REVIEW: The Last Case of Benedict Fox

I wanted to like The Last Case of Benedict Fox so much. 

It’s an intriguing, Lovecraftian world where Benedict is forced to investigate the death of his own father, and he gets help from a demonic companion, whose symbiotic relationship remains a mystery. 

The pair is able to dive into the minds of the dead, entering a “limbo state,” which provides the metroidvania explorable spaces with tons of items to collect that serve as clues.

I like the art style, the atmosphere and the unique blend of metroidvania and point and click adventure elements. I appreciate when developers take big swings, and Benedict Fox feels like big swing. 

However, my playthrough has been plagued by bugs and performance issues. I had a hard freeze when trying to switch from Quality Mode to Performance Mode in the settings – a change I chose to make due to dealing with fairly frequent frame rate hitches (and my preference for high frame rates).

But Performance Mode was not a complete fix for the issue. 

It helped, but frame rate hitches definitely remained, even in Performance Mode. There was one particular area of the map that caused the frame rate to drop low enough that I always worried the game would crash when I passed through. Fortunately, it never did.

But frame rate inconsistencies were the least of my issues with the game. I got stuck in the environment once and had to use the save and exit option to reload into the area. That did get me unstuck, but caused some of the HUD elements to disappear. Closing the game and restarting it fixed this. 

I also had the D-pad and options button (that brings up the map and inventory screens) stop working randomly. I had to restart the game to fix that as well.

If you get around these bugs, the game was certainly engaging enough to keep me going as its central mystery unfurled. 

However, the controls are not nearly as tight as they need to be for both combat and platforming. 

Multiple times I ran into noticeable input delay. At one point, I was scrolling through a book and I hit the “next page” button, only for nothing to happen. Hit the button a few more times, but still nothing. Then randomly, all the “next page” button inputs happened all at once. I just put the controller down and watched the pages slowly scroll to get caught up, as if I had queued them up and just hit go.

That’s irritating while using a book to solve a puzzle, but it’s deadly when it happens in combat. 

Even when the controls are working properly, combat is just so-so. Benedict can hack and slash with a knife and fire off a round from a pistol (that’s recharged with melee strikes). Enemies felt spongey in that I often had to hack and slash repeatedly to take one of them down, but pistol shots tended to one hit kill most enemies. Meanwhile, enemies hit hard enough that Benedict can only withstand a couple of hits before death, and sometimes those couple of hits happen all at once as enemies line up to take a swing, and they let those attacks fly simultaneously.  

The combat got frustrating enough for me that I delved into the settings to find an easy mode, which that game does offer. I switched that one, and it enables one-hit-kills on most enemies. 

Then I noticed the game also offers an invincibility option for people who don’t care about the combat and just want to keep the story moving. I enabled the option and never looked back.

The 2.5D visuals looks nice, but tended to be a detriment to the action. I took many hits from enemies I couldn’t see because they were standing in just the right spot to be hidden by the environment. These sorts of cheap shots continually happened and continually made me glad I was playing with invincibility turned on – otherwise I knew I’d be facing some frustrating back-tracking only for another potential cheap shot to occur.

Puzzles were also occasionally obtuse enough that I enabled a setting that allows for auto-solving of puzzles with a single button press, providing you have all the required items.

Some puzzles are less puzzle and more hit a sequence of buttons. I “solved” one of these to open a door, and never felt the need to do it again. I auto-solved every other door that needed to be opened this way.

I can definitely appreciate that these sorts of accessibility features are offered and don’t lock you out of getting achievements. However, it did hurt my appreciation for the game because I was only barely participating in half of it.

The jumping and platforming also ended up being a point of occasional frustration because the game doesn’t have a traditional double/triple jump.

To make use of the game’s more fantastical elements, the double jump is tied to a monstrous tentacle popping out of Benedict’s body (courtesy of the demonic companion that serves as helper and advisor to Benedict along the way). It grabs the ceiling and pulls Benedicts upward, or grabs a ledge and pulls him forward, to give the effect of a double jump, without being a true double jump. 

The problem with this is that not every area you want to double jump in, for the purposes of platforming or avoiding enemies, has a ceiling to grab. That means sometimes you can double jump as expected, while others you expect to be able to double jump and nothing happens. 

That, combined with the occasional input delay, makes for a frustrating time.

I’m willing to concede that a few performance patches could improve the situation, but it would take an overhaul to of the combat and enemies in the game to make it fun.

I hate to have to put it so bluntly because there are certainly aspects of the game I like, namely the story and atmosphere, but this game needed a delay for polish in the worst way.

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