Not too long ago, I heard somewhere that you never want Bill Kurtis to narrate a story on your life, because then that means you’re likely dead or in jail.
Bill Kurtis is synonymous with the news, and stories of crime and murder. I’ve been following his career ever since I started watching him on Investigative Reports, American Justice and Cold Case Files on A&E; all fantastic shows that no longer air on TV (at least not where I live). Kurtis’s cool delivery of anything he is given just makes the story that much more interesting. I often find myself on YouTube and beyond looking for those old shows.
Imagine my delight when a recent gaming road trip dug up the coolest gaming find ever: a game starring my favourite news anchor, Bill Kurtis!! And to boot, it was based on one of my all-time favourite crime shows, Cold Case Files! Well, you know I had to buy it!
One challenge I faced, however, was that the game was made to play on Windows XP. I have had some issues with compatability of PC games in the past; Still Life, The Cameron Files and more recently, Myst come to mind. This past Christmas, my hubs had Frankensteined an old Windows XP machine from parts his dad had in his work room that I could use to play these old PC games. That computer’s motherboard has since bit the Big Byte, so I’m back to tricking my Windows 7 machine to make my old games work. Cold Case Files: The Game, unfortunately, was no exception in refusing to play upon install. Window XP compatibility did not work. In the end, I adjusted the screen resolution to 800 x 600, and the thing ran like melted butter. HUZZAH!!
The voice you hear when you first run the game is…Peter Coyote??! This A&E produced game tacked on a ten-year-old unskippable commercial for Cold Case Files (the show), advertising “All New Cold Case Files – Tuesdays at 9/8 central on A&E”, voiced by Peter Coyote. Where’s Bill Kurtis??
Then, Cold Case Files: the Game starts with a short montage, which then opens to the game’s menu, looking very similar to Cold Case Files the show’s title screen. The menu is where you have access to your profile, options and cold cases. The game gives you six cold cases, plus one bonus case once all six are completed.
The start of each case gives you an animated short to set up the story, with Bill Kurtis narrating. Then, you start the case in the Chief’s office; you playing the role of rookie detective. Your boss tells you what you need to do next. You then are given a file to study and an evidence box to sift through. Locations to check out will be added and as you interview suspects or analyse samples, more clues will be added to your file that you can read later. The Cold Case Files game is predominently a point and click adventure, heavily story based. There is very little in the way of puzzles in this game. You click to choose dialogue, you click to go to a location or execute lab analyses, but not much else. The stories themselves hardly constitute as cold cases: basically a suspect says he didn’t do it, and then to quote Bill Kurtis: “…The trail ran cold.” Okay, I’m only half joking, but there were a couple of cases where it seemed like the police decided to take a trip to Tims for a Jo and a Timbit instead of looking into the case further. Lastly, Bill Kurtis lends his voice to each story’s introduction and conclusion, but nowhere else. Still I was glad for that, as it really tied up the Cold Case Files experience.
I know it sounds like the game was sort of sucky, but actually, I enjoyed Cold Case Files a lot. It’s a short game (only 2 hours for six cases). The one thing I enjoyed was that the game very much followed a logical flow to how one would go about investigating a crime – check the files, read up on the suspects, interview suspects. And after you gather all the evidence, you are given the choice to arrest one suspect. It is then that you find out whether you solved the case and get promoted, or the suspect walks and you get demoted. My suspects all got prison terms the first try, and in the end I got promoted to Chief! Gee, I got so good at it, it almost made me want to join the police academy to become a detective! Once you finish the game, you are supposed to be able to download a bonus case, but A&E no longer has it available on the web. The game is just too darn old, I guess!
About the only real critique I have for Cold Case Files: The Game is the graphics are a little funky. The characters are rendered with barrel chests and eyes that pierce right through you, which can be a little unsettling. Some of the characters look downright hilarious! Who would have thought Bruce Jenner’s likeness would be used to play the role of a suspect’s ditsy girlfriend? Thankfully, Bill Kurtis’ likeness wasn’t rendered graphically in this game, ’cause I can only imagine how THAT would have turned out*…The voice acting for what it’s worth, wasn’t bad. The music in the game reminded me very much of the Cold Case Files show, using mysterious and ambient music to set the mood; I thought it was quite good, actually. And lastly, the game ran smoothly without glitches, which is great for a game that is ten years old.
All in all, I started this game not sure what to expect, but I enjoyed the nature of the gameplay and recommend it to those who like simple crime investigation games with a little Bill Kurtis on the side. Cold Case Files: the Game is rare to find in-store, but if you find a copy, I highly recommend you pick it up.
*Rendered so lovingly on a 2000 episode of South Park…
Cold Case Files: The Game (PC)
Developer: Activision / A&E