"Detective Agency" is an unimpressive puzzle game that also tries to be a detective story (and fails).
The game consists of a strictly linear sequence of puzzles, which are very loosely connected with a detective story. Most of the puzzles show you a room with a plethora of items stuffed into it, and have you locate about 15 items in that room, which are indicated either by name or by (textureless) shape. Other puzzles let you rotate square pieces of a grid in order to connect the pipe symbols on top of them, order the numbers from 0 to 9 to match a hidden "code", turn knobs to pre-defined angles, play Memory and Solitaire, assemble a radio, or insert word snippets into a cloze text.
The detective story turns out to be very crude. The plot is not very logical, and the simple story is narrated bluntly and in broken English. The story begins with a friend telling you about a map that was stolen from a museum. The map is rumored to lead to a secret treasure, or, in the words of the game: "Legends claims that it contains some secret of a treasure." You, the detective, "turn to the case" and now need to "gather all the things".
The game then shows you the first room (your office) and gives you a quick tour of the interface. The room is crammed with dozens of objects. Some of those fit into a detective's office, but many others don't make sense at all in that context, like a large circular saw blade attached to a bookshelf. Several items are also placed in areas that couldn't realistically hold or support them, indicating that the puzzle was designed with little care or attention to detail.
Your task is now to collect "pieces of evidence attached to the case". The game does not even try explain why your office contains evidence for a case that you just heard about in a phone call. The "evidence" includes two gloves, a crown, a hat, a horseshoe, a boot, a butterfly, a respirator ... none of which have any connection to the story, or to anything else. The puzzles aren't always fair either: The "crown" is just a shadow on the curtain (there is nothing visible that could possibly cast such a shadow), and sometimes the game's language problems lead you up the garden path.
After the first room, the game continues in the same vein: Comic book scenes (which narrate an uninteresting story in broken English) alternate with puzzles. Some of the puzzles are nicely done, but most are as vapid as the first one. None of them could be called original.
The graphics are drawn in 16-bit, but that is sufficient for a simple puzzle game. There are no animations (unless you count the "falling down" of a correctly identified object as such). No scenes in the game can be called "beautiful" or even particularly interesting, as most of them show just rooms crammed with a random assortment of objects.
The sound is adequate for a simple puzzle game. The background music does its job, and so do the other sounds. A sound cue is used for the hint system, which is a nice idea.
The game is played entirely with the mouse. Buttons to get to the main menu and options are always available.
EASE OF USE:
The game is very easy to pick up. Whenever a new type of puzzle appears, the game explains that puzzle's interface (though the broken English can sometimes lead to misunderstandings). A hint system (consisting of a magnifying glass that emits a pulse sound, which gets quicker in the vicinity of a target item) prevents players from getting stuck. The game manages different user profiles and saves progress automatically. This aspect of the game is well done.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
The game has zero replay value. For a game that does not care whether its puzzles are logical anyway, some randomization would have been an easy way of adding some variety and replayability, but this opportunity has not been taken. On a replay of the game, you will be hunting exactly the same items in exactly the same scenes.
The discrepancy between the the advertised product and the actual game is uncomfortably large, so much so that I will now probably be a bit wary of buying other games from the same developer (Far Mills) or publisher (Game Factory Interactive).
The game is enjoyable as a collection of puzzles, but fails completely as a detective story. Even the puzzles aren't very original and have been done much better in other games. Due to the low difficulty level, the simple gameplay, and the in-game hint system, the game could have been a decent choice for playing with children, but the broken language invalidates that. Altogether, "Detective Agency" plays like an attempt to capitalize on a market fad with a minimum of care and effort.
The game still receives two stars because it installs and plays without any hassles, is easy to use, and contains a comparatively large number of different puzzles.