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Have You Played... Crime Zone?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Crime Zone is a game in which you play ‘all of the cops’ at the same time. Created by thecatamites, designer of Space Funeral, it’s a first-person adventure game about cops and criminals, and the zone that they live in. It’s an urban melodrama, a noir thriller and an absurdist comedy. It’s an experiment in narrative perspective that just so happens to be the closest thing in gaming to The Third Policeman. There are many unusual free games on the bleached beaches of the internet but there are few that will live as long in the mind as Crime Zone.

Crime Zone is a miniature masterpiece – and if I’m uncertain about either of those words, it’s ‘miniature’. There aren’t many scenes or characters, but it’s a large game in many ways, expanding and regurgitating itself. Primarily, it’s an extremely erudite game, which might not be obvious at first sight, given its crude appearance. The use of perspective is ingenious though, deserving mention alongside the smartest of interactive fiction. Think the storytelling of Aisle, which uses a single action and a frozen moment to explore a lifetime of memories and possibilities, or 9:05’s assumption-shattering tale of the unexpected.

In Crime Zone, there are no narrative twists as such. The switching of perspective from one character (or set of characters) to another makes a labyrinth of the story, which isn’t really a story at all. The search for evidence, clues and solutions becomes a desperate search for an exit, and the realisation that every path leads to the same place, although perhaps through a different set of eyes, and from within the turgid soup of a different mind.

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Adam Smith

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