Of all the hour-long crime dramas on TV right now, NCIS is one of the most action-packed. That should make for a great game, right? Unfortunately, devotees of the television show NCIS will likely be disappointed by the prime-time drama’s foray into the App Store.
NCIS: The Game is an adventure game with five mysteries to be solved, each of which is supposed to play out like an episode of the show. You get to play as NCIS Agents Gibbs, DiNozzo, McGee, and David, as well as Forensics Specialist Abby Sciuto and Chief Medical Examiner Ducky Mallard. Most of the characters are almost photo-real, though the unsettling facial animation makes them look a bit creepy when they talk.
To solve each mystery, you play several minigames. There are three types of minigames: interrogation, lab analysis, and crime scene sleuthing. Every mystery contains one or more of each.
The lab minigames are by far the most interesting. They let you do things like match molecule pieces to create toxicology results, and examine a corpse for injuries. These minigames actually make sense and can be quite fun.
The others, however, are not as interesting. In the interrogation minigame, you’ll have a conversation with a suspect or a witness. Instead of selecting the questions asked, you choose whether the NCIS agent will use a friendly, neutral, or aggressive approach to gradually fill the onscreen meter. If you have items in the inventory, they can also be shown to the suspect to make them talk.
There is a certain correct order to these interrogations, and if you make a mistake, you must try again. If the game wants you to select aggressive and you select friendly, it makes you repeat that part of the conversation over and over until you select the right technique. This can get boring, and there is often no way to know which method should be selected. This trial and error approach is not much fun.
How about passive-aggressive?
Trial and error also plays a large role in the crime scene sleuthing as well. Each crime scene contains a certain number of clues. You must tap on items to examine them and determine if they are the clues you are looking for. Some are very obvious, and others take some careful thought.
What becomes annoying is that some things that look like clues, like suspicious stains that may be blood, are in fact irrelevant, while other things that look innocuous are actually clues. This leads to lots of random tapping to move forward in the story. Making the clues look more like actual clues would help the gameplay a great deal.
Even with all its problems, NCIS: The Game is very easy and quick to play through. but this might put off seasoned adventure gamers or regular fans of the show. This game is probably best for people who’ve never played an adventure game on the iPad. Beginners can use this as a stepping stone into a great genre, while hardcore gamers should probably take caution.