Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily Review

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Hidden object games from Artifex Mundi have slowed down of late, and we won’t deny that we miss them. There’s something in the meeting of pulpy storylines, easy-as-pie graphic adventuring and hidden object scenes that puts us at ease. Who knew that we could be given a mental massage by messy rooms and a shopping list?

Artifex Mundi tend to have a number of ongoing series at any time. You can imagine them stroking their chin, looking at the many storylines that they have, wondering where to place their latest. Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily looks at first like it might buck that trend: there’s not been another game with the Crime Secrets prefix. But this has the same protagonist and mechanics as the 9 Clues storyline. Treat it as a rebrand. 

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We won’t lie, we were a bit disappointed to find out it was another 9 Clues game. We’ve had relatively few Artifex Mundi hidden object games in 2022, and 9 Clues has been three of them. For the sake of variety, it would have been nice to go elsewhere. And, if we’re being honest – the 9 Clues series has, so far, been a bland old affair, with investigation mechanics that veer towards duff. 9 Clues might pretend that you get to be a crime scene investigator, but they make us feel like we’re as clever as a bottle of luminol. 

Well, the good news is that the CSI stuff has been given a slight glow-up. The bad news is that Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily is as painfully generic as what came before. 

In Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily, you play a private investigator getting a spot of R&R at a winter retreat. But if Artifex Mundi have taught us anything, it’s that anyone who’s off-duty can expect to be quickly caught up in all sorts of shenanigans. So, you’re pootling along on a country road in the snow, when a police car hurtles past. But there’s a mysterious figure in the road wearing snow goggles, and both you and the police car swerve to park in a nearby ditch. We can reveal that, if the police car had run over the spooky dude, this would have been a much shorter game. 

As the unnamed private investigator, you follow the footprints of the policeman and the mystery man, only to find that the poor policeman has been encased in ice. Your suspect either has some magical ice superpowers, or carries a weapon that can kill with a single icy touch. The murder scene is in the grounds of a mansion which – rather inexplicably – has its own police station, journalist’s office and others, making it a kind of campus. Logic isn’t Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily strong point. 

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There are plenty of suspicious professionals in the mansion, either fainting or twirling their moustaches, and it’s pretty clear that you’ve wandered into a B-rate Agatha Christie novel. You need to find the killer, all the while knowing that one of the four people you’ve met is going to be the person behind the mask. But the private investigator trusts them all completely, putting herself in situations where she could be captured or killed with utter ease, and so she does (get captured, that is). You will spot the killer well before she does, and you might consider a career as a private investigator as a result. 

It makes for a pretty painful story experience. A murder mystery is only fun if the mystery is somewhat difficult to solve, and if you respect the abilities of the Miss Marple or Poirot solving it. Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily also manages to confuse and convolute a pretty simple plot. There’s more backhistory and double-crossing than is needed, and the plot started to sound like noise in our ears. 

Luckily, the puzzling comes to Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily’s rescue. It’s all exceptionally easy, even in hidden object terms, and the achievements have been sandpapered down to such a degree that you will find it very hard not to finish with 1000G. But there’s a smooth flow through the entirety of the game, from the hidden object scenes which are more sparse and easy to read than in other titles, and graphic adventure stuff that rarely gives you more than a few rooms to play in. Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily likes to empty your inventory periodically so you don’t get too confused. It’s the most simplified and basic of all hidden object games, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. 

But the crime-scene investigation is still there, hanging over from 9 Clues. It starts in the same way: you enter a room that’s clearly been the scene of a nefarious event. Your first task is to highlight all of the evidence of a scuffle. Even without the help that the game gives you, this would be mind-numbingly easy: you are clicking on overturned chairs, torn curtains, spilled files and anything else that looks messy. But Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily comes to your aid, like a sidekick arriving after a fight has happened, hinting where each element is. It’s all rather snore-inducing. 

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What happens next has been improved, and it gets a thumbs up from over here. The sequence of evidence is presented in a row, and it’s down to you to put them in chronological order. In the other 9 Clues games, this would have been benign and repeated, because each piece of evidence has the same ribbon-like background, and you just had to line up the same pattern of ribbons. I’ve watched enough Cracker to know that crime-solving isn’t about tying up ribbons. In Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily there are still ribbons, but the pattern of the ribbons changes with each scene, so you’re not relying on piecing together the same jigsaw puzzle every time, which is nice.

Everything else fits the hidden object formula, with one exception. There’s no necromancer kidnapping a damsel to complete a sacred ritual. At least Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily ignores that one surprisingly common trope from other hidden object games. But the same minigames turn up that you’ve played umpteen times before, from the puzzles that are a bundle of knots that need to be untied, to the map of nodes, where you have to connect every node without re-crossing a path once. It’s like an Artifex Mundi Greatest Hits playlist. 

Having played virtually every hidden object game, we’ve built up an imagined league table of them. In that regard, Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily would be mid-table, occasionally threatening to drop into a relegation battle. While Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily gets points for its absence of sticking points, and its determination to improve the deduction sequences, it keeps missing out thanks to its creaky storytelling and pervasive blandness that felt like we were being force-fed dry toast. 

If Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily is the start of a new Artifex Mundi franchise, we’d like to stick a tentative hand up and ask that we feel more like a detective next time. 

You can buy Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily from the Xbox Store

TXH Score

3/5

Pros:

  • Scenes are as prettily painted as usual
  • Lacks any issues and is difficulty-free
  • Crime scene sequences have been improved

Cons:

  • Story is a convoluted mess
  • But still manages to be predictable
  • Not once do you feel like a P.I.

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Purchased by TXH
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – 16 December 2022
  • Launch price from – £12.49

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