominent men winds up dead under shady circumstances. And this time, the fate of her family and friends hangs in the balance. These opening scenes establish Jenny LeClue's tone right off the bat — wry, self-aware, and thankfully never too pleased with its own cleverness.
Cuteness and complexity
Blend old-school LucasArts adventure games in the vein of Monkey Island with elements of Detroit: Become Human, and top it off with a generous drizzle of Gravity Falls, and you've got Jenny LeClue. This isn't a twitchy, action-packed experience but a more leisurely journey that foregrounds storytelling and character development. It's the kind of game that lives or dies by its plot, places, and personalities. Thankfully, they're endearing from the start and remain rock-solid throughout the game's 10+ hour runtime.
One of the standout mechanics in Jenny LeClue: Detectivu is how player choice shapes the protagonist's interactions other characters in the story. Your responses to some 70 prompts scattered throughout the game — some of which are missable — will be ranked across three spectrums. Those choices will lead to Jenny taking on one of eight distinct personality types, which add shade and color story while not wholly changing the overall outcome. They impact what happens to Jenny's creator, too.
Characters will remember your actions and responses, and potentially give you heat for them later. For instance, early on you're given the option to "be really mean" to another kid by referencing her dad's wandering eye. If you take this option, you'll be scolded for your thoughtlessness a couple hours later. These numerous choice-driven tweaks are handled in a way that feels natural while still keeping the prospect of a second playthrough enticing.
Jenny's not just another precocious tween detective, but a character of genuine substance, whose prickly and analytical exterior masks a sincerely relatable sadness. From the peppy cheerleader with a secret to the dweeb in the mascot suit, there's more to all of the town's oddball inhabitants than intially meets the eye. The town of Arthurton is a memorable character in its own right, with the sun-dappled autumnal vibes of Gumbolt University giving way to the spooky-ooky blend of fog and pastries that is Lake Noware. There's quite a lot to explore, and it's easy to miss some of the more subtle details and optional content as you're merrily breezing your way through the plot.
The visuals are a big draw of Jenny LeClue, and the cheerful papercraft atmosphere makes it the sort of thing that will likely prompt curious family members to peer over your shoulder. The Switch version has fully voiced audio and does away with the text boxes of the orginal Steam / Apple Arcade release, making it look that much more sleek and streamlined.
Chill gameplay with surprising depth
In addition to exploring all the nooks and crannies of Arthurton and solving the occasional puzzle, you'll need to piece together clues and evidence in order to advance the story. This typically takes two forms — interrogating a character or investigating Jenny's surroundings.
During an interrogation, you'll be prompted several times to choose one of two dialogue options. Depending on which you pick, you'll alter Jenny's character, as indicated in the "Choosiness" tab of her journal. When investigating a person or an area, you'll need to scan the area for clues, pressing Y to zoom in with your trusty magnifying glass. It's reminiscent of the Connor sequences that were the strongest aspects of 2018's Detroit: Become Human — without all that Quantic Dream baggage.
While the function of the magnifying glass is usually quite clearly telegraphed, on a few occasions I found it wasn't at all clear where I should look next. Younger — or in my case, dumber — players might grow frustrated that there isn't a hint option after a couple minutes of head-scratching. While the "Case Files" section of Jenny's journal is clearly meant to prevent these kind of moments, it doesn't always live up to that promise of usefulness. Some little atmospheric cues and nudges would go a long way in these instances. That said, the vast majority of these puzzles shine with accessible whimsy and witty touches that will keep you eager to discover the next wrinkle in the case.
If you're a fan of the point-and-click genre and sharp storytelling, give Jenny LeClue: Detectivu a look. It's bursting with personality, a delightful escape from reality, and a dang good value at under $25 for the Switch edition. 8/10
Jenny Le Clue: Detectivu is out now on Nintendo Switch.
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