There’s been a murder. Actually, there’s been a series of murders. Everyone has turned to the cynical, disgruntled detective-for-hire Gallo for help. Why didn’t they go to the police, you ask? The police aren’t entirely interested in this particular case of serial deaths, because the victims are all, well, plants.
All of the town’s plants have suddenly collapsed in what could be the most heinous crime ever seen: mass herbicide. It’s up to Gallo and his plucky assistant, Thorn, to solve the case using some of the most unconventional methods of puzzle solving seen this side of Tim Schafer. You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to care enough to solve this mystery, but you will need a discerning eye, outside-the-box thinking, and plenty of patience to get to the bottom of this dastardly deed.
Everybody Needs a Favor
Rule #1 of Detective Gallo is that everyone needs something from you before you can investigate. The only character who doesn’t ask for some quid pro quo is Gallo’s informant, who is available at any time via speed dial. You need to get a photo from the candy store owner? You’ll need to get something to replace it, and it better be romantic. You want to get someone to paint a wall mural so you can get the photo? First, you’ll need to make a paintbrush (duh), find some paint, and, oh, rob a vending machine for him. This example is one of the more simple favor trains in Detective Gallo‘s world.
There are some complex favor trains down the line, but the more complicated series of errands come from completing one little favor. In other words, acquiring or creating one particular item can be more involved and time-consuming than completing a long list of favors. Naturally, it doesn’t help that these specific items take some Monkey Island-style reasoning. Detective Gallo doesn’t require anything as crazy as fork + spool of thread = star map or potato + shoelace = helicopter, but it comes dangerously close.
To be fair, I expect this from a point-and-click game. They’d be incredibly short without some padding, but the trick is to make the padding not feel like padding. Detective Gallo unfortunately does not fall in this camp. Perhaps if the requests weren’t so ridiculously outlandish, it would be a different story. But, when you need to find a way to get a toddler to give you his mask with the retractable tongue because you need the tongue to make your own mask, and it requires asking his mom for advice, then obtaining 365-days worth of sweets by first making up with the candy store owner, which requires asking for love advice from a talking cactus, then making a fake rose smell like a rose and smell like loneliness, it’s hard to NOT roll your eyes. By the way, getting that retractable tongue is only part one of building your own mask.
That said, however, no matter how crazy and/or frustrating a puzzle gets, that ah-ha! epiphany erases most of the anxiety built up. Now you’re not aggravated; you is smart.
Not Many Places to Flock to
Gallo starts off with only five places he can visit, and the number eventually gets to around nine. The limited number of environments results in a lot of backtracking.
I admit, it is nice to not have to traverse three different worlds to find that one character you need to give a pie to, so you can get a fork to take to someone else in a different world, which means you can finally get the last piece of whatever contraption you’re building. That said, having only a few places to go almost makes the backtracking more boring. How many times can I talk to this same character to get something new out of them? The answer is a lot, and it is a situation that comes up with multiple characters.
I nearly lost it when I learned I had to talk to the wholesaler about bartering yet another ridiculous deal. I hung my head whenever I saw someone new talking to the candy store owner, because that meant I was going to have to talk to them yet again. Do I have to go back to the aqueduct for something else?
It’s one thing to have to backtrack a lot in one level in a world in a point-and-click game, because you always have another environment to look forward to. It’s another entirely to see the same few areas repeatedly with the same dang characters.
Don’t Count These Chickens Before They Hatch
The story is almost as complex as the puzzles are, which nearly makes up for the game’s shortcomings. Predictability is the worst thing that can happen in a good murder mystery, even when the murder victims are plants, and Detective Gallo has none of it.
You, and even Gallo himself, are left guessing until the very end of this whodunnit. In fact, the lead suspect changes often, breaking up any tedium the current path has created. It’s this story, along with Gallo’s biting cynicism, that will carry players through to the end. It also helps to have some stubborn determination as well.
Detective Gallo has most of the telltale signs that this would be a great point-and-click adventure—on paper, anyway. The cartoonish art style, the dark sarcasm, (most of) the puzzles, and the unpredictable story all heavily suggest this game has the makings of a hit. It’s unfortunate that a few bad eggs spoil the experience a smidge.
Detective Gallo PS4 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.