We’ve had a bit of a mixed time with The Last Case of Benedict Fox. Every time we feel like we start to find a groove with the systems and puzzles, the games seems to go out of its way to hamper our enjoyment. Dig deep and there’s something to like about it, but we came away from our time with it sorely disappointed.
The crux of the gameplay is in a Metroidvania-style exploration of several areas, set within the minds of Fox’s dead parents. As we explore, we uncover more of the map, more puzzles and enemies, and areas we need to return to once we’ve gained a new power. Benedict gradually gains these over the course of the game, with some helping with traversal and others survival. As is the way with this style of game, we start off rather underpowered, and there’s a definite feeling that some of the early abilities could have been handy as a base starting point though it doesn’t take too long to gain them in the grand scheme of things.
We must admit to be immediately hooked in by the presentation of and the story set-up. It’s all very dark and brooding, with enough mystery and intrigue to get us invested early on. The use of colour and some very cool looking visuals also helps, with Benedict exploring some neat looking areas across his travels.
Sadly it’s here where we come to some crossroads in our time with Benedict Fox. For every cool location or neat section, there’s annoying or downright frustrating decisions. Let’s start with the biggest peeve for us – the puzzle system.
There are several difficulty modes within Benedict Fox that allow us to customise different aspects such as combat and puzzles. We started on the default difficulty as we tend to do, and it wasn’t long before we were presented with a puzzle that absolutely stumped us. At a certain point we’re given an item that can have up to four symbols lined up within it, which allows us to open certain doors. In and of itself, fine. But, the device is only partially functional, and we get no help in knowing which doors it will currently work with.
We spent an age flitting about the map, only to end up resorting to trusty Google to find that the solution was only possible at one door, and the actual solution itself was incredibly well hidden within the random images on the door itself. We appreciate the dedication to the detective work aspect of Benedict Fox’s character, but this did not endear the game to us as much as I’m sure it was intended. Once we realised the kind of shenanigans we were up against things got a tad easier for a time, although there are multiple different types of puzzles to crack throughout the game.
We got stuck on another particular puzzle later on, and after using our knowledge of the tricks Benedict Fox plays, we spent a good half an hour trying ot crack it. Eventually, we decided to see what the easier difficulty might offer, so toggled it on (thankfully this can be done at any time). An auto-solve option appeared, so we pressed it only for the game to tell us we didn’t have the necessary parts to solve it yet… All fine and dandy if you’re into that, but we just felt duped by a system working against us. This auto-solve does come in handy to whizz through repeated puzzles, though we do also wish it showed us the solution so we could have a try at the next one ourselves. As it is, it solves it and opens the door without showing us how, so we end up relying on it as the puzzles get harder.
It’s not just the puzzles we found to be hit and miss. The combat and traversal are both pretty dire too. Fox has access to a melee and flare gun to start with, and can be bolstered later on by moves involving the Companion, a demonic presence that has inhabited Fox. These are a welcome addition as Fox alone is pretty useless against more than one foe at a time. There’s a clunkiness ot the combat that meant even when we were powered up we still tried to avoid fighting where possible. We can only upgrade ourselves by collecting dropped ink from foes however, so we have to engage in order to get better. We need to deposit this Ink at the various quick travel points before we die though, otherwise we need to traverse back to our body to regain them – or lose them entirely if we die again. This is a common practice in a lot of games now and it’s fine, but there’s a fine line between risk/reward and just annoying and Benedict Fox falls too far to the wrong side of it.
He has access to a double – and eventually triple – jump thanks the Companion, but this is implemented in a way we’re not keen on either. It acts as a tether or sorts, so in order to do the extra jumps we must have a surface at least parallel to, or preferably above, us for it to latch on to. We found this to be wildly inconsistent in how well it worked, with repeated sections offering different outcome – one hop up a ledge might be good, other times we’d miss entirely.
This is even more evident in the games chase sequences; poorly timed and implemented sections that took far too many tries thanks to insta-kill fail states and the clunky movement not affording us the mobility needed to react quickly enough to danger.
It’s not all doom and gloom mind, as we did enjoy the sheer amount of side quests and things to find on offer in the sprawling dungeons. If this game gets its hooks in, then there’s plenty to explore and find. The story is intriguing too as we mentioned, revolving around Fox’s family heritage, creepy cults, and otherworldly beings. While we came away underwhelmed overall, there’s certainly something here that could be refined into something possibly great if given the time to breathe.
Unfortunately our time with Benedict Fox came to an end abruptly as we got incredibly unlucky and hit a bug that halted our progress right at the end. While this hasn’t factored into the final verdict, we weighed up restarting and completing it but don’t feel a replay was either warranted to form our verdict or indeed likely to improve our opinion overall.
Overall, we came away pretty underwhelmed with The Last Case of Benedict Fox. While there are seeds of good ideas here, the package as a whole just throws up too many hurdles for us to look past in order to seek them out.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.