Imagine a dirty, grimy city full of street scum, thieves, and murders.  What do they all have in common?  They want you dead.  A direct sequel from the last game, Red Johnson’s Chronicles, One Against All follows a private detective named Red that has angered some not-so-friendly people by solving crimes.  In doing so, he has earned a high bounty on his head.  While avoiding the many bounty-hunters after him, he discovers his brother has gone missing.  You must help Red find his brother while staying alive in a vicious city.

Following the idea of a private detective, the entire game gives off a very film-noir vibe.  The cut-scenes are in black and white, and the overall narrative is told in classic film style.  Half of the narrative is spent describing the grungy city, which is a uniquely film-noir technique.  It sets a great mood, with the colorful adjectives that Red uses and the implementation of quick remarks to his childhood pushing the dark narrative even further.  As one would expect, at certain points the music has a jazz-blues feel with a classic noir undertone; however, during the puzzles, the soundtrack is simply mysterious noise in the background, which is a bit of a let down.

The game, at its basic level, is a point-and-click puzzler. You are shown a scene and must move your cursor/joystick over the screen to discover clues. The scenes are creatively done with a mixture of materials and objects one would expect in a city. They always give a very dirty feel to the decaying city, which is the reoccurring theme in this game (remember: film-noir). This establishes the proper atmosphere, but it also means most screens look the same: dark, dingy, dirty, and gray.  Then again, bright and vibrant wouldn’t quite suit a game such as this.

You don’t simply find a clue, click it, and get rewarded with the next piece to the mystery.  Every clue is rewarded after completing a rather difficult puzzle. You have to ignore some of the randomness of the puzzles: finding the lock combination on the side of the safe you’re attempting to open seems like poor planning.  That aside, each puzzle has more than one step to complete to solve the overall puzzle itself.  The puzzles are very logical and flow well from one step to the next in a way that makes sense.  Find a box that needs a code, look around to find the code, unlock the box, get a hint, use the hint to unlock something else to receive a key, which will, in turn, help you uncover evidence. It’s very fluid; however, the steps can be aggravatingly difficult.  While they aren’t impossible, they can grow to become quite frustrating, to the point that you may find yourself shutting the game off.  To help with the difficulty, there is Saul, your friendly snitch who knows everything.  He is happily willing to sell you clues to help you complete the puzzles.  His clues are hit-or-miss at best, though: sometimes, they will tell you exactly what to do, but most of the time, you’ll hear something you already knew.

For example, multiple times you would use a UV light to discover secret writing.  That’s great, but you don’t know what to do after discovering it, so you click on random parts of the screen for ten minutes before you finally cave and give Saul some money to figure out the next step.  He’ll most likely respond with, “Try the UV light.” It’s moments like that which make you want to slam your fist through the TV.  A better help system should’ve been implemented; since it’s optional, it would only spoil the game for those that really needed it.  Also, upon completing each puzzle, you are given a grade based on how long it took to complete, how many tries it took you, and if any clues were purchased.  Those that want all A grades will do better to not purchase any clues.
Even though the puzzles are difficult, that isn’t necessarily bad.  They are certainly very creative.  Some are as simple as finding hidden numbers on the screen to discover a four digit code, while others involve communicating with Morse-code, or strategically placing pre-cut pieces of paper on a map to reveal a location.  What do a scrap of paper full of drawings, a child’s picture book of farm animals, and a computer all have in common?  That’s your job to find out.  Also, a quick warning: everything on the screen is fair game.  By the end of the game, you’ll be counting ceiling tiles just in case the amount may come in handy later on. While there is certainly a feeling of randomness and absurdity that draws away from any realism possible, there is also an amazing feeling of success after completing a difficult puzzle.

The game isn’t all strict puzzles to uncover codes or clues.  Part of the game involves interviewing people.  The game will prompt you with some multiple choice questions that you’ll have to provide the correct answer to succeed in the conversation, whether that means showing the correct evidence or pointing out a hole in someone’s story.  Sometimes this is very straight forward and logical; other times it feels like guess-work.  This isn’t the only thing that breaks up the puzzle solving.  There are also cut-scenes with some unforgiving quick time events which will often grant you a literal second to press the desired button.  They feel a little random in a point-and-click type of game, but there aren’t enough to truly get in the way.

Another major downside is that once you start a puzzle, you cannot save while solving it.  Some puzzles may take a very frustrating twenty minutes of experimenting to figure out a majority, only to stump you on the last part.  You want to throw in the towel for now and come back later, but turning off the system will make you start all over, which means you have to stick with the puzzle until the end.  It wouldn’t have been that hard to implement some save system in the middle of a puzzle.  The actual story of One Against All isn’t that good either.  The film noir vibe is pretty clear, but it also gives off a feeling that the game is trying too hard.  The dialog is supposed to be witty and snappy, but it just doesn’t feel right, often times leaving you to wonder what the character is thinking to say such a thing.  You also never feel for the characters that much.  Red desperately trying to save his brother while risking his own neck in a corrupt city should’ve raised a little more feeling. There are clear moments where you’re supposed to feel sad, worried, or anxious, but it just never quite happens.  The overall story has a plot twist here and there, but you don’t feel involved enough to be drawn into it.  The game is about eight hours long, with practically no replay value, but that isn’t so bad for only being 9.99 USD / 800 MP.

Final Verdict: Red Johnson’s Chronicles- One Against All doesn’t have the longest play time, greatest story, or best visuals.  None of those are good reasons to purchase this game. The only decent reason to spend money on this game is to solve some challenging puzzles. Everything else is ultimately forgettable.

[xrr rating=6/10]

This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Red Johnson’s Chronicles  – One Against All developed by Lexis Numerique and distributed by Lexis Numerique.

About The Author

Neil has had a passion for video games ever since the Atari entered his life so many years ago. He's been writing about them for over two years and sees no end in sight. Reach out to him on twitter @nconnors13