Emily Whiteley has a lot going for her: she’s a young, beautiful, rich heiress surrounded by loving and loyal servants in her mansion in the center of London. The catch? Her parents were brutally murdered, and she’s the only witness.
While doing her due diligence as the Head of House Whiteley, Emily attends Queen Victoria’s birthday, where she decides to ditch her faithful butler and chase after two mysterious boys. As it turns out, these boys are none other than Herlock Holmes and William Watson Jr., sons of the famous crime-solving duo. After helping them find the Queen’s missing cat to avert a diplomatic crisis (yes, cats have that much power in society), Emily is given a special ring by the queen herself and invited to join an exclusive school for aspiring detectives.
Emily makes quick work of becoming friends with an array of characters such as John Lupine, Jack Millers, Sara Marple, and more as they investigate everything from petty crimes to the grizzly murders committed by Jack the Ripper. But Emily decided to go to Harrington Academy for more than just enjoying a simple school life. She witnessed her parents’ murder, though the rest of the world believes it to be an accident, and Emily will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.
Like most Otome games, London Detective Mysteria has five potential love interests: Herlock Holmes, Watson Jr., Jack Millers, John Lupine, and Akechi Kogoro. Each boy has a good ending and at least one bad ending, and the game also includes a couple of ‘charmed’ endings where Emily chooses friendship over romance. A common route is shared between all the love interests and is filled with choices to make.
There is a screen where you can see how high your affection with each boy is based off of the decisions you’ve made, and at the end of the common route, whichever boy’s affection meter is the highest is the ending you’ll get. Each boy’s individual route typically includes about three to five additional chapters focusing on that love interest and the overarching plot associated with him. To put it another way, this plays like any typical otome game.
One of the mechanics London Detective Mysteria introduces is timed choices. Each choice has a countdown, giving you about ten seconds to decide what you want to do. Sometimes there are only two choices to decide between; other times there are as many as five. Players can also choose to not pick any of the options and just let the timer run out.
London Detective Mysteria also introduces a way to record voiced parts or lines to refer back to as needed. It’s set up to be like a detective’s notebook, allowing you to look over the clues in each case before making your choice during a timed decision.
London Detective Mysteria is a long game. With five routes to go through –at least two endings per route– and a series of epilogues for each love interest, plus the “Grand End” and accompanying epilogue, there’s no shortage of stories to read. For players who love mystery novels, there are quite a few Easter eggs to find. Not only are Holmes and Watson in the game, but also characters from other famous mystery series appear as well. This feeling of being surrounded by famous detectives and criminals really helps set the tone for a 1900’s London scene. The artwork for a lot of the backdrops is also really well done, especially the main shot of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
As much as I wanted to love this game, I didn’t. At all.
Emily is the type of girl who talks big, but ends up being saved at every turn by the men around her. Why, you ask? Because her brain cells are too occupied with reminding her to breathe that they can’t spare a moment to tell her not to run off a cliff. And the boys? Well, let’s just say each of them is a broken edgelord in their own right. Though you only get a couple of chapters to develop their characters after you wade through a common route long enough to choke on, they make sure you’re aware of how broken they are. Which is very. They are very broken.
Most of the story felt like a Mary Sue character was dropped into a typical Japanese High School Rom-Dram setting that wasn’t sure if it was more drama or comedy, so it decided to throw in a healthy dose of both. In one scene, the characters are talking about how Jack the Ripper shredded a prostitute’s ribcage open to paint a wall in her blood, and the next they’re joking about how John Lupine keeps tripping over his own feet, or they’re deciding which tea would be appropriate for their midday tea time. (Seriously, I lost count of how many times they discussed teas and cakes, and which teas go best with which cakes, and how too much cake will make you fat.)
All of this leads to a sweeping under the rug of the main plot point: what the hell happened to Emily’s parents? I can get past the idea of all these famous and oh-so-clever characters going to a special school just for detectives and becoming friends despite not having a single thing in common, but this got me. Every so often a snippet of information would be brought forward, and this usually happened at the weirdest moments, causing an abrupt change in tone that just didn’t sit right with me. But even with those snippets, once Emily discovers she’s crushing on someone, all of her previous declarations of finding her parents’ murderer/becoming a famous detective/taking over as Head of the Whiteley family/restoring the family name to its previous glory goes out one of her mansions’ windows. (And that is mansions, plural.)
While I liked that the game introduced mechanics I hadn’t seen before, they felt more like a chore than something fun or interesting. The timed events were a pain while trying to platinum the game, since there are quite a few times where you have to let the timer run out to unlock what felt like hidden scenes. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which timers needed to expire, and I can honestly say I would never have been able to complete the game without a guide I found online.
At a few points in the game, if you choose the correct answer during a timed event, Emily would receive a ‘detective rank up’. After completing the game in its entirety, I’m still unaware of what this was supposed to do. There were also choices at the end of almost every chapter that had no bearing on the game whatsoever, except to give you items that did nothing.
Another quirk of the game is the changing art style. For the most part the art style is consistent and looks like other games or anime from 2013. Most of the CG’s have a soft style that avoids harsh points or lines in the characters, but suddenly you’ll be shown something that looks five years newer. At one point, one of the characters’ designs seems to have changed overnight, as if the original artist got tired of drawing him or her and a second artist had to take over. The lack of consistency –especially towards the end of the game– made it feel unpolished, despite there being little to no grammatical errors.
Lastly, and what cemented London Detective Mysteria as my least favorite Otome game I’ve played to date, is a horrible glitch that should have been caught in testing. When you’ve beaten the first route and start a second one, the game has an option to skip to the next choice in the game instead of forcing you to relive dialogue you’ve already seen. While this is great in theory, half the time I tried to use the feature the game froze. I would have to restart the game and redo everything again. I finally started saving after every choice I made once I lost a good hour or two of game play in the course of platinum-ing the game. How I didn’t bash my head in after the fourth or fifth time I was forced to begin a route from the start because it froze again, I’ll never know.
I understand that this game is six years old, and I appreciate it for what it is. But London Detective Mysteria isn’t about to win any awards from me. While the setting and base story line was able to hook me in without any trouble, the presentation and storytelling were severely lacking in my opinion. The game sets itself up for a sequel, but unless something drastic changes, I don’t see myself getting it if it ever releases.