BROK the InvestiGator is a unique mix of beat’em up and point-and-click adventure by COWCAT where you can choose to solve crimes and mysteries with your brain or your fists in a surprisingly deep and branching story.
Back to the Future
When I first started the game, I felt like traveling back in time. The art style of the game strongly resembles comic books or cartoons from the ‘80s and ‘90s and with the main character shouting one-liners like “Trouble!” and “I’d better get out of here!” it really looks as if you are watching a kids’ show. But that first impression could not be further from the truth.
The world in this game is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals who live in a futuristic dystopia. Their technological advances led to severe pollution of the planet and animals are divided into two social classes. The upper class lives in a city surrounded by a dome that is protecting them from toxic fumes. The less fortunate ones are forced to stay in slums, surviving only thanks to daily toxout pills.
Smash or solve?
Here, we find our hero Brok, a private detective, who struggles to make ends meet and provide for his stepson Graff. Brok used to be a boxer so it’s only natural for him to solve many of his problems with his fists. But he’s also very perceptive and compassionate and that gives the player all the tools to shape the main character and the story in many different ways. Every obstacle that the game throws at you has several solutions. Did you miss the clue with the door code? Easy, just break the door down. Do you want to hack into a computer but avoid harming an innocent person guarding it? No problem, you can find a clever way to distract them. You are free to combine brains and brawn any way you like but beware, every choice has a consequence and even a minor decision can have a major impact sooner or later.
The game offers 11 endings in total, with the first play-through taking about 10 hours. After the first ending, the game shows you your decisions, lets you replay from certain checkpoints, and even gives you hints on how to unlock different ending. Your ending depends not only on your crime-solving skills but also on how you treat the characters you meet. And even small details like a forgettable message at the beginning of the story can decide whether some characters survive till the end.
A day in the life of a detective
If you choose a mixed approach between violence and non-violence, the game will alternate between periods of gathering evidence, fighting enemies in quick bursts of action, and interrogation sequences, where you use gathered clues to gain more insight into a case or prove someone’s guilt.
The combat mode is accessible at any time by pressing a button that switches between fighting and exploring stance. There is a decent variety of combo moves and special attacks available, which are sadly not very well shown in the tutorial, only described in the menu. But after a while, you discover a VR arena, where you can practice your moves and fight any time you want. However, on normal difficulty, I was mostly able to win fights by just smashing the attack button and sometimes evading or backing away from enemy attack. The game offers a hard mode, where fights should be more challenging but also an easy mode, where you can skip a fight any time you want if you prefer just solving cases and enjoying the story.
For the “brains” part, the game offers quite an original system of clues. Throughout the game, there are hidden Ads, that serve as a collectible, but also as a currency for which you buy hints if you need them. On Easy mode, you can even skip puzzles but the clues are usually helpful enough so that you don’t feel the need to skip. The puzzles Brok encounters seemed mostly relatively easy and it’s more about finding the right pieces of evidence and putting it all together or figuring out how to help certain characters.
It gets a bit harder when you play sections of the game as Broks’ teenage son Graff who is doing trials at school. The game suggests that Graff is highly intelligent so the puzzles he has to deal with are more complex than what you have to solve when playing as his father. The characters and their life experience are really well written so when playing as a nervous and stressed-out teenager, you can even make Graff cheat. But of course, it can later backfire.
Some heavy stuff
The game deals with a lot of heavy themes. Social inequality, poverty, and bullying are just some of them. The world where Brok lives is quite cruel, despite being full of cute animals. Most of the time the game makes you question your choices, balance lesser evils, or makes you feel like despite your best efforts, everything comes crashing down.
However, there is still enough room for humor and silliness. You can start jumping on the bed of your client, which will make them question their hiring choices, or you can tell the bad guy who is about to crush you to “Please hold me tight!”. And if you work on relationships with certain characters, especially Graff, you can also get some truly heartwarming scenes.
All of the dialogues are greatly written, with truly awesome voice acting, the characters are believable and relatable and the story can really pull at your heartstrings. Everything is accompanied by nice music, nothing over the top, but it greatly complements the gameplay. I did not expect such depth from such a simple-looking game and if you are only looking at screenshots you are missing the beautiful soul of the game.
Work of love
The game is full of accessibility and quality-of-life features. You can clearly see that the developers tried to make BROK the InvestiGator enjoyable for as many people as possible. The game should be fully playable by blind or visually impaired gamers. The accessibility options are available right from the title screen, no need to browse menus to find them. You can choose from many options like full narration with audio descriptions, haptic feedback for the controller, puzzles and rooms adaptations, and much more. With no visual impairment, I am not able to appreciate the quality of these accessibility options, but there are dozens of steam reviews showing that blind players can truly enjoy this game.
What I can appreciate though, are many more details that show how much love was poured into this game. For example, in the menu, you can find concept art for the game with notes on how to draw each character for people making fan art. And there is even a place within the game where you can browse a gallery of selected fan art.
All the elements of the game, from writing, voice acting, and music, to the art style and unique mashup concept and attention to detail simply clicked together and created an immersive adventure definitely worth playing and also replaying.