The twisted landscape of Limbo in The Last Case of Benedict Fox.

the last case of benedict fox review

the last case of benedict fox review


In Benedict Fox’s final case, mysteries abound, including a couple on the loading screen. One is why a game installed on an SSD like this needs a loading screen at all. The other is that it leaves you staring at a blank wall where you can scroll around for no reason. Until then, you scroll far left to find a section overlaid with photos and scribbled notes summarizing the story so far.

However, if that explains what you’re seeing, it’s still not clear why your perception of the Benedict Fox Detective Wall is focused on one corner of the bare brick wall in the first place. There’s no “aha!” moment to uncover the truth. This is very strange. The answer, you’ll learn, is that this Metroid revels in the obtuse and unintuitive, starting with an approach to storytelling that seems keen to keep you in the dark. Remember, not in the Dark Souls way, with subtle world-building that pulls you into it, but in a way that feels like something is wrong.

(Image credit: Plot Twist Games)(opens in a new tab)

Like its clumsy narrative work, everything about Benedict Fox’s final case feels a little out of place.

The plot here is clear, the year is 1925, occult magic abounds, and there is a divide between dabblers and those who think it’s troublesome. However, the details of who is who and what exactly they want aren’t easy to follow, especially since the factions involved are unhelpfully named Orders, Organizations, and Occult Societies. They’re also not officially introduced at the beginning, so when characters start babbling about them, you might wonder if you accidentally skipped a crucial cutscene.

As for our Benedict, he’s alongside a ghostly demonic entity known as the Companion, who aids him with dark magic. It’s revealed that Benedict has put in considerable effort to track down his mysterious and haunted father whom he never knew, and when he finally arrives at the old man’s house, the game officially begins, only to find him dead. So what happened to Dad, his second wife? Well, thanks to a companion, Benedict has the ability to use Dad’s dead body to enter Limbo, the hellish dimension filled with the memories of the dead, where most of the adventure takes place.

What follows is a fairly standard mix of combat, platforming and forging through a map full of obstacles that require key item or ability upgrades to break. You’ll also have to return to the house from time to time to visit the handful of characters that have gradually gathered there, throwing in handy advice or offering you various boosts once you spit out some of their favorite currency.

So far so good. Yet, like its clumsy narrative work, everything about Benedict Fox’s final case feels a little out of place. Sometimes this is positive–for example, turning the mundane process of opening a locked door into a fun, multi-part puzzle. You begin by encountering locks engraved with runic symbols, and throughout the first half of the game, you collect items and knowledge that help you unravel layers of meaning until you decipher the entire system. Here’s a little secret to unravel.

crazy mountains

(Image credit: Plot Twist Games)(opens in a new tab)

But almost nothing else in the game fits together so logically, leaving a trail of exasperation and unfulfilled promise. Even the visual grandeur of the house and Limbo, a spectacle of twisted beauty, grinds in time. Initially, it’s fascinating to watch typical genre locations — crumbling mineshafts or caves cut by streams of noxious slime — littered with detritus of everyday life, like old couches, paintings, and iron doors, subtly flying into the environment. While there is visible imagination here, the clutter fails to conjure up any distinct sense of place, and the intrusion of some writhing tentacles in the background isn’t enough to make the surreal far-fetched. In fact, it’s never quite clear what kind of atmosphere the game is going for with its cartoony take on Lovecraft.

The monster’s design is also less likely to induce insanity. In the form of zombie stick figures, pudgy pixies and hovering squids, they can hardly scare Scooby-doo. However, their combat is maddening due to the sloppy rules of engagement of the fight. For example, some lurk around the edges of the screen, ready to serve you a purpose before you even know they’re there. The others huddled together in a jumble of torsos and limbs until it was almost impossible to parry and knife them in time. They can chop off all four of your precious health points in quick succession, leaving you no time to react between hits.

(Image credit: Plot Twist Games)(opens in a new tab)

It doesn’t help that Benedict always feels prone to glitches, as he bumps erratically on sloping surfaces, or sometimes dramatically transforms into a ragdoll upon contact with enemies.

Platforming is less lethal, but it’s also no more refined. Most of the time, it boils down to a double jump and then a triple jump, as none of your other navigation upgrades require skill or judgement. Yet somehow, even within such narrow limits, Benedict Fox’s Last Case struggles to establish a satisfying experience. It doesn’t help that Benedict always feels prone to glitches, as he bumps erratically on sloping surfaces, or sometimes dramatically transforms into a ragdoll upon contact with enemies. But most importantly, the double jump requires the Companion to shoot out tentacles to grab a wall or ceiling and pull you up, which means you suddenly can’t do that without such a lock-on point nearby. More of needlessly obtuse.

Even exploration is hampered, a structure that divides your journey into smaller chunks. Each segment of Limbo quickly ends with locked doors and inaccessible passages that dot the map with question marks. During your adventures, you’ll spend a good portion of your time scanning these, trying to figure out which ones are accessible after you find important items or gain abilities, and then teleport back to places you’ve already been. With any luck, you’ll open another small piece and collect other useful stuff there. Or you carve out a new path, only to hit another obstacle almost immediately, and be back on the map where you went. This wasted journey is doubly tiresome considering that the routes to and from teleportation points are often unnecessarily convoluted.

Amid all of this, Benedict Fox’s The Last Case has some rather interesting ideas in it, such as its ink upgrade system, which rewards valuable resources for killing monsters, but only once, eliminating any grind power. In many ways, though, this Dark Magic Metroidvania is an embarrassment of embarrassments, and if this is indeed Benedict Fox’s last case, there’s nothing to mourn. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall from the start.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.