Developed by:Crackpot Entertainment Published by:Gamecock Genre(s):
  • Puzzle
  • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
  • Handhelds
  • PC
  • Cost:$29.99 ESRB Rating:EVERYONE 10+ Players:1 Release date:March 11, 2008 Reviewed on:DS


    Anxiously awaiting Insecticide’s release, I couldn’t help but judge a book by its cover:  The art style in the screenshots and cover picture I’d seen almost had me convinced it was time for the world’s next Psychonauts.  Developer Crackpot Entertainment’s debut on the DS, however, is no Psychonauts – despite hinting towards it much more than once.

    Detective Chris Liszt, that fetching four-legged gal on the cover, is on a mission to unlock her past, which is inseparably linked to a rash of crimes and the gang leader responsible for them.  As Chris fights and detects her way through 20 missions, she’ll reach farther and farther back into her childhood as she races to put an end to the bizarre crimes being perpetrated throughout her home city of Troi.

    Oh, also the world is inhabited by giant bugs and they all emulate Dashell Hammett and Humphrey Bogart.

    The first thing that threw me about Insecticide was its dichotomous gameplay.  Half the missions play like any slightly-above-average platformer, in which Chris runs and double-jumps from place to place while shooting bad guys, dodging their bullets of goo and chasing far-off mastermind villains.  No complaints here; it’s a tried-and-true formula for successful attempts like Super Mario 64 or Psychonauts.  The other half of the missions play like classic puzzle-adventures Myst or The Journeyman Project, in which you’ll gather clues, talk to witnesses, and use ridiculously illogical combinations of items and their placements to point-and-click your way through.  Sometimes they’re so confusing they can only be described as Macgyver-esque.  In one early mission, I had to remove a paper clip from a television commercial script to pick open a treasure chest, which would have made sense had the clip not broken off in the lock and the game told me it was now impossible to proceed.  Then I had to use the broken paper clip on the hinges of the chest to open it.  WTF indeed.

    I enjoyed the platforming elements of Insecticide – the combat and maneuvering incorporated the D-Pad, buttons and stylus well.  After a brief learning curve I felt right at home sidestepping enemy gunfire and kicking insect butt around my city.  But those detective scenes…man.  I felt like I was reliving some of my most frustrating moments in Riven or Police Quest 4 and I haven’t played either in over a decade.

    Another song of praise I must sing for Insecticide is that it overcame one of the biggest issues I’ve always had with DS games: having nothing to do with the screen size, I always feel like the worlds I’m in are so tiny I could walk off the map any second.  Many of Insecticide’s outside environments felt large and not the least bit confined.  I feel like Crackpot’s level design really gave me the impression the city I walked in was a full city – not the half-block at a time I was looking at.  Besides that, it still looks really nice: textures aren’t award-worthy but get the job done, characters look unique and memorable, and weapons are cartoonish and at times almost Seussian.

    For fitting on a DS cartridge, Insecticide has a surprising amount of voice-acting.  It’s not fully voiced from top to bottom, but the cutscenes are and in-game there are plenty of short voice clips to keep the world alive.  The music is cool and noir – very stylish and fun.  Some curious jazz will glide around a scene you’re investigating, reminding me of Twin Peaks, which is never a bad thing.  The only problem is that some of the sound effects, just a few, sounded a bit mediocre in comparison.

    Insecticide’s two halves aren’t totally unlike anything you’ve ever played before.  If you like good platformers and dentist-painful Macgyver puzzles, you’ll feel very familiar and right at home.  I was impressed by its unique concept and execution, which was refreshing and hey – at least it’s not just trying to be Halo, Brain Age or Grand Theft Auto.  Also, Insecticide does manage to introduce some fun new weapons ideas and a smooth mixture of adventure and detective work.

    Having eked through the puzzles and blasted through the action stages, Insecticide is a lot easier to play through a 2nd time.  Once you’ve got the answers to the puzzles, they don’t become boring – they become tolerable.  They also become what they should’ve been the first time: an interactive segue between platform fun.  I didn’t play through all the way a 2nd time, but I definitely got the feel that the puzzles weren’t as excruciating and the action was just as entertaining.

    In the end, Insecticide is alright.  It’s not going to blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s not horrible either.  The overall style delivered through dialogue (text and voice), sound and visuals is complemented nicely by the decent platforming, but those puzzles are like root canals.



    Good platforming, bad puzzles.



    Looks solid, character design is cool. I like the scale it manages and the grimy mood, but some bland textures.



    Great music and voice acting, but lukewarm sound effects.

    What's New:


    Definitely an original concept, weapons and style, but all-too-familiar platform/puzzling overall.

    Replay Value:


    Not many unlockables, but you may want to give a 2nd run-through once you’ve gotten those puzzles down.

    Final Score:


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