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James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There has already been one attempt at taking a chunk out of the Professor Layton pie this year, and that came in the form of the extremely successful May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville, which was almost identical in terms of presentation style. Now, though, Ubisoft is having a go at taking down Level-5’s puzzle-fest with James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, launching on the same day as Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call in Europe.

James Noir’s Hollyword Crimes 3D is Ubisoft’s attempt at carving out an audience hungry for brain teasers on the Nintendo 3DS a year before Level-5’s fifth Professor Layton release hits Europe. However, with the backwards compatibility of the 3DS, it means that the superb duo of Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call, and V5 Play’s homage to Layton, May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville can both be thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish even on the new portable hardware. Therefore, if James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D was to ever stand out from the crowd, it certainly had to bring a spectacular amount of ‘wow’ with it. Unfortunately, despite looking promising from an early hands-on last year, this sleuthing puzzler, with a tinge of murder mystery, fails to ignite in the expected manner, barely moving past fizzling point.

Players take on the role of a contestant on a hit TV programme from 1961, The Incredible Puzzle Masters Show, which focuses on members of the general public testing their wits against all manner of riddles. After only the first round, though, an FBI agent who used to be a close friend requests your help with solving puzzles left behind by a serial killer. Unfortunately, as the story unfolds, all signs start pointing towards you actually being the culprit, with the old ‘friend’ believing that you are responsible for the slaughter of the show’s past champions.

The majority of James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D proceeds to play out in the form of the quiz show, with each round consisting of twelve different puzzles, not all of which need to be overcome to progress since each one has a specific score attached to it. When last week’s contestant’s score has been matched or surpassed, the round is over and there is a brief intermission whilst the murder scenario kicks back in. Sadly the over-the-top cheese of the game show, whilst done in an intentional way to mimic the time period, is really spoilt by the shockingly poor aesthetics. Hollywood Crimes tries the same approach as CiNG and Koei Tecmo’s AGAIN on DS, with real actors and actresses superimposed onto in-game graphics, but the animation is awful, with no lip-syncing and only a few set frames of motion-capture present, resulting in jerky movements throughout. Those who played the Tex Murphy detective adventures on PC will know the style well enough, but even those ancient games looked better than this on the whole.

It is not helped by both the shortage of scripted lines and the way they are poorly delivered, leading to cringe-worthy moments that can sometimes thankfully be skipped using the X button, yet rear their head again and again due to the resultant repetition that comes from the same scenes using the exact same lines.

In terms of the quality of puzzles included, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D is a mixed bag. Although there are some highly engaging efforts, such as using the gyroscope to slide boxes around a maze, locating specific patterns in the midst of many coloured blocks, and rotating 3D objects around to uncover hidden messages, there are others that are mere trial-and-error, giving the player no real sense of achievement upon completion. The other key issue stems from the fact that even though there are over 140 puzzles included, nowhere near that many are required to complete the story mode, and there is no incentive to return and complete the rest that are available via the menu screen due to far too many puzzles being exactly the same. Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call dodged this bullet expertly, with only a handful of re-skinned older offerings being found, but sadly that is not the case with Hollywood Crimes.

Finally, with the majority barely making any use of the unique 3DS features, including the actual 3D used in the game’s very own title, there are moments where it looks extremely apparent that this was a late-in-the-day Nintendo DS product that got re-fitted to justify launching on Nintendo 3DS instead. The story is merely passable, there is no real ‘action’ for the player to become involved in, nor any mysteries to solve, the visuals are weaker than expected and there are far too many puzzles repeated throughout. However, during the short ride to the credits, the work of puzzle veterans Oscar van Deventer, Andrea Gilbert, James Stephens, Tom Jolly, and the Grabarchuk family proves moderately entertaining, and the story does peak towards the closing stages. James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D is definitely not a total lost cause, but with May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville already out and Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call landing in Europe on the exact same day as this, there are far better alternatives.


The puzzles themselves have moments of genius, but there are far too many re-skinned ones and frustrations levels sometimes increase due to poor input on the touch-screen. Use of the gyroscope is a nice touch, and the story itself is passable, but after being spoiled by Professor Layton and May’s Mysteries it all feels rather lacking, comparatively.


Whilst some of the usage of 3D is impressive, the majority of James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes 3D is filled with lacklustre backdrops, poorly animated video captures of actors superimposed into the game, and some below average settings.


Some of the music is surprisingly haunting and atmospheric, yet in other parts it is slightly too cheesy for its own good, with the game going for the voice-over work. Whilst the acting is meant to set the scene, it is a little too hammed-up in places.


The box may boast ‘Solve Over 140 Puzzles…’ but to complete the story only a fraction of those need to be completed over five chapters, and there is no incentive to go back to finish the rest, especially given how far too many of them are basically the same, just visually tweaked.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


About this score

The premise of James Noir’s Hollywood Crime 3D definitely gets hopes high, with the idea of a puzzler such as Professor Layton, except in a world of crime and intrigue. However, the cohesion between conundrums and the average story is poor, whilst the variety of actual brain teasers is not wonderful, relying considerably on regurgitating the same challenge under a moderately different guise. Ubisoft’s stab at claiming some of the market share from Level-5’s immensely popular series could have been a positive one, yet instead whilst still enjoyable it proves to be a lacklustre alternative.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

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European release date TBA   North America release date TBA   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Ah, too bad. I'm getting a Zelda OoT 3DS and was looking forward to this one. Guess I'll wait until it's on sale.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

After trying this last year, I was really looking forward to it, but after playing May's Mysteries and recently completing Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call, I just found this to be severely lacking. It's not an awful game, by any means, but it just smacks of a late DS project that got a slight re-jig to plump it on 3DS instead, and subsequently suffered.

I hope it still manages to do well enough to warrant a sequel, since there's a decent foundation here to build upon. I've seen loads of adverts on bigger websites, so it seems Ubi's giving it a good push. We shall see on Monday how it performed when going head-to-head with the other three big releases, Rayman Origins, Prof. Layton and Kirby Wii!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Illbemuself,dan (guest) 27.11.2011 19:01#3

I thought it was crap. Saw the marketing push and cringed. Bargin bin bound, all the way.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I know what you mean - there were redeeming factors, though. I have to admit to wavering between a 5 or a 6, but it just felt like it scraped a 6 overall due to the final parts of the game that picked up somewhat.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
yoyoma or whatever you call that chinese guy (guest) 28.11.2011 07:30#5

I think that the only true noir game is the kyle hyde series :p

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I already miss Hotel Dusk/Last Window and the Another Code games. I really want to know what happened to CiNG after the bankruptcy...did Nintendo absorb them? Did they form another company?! We need to know!!

Anyway, on topic - James Noir's Hollywood Crimes 3D deserves moderate success at least because the formula a certain degree. There needed to be greater variety in the styles of puzzle, though. It really frustrated me reaching the game show section and having to face the board of 12 puzzles, only to find there wasn't really much choice - all variations on the same theme. Surely with the wide selection of puzzle masters mentioned in the review (gleaned from the credits, by the way, in case people were wondering), the development team could have used a great variety.

Ah well, notch it up as a missed opportunity and keep hoping that James Noir 2 comes out sooner rather than later, with less cheese, more puzzle variety, and perhaps even a little more interactivity with the murder mystery story (this game felt far too linear, with hand-holding throughout).

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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