You’ve probably never heard of Detective Hayseed before, even though he’s been starring in games since 1998. This is the cartoon Detective’s first outing in America (as best as I can tell), but previously the good Detective has starred in at least five other games released in the Czech Republic. The adventure games by developer Zima Software are called Polda (or Cop in English) and Detective Hayseed: Hollywood is actually the sixth one in the series. Don’t let that fact concern you, this particular entry feels perfectly stand-alone.
Detective Hayseed makes his US debut with a decidedly American story. It’s the day before the prestigious Oscar awards show and someone has stolen the list of winners from the academy. Hayseed sets out to recover the list (at the request of Barack Obama) but quickly finds himself embroiled in a much more sinister plot with revenge motives that date back generations. Despite being so embroiled in American pop culture the game’s plot and writing do feel decidedly foreign, from the humor, to the sometimes awkwardly constructed/translated sentences, to a frequent and bizarre reading of the word “cache”.
Perhaps the game’s biggest asset is its art direction. The backgrounds are hand drawn and super detailed. The characters are a mish mash of 2D and 3D rendering that gives them a great look and some very nice and fluid animations. That same polish doesn’t quite carry over to the game’s audio. While it is fully voiced and features some fairly decent acting some of the production values leave a lot to be desired, particularly moments where characters are speaking from far away or from the other side of doors. I appreciate an attempt at realism by making a character on the other side of a door sound muffled, but here everyone sounds like they were just recording in their closet. Normal dialogue is fine for the most part, so the entire experience doesn’t suffer all that much.
I am honestly not entirely sure what age group this game is aimed at. There’s enough mature subject matter that I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate for children, but simultaneously there’s an abundance of slapstick and potty humor that would probably be perfect for a younger demographic. This is after all a game where your first task is literally to “excite a cock”. The game did somehow garner an E rating from the ESRB and proudly advertises that it contains “jokes for all ages”, and I’m trying not to be a prude here, but there’s literally a part where you interrupt a nearly naked man who’s been abandoned in the middle of a bondage session.
The core gameplay is built around a point and click adventure model which from a difficulty perspective is too easy, actually let me clarify that a bit: the game does not really require you to think all that much, something that’s normally a staple in the genre. There are numerous design decisions in place that streamline the point and click adventure formula, but these same decisions also wind up completely killing the difficulty in the process. For starters Hayseed’s adventure is separated into segments and locations that you can’t traverse at will. You’ll start in Hayseed’s home and have about three screens to explore before leaving, never to return again, this is the pattern for the rest of the game and this compartmentalized approach means that you’re never more than two screens away from the solution to whatever puzzle you’re working on. You visit a ton of locations, but the world always feels too small.
Pressing the space bar at any time will highlight all of the objects that you can interact with in the environment. If you’re holding an item at the time you’ll see any areas it can be used highlighted as well. I like this design choice because it eliminates the sad excuse for a puzzle that so many adventure games fall back on where you’re basically just scanning for a small hard to see item. But much like the different sections of the map this feature also pretty much robs the game of any required logic, any time you find yourself stuck you can just start pulling out items one by one and pressing space bar to see where they go.
The game has a decent runtime to it (for an adventure title), I breezed through as quickly as I could and left almost half the achievements untouched, with my final playtime clocking in just around 5 hours.
Ultimately I think what we have here is an average to somewhat below average (and far too easy) take on the point and click adventure that’s somewhat elevated by the game’s charm and curious sense of humor. Detective Hayseed is no Leisure Suit Larry but there are certainly times where he does a decent impression. Ever since I reviewed The Inner World a few years ago I’ve been inundated with adventure games, and Detective Hayseed might actually be the best non-American one I’ve reviewed for the site. I’ll let you determine how much weight that statement actually holds.