Chinatown Detective Agency Review | Gamer on PC

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What is that? A point-and-click adventure in a future Singapore.
Release date April 7
Developer General Interactive Society
Editor HumbleGames/WhisperGames
Multiplayer? No
Link Official site (opens in a new tab)

As a science fiction lover and a Singaporean, playing Chinatown Detective Agency was a rare experience. Shortly after entering this near-future version of my home country, it became clear that this game has two distinct layers, aimed at two distinct audiences: one is a point-and-click adventure for people who grew up with Broderbund’s Carmen Sandiego series. who took them all over the world. The other, although not mutually exclusive, is a game designed specifically for Singaporeans.

In 2037, the country has gone through the unthinkable process of deregulation, there is anti-government graffiti on the train, drones and droids are commonplace, and there is only one human librarian left in the country. You play as Amira Darma, an ex-cop starting out as a private detective in a run-down shophouse in Chinatown. As she takes on cases and meets with clients, Amira travels the world while pulling the threads of a much bigger and more dangerous mystery.

(Image credit: Humble Games)

At the most basic level, it’s really cool to explore your hometown in pixels – even a fictional representation pasted with the standard disclaimer that the game is a figment of the developers’ imagination (the government is notoriously contentious). It’s something Americans, Europeans, and the Global North will never understand because New York, Paris, and London (and to some extent, vicious Cold War-era depictions of Moscow and Beijing) are exceeded. In mainstream pop culture, Singapore’s Western claims to fame are relatively recent, namely the final season of HBO’s Westworld and Crazy Rich Asians, which was a movie for Americans. I can’t underestimate how important it is for CDA to feature a Singaporean dub with the local English accent, punctuated with snippets of singular and Malay, and he reigns.

Overall, General Interactive Co. achieves surface narrative that works for a general audience unfamiliar with Singaporean jokes and cliches, as well as more nuanced storytelling that taps into real hyperlocal knowledge: the culture of mega- Singaporean churches, class politics and our drinking water supply. Of course, on a broader level, these issues are not unique to Singapore – growing economic disparities and environmental decline are everywhere. The main plot isn’t rocket science – mostly tried-and-true dystopian tropes like rogue AIs, cowardly tech moguls, and all-pervasive surveillance. Much of history’s speculative embellishments are extensions of trends such as mass automation, the rise of unions, and corporatism.

(Image credit: Humble Games)

The gist of CDA is to Google for clues yourself – there’s a UI button to tab you in a browser.