I love games where I get to play detective, finding thematic or narrative connections in seemingly unrelated item descriptions or the testimonies of NPCs. Chinatown Detective Agency doesn’t quite manage to fulfill that fantasy–surprising, given its title–but it still delivers an engrossing experience with investigations that require real-world sleuthing. I remain a bit bewildered about the implied importance of a few of the game’s mechanics, but its cases are thrilling for how each tests you on your research skills and problem-solving.
Chinatown Detective Agency sees you step into the gumshoes of Amira Darma, a former INTERPOL agent striving to break free from the bureaucratic nonsense and go freelance as a private investigator. The game takes place in 2037–10 years after a global economic collapse. Automated drones have displaced most of the jobs for the low and middle class, and corporations have commodified previously government-controlled services (what could possibly be morally wrong about a country’s water being sold to citizens via a tiered subscription service with each subsequent level improving upon the quality?).
It’s a bleak worldview of a broken future–a world that’s thematically and narratively juxtaposed against the brightly pixelated neon of Singapore, one of the few countries in the game that hasn’t completely gone to shit and where Amira sets up the titular agency. Though your investigations will take you to other countries across the globe, Singapore is where most of Chinatown Detective Agency takes place.