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EGX Highlights: Loco Motive's witty, murder mystery point and clicking has won me over

Joke's on me

A man in a blue suit walks through a train dining car in Loco Motive
Image credit: Chucklefish

I'll admit I've been a bit sceptical of Loco Motive since it was first announced a little while ago. Any point and click adventure game that makes a bid trying to be funny like the good old days has a very real chance of being painfully unfunny in my experience (looking at you, Deponia), and I was worried that Loco Motive would fall into the same try-hard pile as other so-called comedy adventures that have come out recently (see also Turnip Boy - yeah, I went there, fight me). But having played a timed 20-minute demo of it at this year's EGX, I'll hold my hands up and say, yep, I'm the one who's been slapped in the face with a giant custard pie here, as Loco Motive is genuinely really quite good, folks, and I'm pleased to report the good old days are still very much alive and kicking. Well, except poor old Lady Unterwald, who carks it within seconds of the game starting, and whose murder you end up getting framed for.

The final game will have three playable characters at your disposal, but this demo put me in the bright blue suit of Arthur Ackerman, an estate lawyer who was handling Lady Unterwald's affairs until she unexpectedly bit the dust as the (very Orient-like) Reuss Express passed through a conveniently dark tunnel. He's one of those brawny, innocent dolts who thinks the best of everyone like a 6ft human labrador, and watching him semi-bumble his way through the opening police interrogation scene raised more than a few smiles and chuckles out of me, thanks in part to its witty script, but also its beautifully animated sprite work.

A man in a blue suit is interrogated by police in Loco Motive
Enter coffee boy Jimmy, stage left, and cue cop Lamont's existential crisis in three, two, one... | Image credit: Chucklefish

In classic adventure game fashion, this is ultimately a tale about picking up objects, combining them with other objects and then using them on yet more objects to achieve your objec(sorry)tives and solve Lady Unterwald's murder. But it's clear right from the off that developers Robust Games have poured a lot of love into making each and every interaction as vibrant and characterful as possible.

Case in point: to escape my police chains I had to combine a nearby desk fan with a rolled up newspaper to create a more powerful wind funnel to knock over the just-out-of-reach coat stand that had a golden pair of keys half-falling out of one of the pockets. Just using the fan will see Arthur's bow tie and Elvis-like bouffant wiggle and wave as he retrieves it from his Tardis-like suit pocket, but combine it with the newspaper and it will make the corners of his face whoosh back as well like he's standing in a wind tunnel.

Even better, when he stuffs the contraption back in his suit, his entire body does a rolling kind of shuffle as the air billows around his clothes. Alas, his escape attempt is merely a cleverly disguised tutorial to teach you how everything works, and after retrieving the keys and unlocking your chains, the cops return for more chat (although the reason they left the room in the first place was because Jimmy the intern coffee boy cop destroyed the tough guy interrogation vibe that the moustachioed Lamont was trying to enforce, and he has to go and have a pep talk from his colleague Bailey before he has a crisis of confidence).

A man in a blue suit walks through a casino carriage in Loco Motive.
Image credit: Chucklefish

Later on, when Arthur's back on the train (as he relays more of what happened to Bailey and a now emotionally fortified Lamont), he also ends up stuffing himself into a comically small sink cupboard in a bid to conceal himself from someone coming into their sleeper compartment, as well as deliver a sopping, perfume-drenched love note from a right old geezer to a totally uninterested lady dowager, pinching the corner with his pinky raised like it's some foul bag of human waste. It's truly lovely stuff, and every moment just oozes with style and slick exaggeration.

So I'm sorry, Loco Motive. I owe you an apology. You seem like a good egg based on your first 20 minutes, and I'll be keeping a much keener eye on you going forward as we wait for your as yet unknown release date.

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