Over a year ago, Iskonsko Studio was kind enough to reach out and provide a key for the demo of their game: Trouble Hunter Chronicles: The Stolen Creed. Fast-forward to now, and they again reached out and provided me with a key to the full game. After just playing another Point & Click title recently, I was prepared to take on another prospect within the genre. Little did I know that my relative inexperience would end up making it a daunting, oft-times rough task.
Going into it again, the expectation was that it’d be rather similar to its demo build. To my surprise, the developers went above and beyond into making it a full-fledged world, full of characters and secrets. To equate it to something tangible, it’s like going from a single Legend of Zelda dungeon to playing the rest of the game. More to discover, interact with, and get stuck on is the common theme here. One’s fondness for puzzle-solving and inventory-tinkering will determine the game’s worth.
Story – Finding Remy
One plays an ex-OSS operative in post-war France, approached by a woman urging them to assist in finding “Remy,” the name that drives the game. This will send him on an ever-branching path into dark secrets and “crazy Frenchmen.” A majority of the game is dedicated to simply filling in the blanks brought on by a single question: “What happened to Remy?” Exploration, interaction, and slowly unveiling all of the map are what opens up more of the greater narrative.
Given the genre, the story does play a crucial point in providing motivation in continuing onward. Fortunately for Trouble Hunter Chronicles, it’s more of a minimal, though still enticing display of mystery. The player only has a limited amount of information, provided at the very beginning: Remy is missing, Remy is an old friend, and his apartment was ransacked prior to taking the case. Whatever happened to him, it’s sure to have substantial weight on other things.
There was never a point where I felt that the story didn’t do enough to keep things interesting. Though it may be ironic to state just afterwards that it’s partially because it rarely reared itself. A good mystery should always be picky on the details leading up to the big reveal; leaving crumbs for the player to follow is key. Never giving too much or too little, the game has sufficient bursts of true progress to keep things moving. Until it doesn’t—more on that later.
With a good mystery comes interesting characters, as well. While nothing too extraordinary is present here, many of the denizens of France have enough gusto to their personality to keep conversation engaging, if not generally straightforward. Your character isn’t one for idle chitchat. Most people within a scene can be interacted with, and can also provide subplots that may lead into what’s required for main-story progress. Some are more humorous, others are gruff. An orange vendor cannot and will not stop talking about his oranges, and then you can speak to an old widow who’s visiting her husband’s grave. The tone can be a tad polarizing, but the writing balances both extremes well.
Gameplay – For the Veterans
When I played the demo for Trouble Hunter Chronicles, most of what it consisted of was exploring two rooms and fiddling with inventory items. The full game ends up flipping the script somewhat—a majority now is exploring many rooms and rarely fiddling with your inventory at all. (At least initially.) What was nearly absent altogether from the demo that is now frequent here is character interrogation. Thus is one of a three-part gameplay loop: talk, travel, and tinker.
What one should expect here, coupled with the fact that this is a Point & Click, is that there isn’t too much asked of the player control-wise. Generally in first-person, one is browsing areas for things to interact with in specific areas, whether people or objects. Talk consists of chatting with locals for information and an idea of where to go / what to do. Travel has you going around an almost maze-like map that all slowly connects by the end. Tinker ensures that one’s inventory will be necessary at specific points, whether combining items or using items within the environment.
(Note: the “talk / travel / tinker” moniker is something I made up. It’s not specified this way in-game or in any game.)
Basically, it doesn’t strive to go above and beyond within the genre. Much like The Sundew, it’s more apt to replicating classics of old for the new generation. When it comes to its difficulty, too, this is especially apparent. And per my taste, one of the game’s most fatal flaws.
Veterans of the genre will feel right at home with Trouble Hunter Chronicles; those a little less inclined to the genre will be stuck—often. There were plenty of times where I had to consult Steam’s Discussion forums and the developer’s Discord for even vague clues of what to do in given situations. Some of them were my own lack of intuition, others I’d argue the game doesn’t explicitly state is even possible.
Among the talk / travel / tinker model, “tinker” is the least important for a great while, then at some point, it becomes absolutely crucial. Some things, if in the inventory together, will automatically combine so long as the player “uses” the correct one. Some of these combinations do not seem too reasonable, at least until after the fact. Some items I combine for a purpose I wasn’t even aware was a thing I was doing. At least in my (albeit limited) experience, randomly combining things out of frustration / desperation is rarely a good experience.
Other factors contribute to an otherwise back-and-forth experience between natural progression and trying to overcome hurdles of varying size. I can’t even count the times where I finally figured something out, just to realize it’s only Step 4 of Step “?.” Huzzah! I managed to talk some boys into helping me carry a crate to an old woman! But now the old woman wants me to open the crate… which I can’t do with my bare hands… Here I thought the puzzle trail was over, and yet it continues everlasting. Reminds me a lot of Graveyard Keeper—the path to the end is long and exhausting.
Though like the mysterious vibe to the story, the nature of the simple gameplay structure remains fairly addicting. I gave up often, yet still felt compelled to venture forward. In time, most things became clear, whether through dumb luck, random experimentation, or the ever-rare epiphany. It’s certainly one to satisfy those with a love for Point & Click at any skill level. Getting farther requires some very advanced insight, however.
Graphics & Audio – 1945 and 2021
Something that stuck out to me with the demo almost immediately was the fairly simple approach to artwork. Many things are simply linework with a single layer of color and some shading. Never too exquisitely detailed, it may come across somewhat amateurish. However, given the demo status, I gave it some slack. It did what it needed to do; the service to the gameplay is what’s most important. Now that the full game has released, there’s a lot more to look at and interact with. Unfortunately, some of it still replicates that too-simple feel of the demo.
More than anything, the artistic integrity is inconsistent. Character portraits in general are distinct and almost dream-like, with a lot of color-mixing and detail to them. A far cry from where it began. Environments, however, are occasionally pretty spotty. A lot of borderline unfinished coloring and pretty straightforward designs that don’t evoke too much emotion. They tend to clash with the otherwise fairly good character portraits. Yet even some character portraits look much better than others.
Animated segments are also present sporadically throughout the game—again, varying in quality. Some suit the general aesthetic of the game, but occasionally come across as choppy in execution. I appreciate the effort taken to make the game feel more alive, even if it’s just minute idle animations. It just needs more work to it.
Similarly can be said of the audio work, which, at its lowest, can outright break immersion. Trouble Hunter Chronicles, impressively enough, features near-complete voice acting. Almost every character one will come across will audibly speak lines present onscreen. What would be more impressive is if the acting was consistently good… it is not. Some actors are too flat, some are too loud or quiet. What’s most apparent is that the microphone quality was wildly different throughout. Some actors’ lines are so echo-y and offbeat that I wondered if they recorded off of their years-old phones. If there’s one thing about the game that yells, “This is our first work outside the mature audience field,” it’s this.
Trouble Hunter Chronicles: The Stolen Creed was reviewed on PC via Steam. A review key was provided by Iskonsko Studio.