It’s something of a surprise to say but many of this years’ best independent games have come from Apple Arcade.
Sayonara: Wild Hearts, Beyond a Steel Sky, Beyond Blue, The Last Campfire – to name, but a few. One that also seems to have slipped under a few radars is the story of Jenny LeClue.
The game has recently released on consoles and is a perfect match for Nintendo Switch, in particular. The game’s striking visual style beautifully pops on Switch’s larger screen, while also fully supporting touch screen – something of a surprising rarity for the console. Most importantly of all, though, it’s also a really entertaining video game.
The game tells us a story within a story as an illustrious writer – the creator of Jenny LeClue – is falling on hard times and many books deep into his beloved series, critics are saying he’s beginning to lose his way and it’s time to put the series to bed.
Determined to prove everyone wrong, he crafts a story that is sure to get the world talking, suggesting in the opening pages that his beloved protagonist is – in fact – dead. She’s not, of course, but it’s a pretty powerful opening gambit to get you hooked and it leads to a string of some of his most complex, involved mysteries yet.
Like, finding glasses on a woman’s head for example.
That probably makes the whole thing seem rather simple and plain, but the Sherlock Holmes esque way Jenny examines things, builds up a narrative through clues, then pieces them together to make her deduction is incredibly satisfying and enjoyable. She can also make multi-choice decisions through the game, some of which have an impact as you go through, but apparently will have more of an impact in the game’s second part.
The game is broken down into several smaller cases – all tying into the same narrative. And as the story develops, so we learn more about Jenny’s difficult history with her Mom, in particular, while also getting a feel for her excellent investigation skills.
On the surface, you could argue Jenny LeClue is just a game made up of several smaller mini-games, all brought together by having Jenny move from place to place, occassionally examining things to paint a picture of the world around her and find hidden stickers to place on her notebook. But the story is very cleverly interlinked and it makes for – in my opinon – one of the best adventure games I’ve played this year.
The other thing Jenny LeClue manages to do is keep you hooked to your screen. Sure, it’s broken down into smaller cases – as mentioned – meaning it’s entirely pick up and play, but I challenge you not to burn through a good chunk of the content in one sitting. It’s so good!
There’s a really eclectic mix of characters, each with their quirks and nuances. Jenny is a really endearing lead, despite her seemingly pompous outlook on things she’s actually incredibly vulnerable. Her mother is a bit cold and distant, afraid to involve Jenny in things, while her best friend has a family legacy to live up to and is struggling under the weight of pressure. The sub-cast is also just as well written and presented.
I’ve played a lot of games with strong narratives this year, but Jenny LeClue really surprised me. Its Broken Age style aesthetic immediately sucked me in, but its presentation, structure, interactivity and story kept me through to the end.
If you’re looking to take a chance on a good adventure indie, with an entertaining story, Jenny LeClue offers a generously sized campaign full of twists and turns and clever gameplay hooks that you’ll really struggle to put down. I just hope this isn’t the last we see of this intrepid investigator. Fortunately, if the end of the game is anything to go by, it certainly seems like I’ll get my wish.
+ Well polished, user friendly UI
+ Rich and compelling story full of great characters
+ Gorgeous visual style
+ Broken up into nice, bite-sized chunks
– Why isn’t there more!?
– Hoped for a few more tougher puzzles
– Can feel a little repetitive mechanically mid-way through the game
Jenny LeClue is now available on Apple Arcade, PC, PS4, Switch and XO
Code kindly provided by Mografi
Tested on Switch