A jaded private investigator teams up with her 12-year-old kid detective self to solve a mystery in The Grown-Up Detective Agency, a lovely bit of free interactive fiction. Bell Park doesn't know how or why her perfectly precocious child self is here, now, but who better to help crack a case involving her former childhood best friend? And who better to offer fresh perspective on her adult life? It's a funny little buddy cop story, and it made my morning.
In The Grown-Up Detective Agency, Bell Park is 21 years old and running her private detective agency from a desk in Toronto co-working space. Bell Park is also 12 years old, running a youth detective agency with her very own business cards and everything. Neither Adult Bell nor Kid Bell know why the kid detective has seemingly been sucked into the future, though mmmaybe it's connected to a new case brought by Kid Bell's best friend—who is Adult Bell's estranged former best friend. Kid Bell is going to learn a lot about herself.
Kid Bell is delightful. She's an archetypal kid detective: precocious, cocky, nosy, and largely oblivious to the adult world, yet insightful. If there's even a hint of crime afoot, a kid detective's gotta do whatever they must to solve every mystery and uncover every secret. Adult Bell, as an actual professional detective, is a touch more reserved. It's a great buddy cop comedy, crashing into a coming-of-age story as Adult tells Kid about feelings she's not yet confronted, crashing into twenty-something angst as Kid Bell draws Adult Bell's discontent into focus.
You can play The Grown-Up Detective Agency for free in your browser on Itch.io. I like it a lot! It's funny, it's silly, it's very gay, and it's sweet. I grew to care about these two weirdos across my 40-minute playthrough. Thinking of you, Bells.
It's made by Brendan Patrick Hennessy (who was also a narrative designer on Watch Dogs: Legion) with art from Beck Kubrick. Kid Bell's portrait in particular captures the energy of a kid detective delighted to be interfering with her stuffy adult self's life.
It's only now looking at Hennessy's website that I realise The Grown-Up Detective Agency is part of a series. It started with a Twine game we posted about in 2013, starring the kid detective, then continued across several more. I... think I played that? The second, Birdland won praise from Emily Short and a whole lot of awards. Well! I did not feel the presence of absences in The Grown-Up Detective Agency game from not having played (remembered?) the lot, and I am now excited to catch up on the rest of Bell's adventures.