‘The Last Case of Benedict Fox’ Is A Demon (And Puzzle) Filled Mystery Game

This game blends elements of mystery and horror. It's an ambitious (if sometimes frustrating) twist on the Metroidvania genre.

“The Last Case of Benedict Fox” blends elements of mystery and horror. Plot Twist Games

It is not for the weak of heart—or stamina. “The Last Case of Benedict Fox,” just out for PC and Xbox consoles from Poland’s Plot Twist Games, can be quite the challenging Metroidvania. That’s the name given to a style of game that’s a puzzle-rife, tunnel-filled mashup of Nintendo’s Metroid sci-fi series and Konami’s vampire-ridden Castlevania series. Metroidvanias are rarely filled with intricate plot points, because they generally rely on nimble play— jumping from one platform to another, fighting many creeps, and carefully combing through each area to collect useful items. But “Benedict Fox” boldly tries to twist the genre with its nuanced story.

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Benedict Fox himself is a lanky, red-haired detective. He’s filled with anxiety by his search for family secrets, and in a game that blends elements of mystery and horror he encounters demons—both his own and evil spirits. You begin your foray as Benedict in an ornate three-story house and then descend into limbo itself. (The whole game seems to be influenced by the words that lie above the gate to hell in Dante’s Inferno: “Through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people.”) But first you’re shown a montage that includes images of tanks firing in battle and a frame or two featuring a secret society called Ordo Ira Dei. That’s Latin for the Order of the Anger of God, which plays a part in this graphically alluring 2D experience, set in the Roaring ’20s. Moving from left to right and up and down, you’re followed by a creature with piercing eyes and a voice out of the Exorcist—a demon sidekick that comments upon many of your discoveries, including the corpse of Benedict’s father, found during the game’s first half hour.

Benedict Fox begins his search is an ornate house full of period furniture, doom and darkness. Plot Twist Games

These gloomy mansion scenes are well rendered—full of period furniture, doom and darkness. You’ll find a record to play on a gramophone (there’s a terrier puppy sitting next to it, an homage to the RCA Victor mascot, Nipper). And there’s a radio broadcasting a bluesy swing number with unintelligible, but definitely evil, banter running beneath it. You can’t get out of the mansion without solving many puzzles, but to save a few controller button clicks, the game will finish a brainteaser for you—if you’ve collected the required items. Finding them can be excruciatingly hard. Still, if you’re not scratching your head during a Metroidvania game you’re not fully experiencing the painful joys of the genre.

Eventually you pass into a cellar—except the space is not a cellar at all. It’s an ooze-filled limbo where an inky monster tries to take you down. This enemy assails after a brief tutorial on how to fight with a knife or with a flare gun, and strategy comes into play soon after when a cadre of small, fiery monsters attacks: the developers have limited you to one flare shot, and you have kill about five other enemies to replace it.

As the action descends into an ooze-filled limbo the graphics shine. Plot Twist Games

The imaginative graphics shine down here, in this sad, wild world. Tendrils in the black ooze come for you. The platforms you cross seem to be rotting. In the background are windows—some broken, some shut, some leaning at odd angles—suggesting the surreal anxieties of Dali or the agonies of Dante. At one point you pass a dream sequence, almost like viewing something out of Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride: a man sits woefully on a bed as a woman quietly leaves. Is it the aftermath of a torrid affair?

Every now and then you get a groan-filled snippet of plot from your demon sidekick. You want to know more immediately, but first you’ll have to collect evidence hidden in the tunnels of this limbo. The fun of solving a fascinating mystery can turn to frustration if you get stuck and lost. (I did.) The story is compelling, but the game’s difficulty can interfere with the pace. The occasionally sluggish controls also take some getting used to.

A noir mystery is something I will almost always plow through, especially if it’s scored to the music of the roaring ’20s and adds in the thrilling fear of stalking demons. The artwork here is probably some of the best I’ve ever seen in a Metroidvania, second only to the lush, magical environments of 2015’s “Ori and the Blind Forest.” Still, it takes too much time and effort for the “The Case of Benedict Fox” to unravel its tale. Such blustery headwinds are detrimental to the brilliance of everything else here, and that’s a shame.

‘The Last Case of Benedict Fox’ Is A Demon (And Puzzle) Filled Mystery Game