like my favorite metroidvania games, Benedict Fox’s Last Case is built around solving a mystery. It may go too far in its attempts to be deeply mysterious, especially in its first half, but the engaging puzzles and troubling art direction draw you in, even when the mediocre combat and platforming mechanics get in the way of the fun. comes The Last Case of Benedict Fox has an interesting story wrapped up in an interesting world of supernatural intrigue that I want to learn more about. It just takes a while to fully uncover its best parts.
In The Last Case of Benedict Fox, you play as the titular detective who breaks into a strange manor to investigate a ritual he’s supposed to perform. The answers he seeks, unfortunately, reside in the minds of a young couple who are now dead. Thankfully, Benedict is joined by an Eldritch-like demon, who grants him supernatural powers, including the ability to move into the minds of those who have freshly died. Going into Limbo – as Benedict calls it – transports you to a realm of vast mind palaces, each filled with deceased nightmares, insecurities, and traumas transformed into physical monsters. As you explore further and further, you find the memories you need to unlock new parts of the manor in the real world and piece the ritual’s steps together.
If this all sounds a bit intriguing and leaves you with a lot of questions, that seems to be what The Last Case of Benedict Fox is going for, densely packed without the build-up necessary for you to fully understand. Leaves in layered condition. , The game keeps its cards very close to the chest, unfortunately — going so far as to hide the entire first half of the game about what exactly the ritual Benedict is researching does and why he’s looking for it. Is. The plot veers into confusing territory for much of the first half of its runtime in intriguing and mysterious ways. It makes for an intensely reluctant opening, setting up a story and character motivations that are difficult to parse with names, dates, lore, and jargon thrown at you quickly in the way of explanations. Once you manage to find a way into the game, The Last Case of Benedict Fox begins to decently answer some questions, giving you all the more reason to explore its intriguing Lovecraftian-inspired world. But it still takes a very long way to get there.
Which is a shame because, as it turns out, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is built on a fascinating world and deep lore that’s begging to be uncovered, a winning recipe for a Metroidvania game. which maintains a traditional focus on genre exploration. Once you’re encouraged to go out and map the hallways of people’s dying psyches, there are plenty of cool supernatural threads to pull, all styled in a world that somehow Colored from realizes how heavy its narrative becomes. Each part of Limbo is more hauntingly beautiful than the last. I especially enjoyed how the mind of the people you’re jumping into informs each level’s unique layout and environmental puzzles. One moment you might find yourself running through a maze composed within the logic of a scientist, for example, as the rhythmic clock of his dying brain transforms space with a regular rhythm. And then the next, you’re diving into the mind of a woman who died at the end of her emotional rope, with pools of poison, echo-lined walls, and the remains of her mortally damaged core.
Exploring these locations is vital to solving the final case of Benedict Fox’s many environmental puzzles, which are the primary means of progressing in the game. Early on, you learn that Benedict needs to find three pages, each detailing a step in the ritual needed to separate him from his partner. The pages are scattered about the manor, requiring a little research on your part, because whoever designed Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City Police Station was apparently also the architect of this manor – it’s made of an assortment of locks. is filled, each hiding secrets that allow you to further explore the manor or uncover more of the story.
The keys you need are in the memories of the people who once lived in the manor, which means you’re regularly diving into the dying minds of those who once lived there to uncover its secrets. Can uncover Is there a piece of paper with notes on it that you need, but it’s burnt beyond recognition in the real world? Go into the mind of the person who last saw it, and locate the part of their brain that represents their repressed guilt and anger at that moment. Does it take three strangely specific keys to open a locked door? Better dive into the mind of the nearby dead body to see if he remembers the key that you can bring with you back to the real world.
A wide variety of puzzles exist within the Limbo world as well. I’ve got doors that require me to play a chess match a certain way through, and combination locks where I have to take a picture of the clues with my phone to refer back to them when inputting the answer. Benedict Fox’s Last Case is no pushover when it comes to flexing your brain, but it never quite reaches the degree of difficulty that Brain Twins ever bothers with.
In true Metroidvania fashion, there are also locks tied to abilities. They come in two forms. There are certain obstacles in the world—numerical locks and miasma walls—that can only be overcome by unlocking upgrades to Benedict’s equipment, which require you to find specific items in Limbo. Additionally, Limbo has locks – such as breakable floors and demon-coated doors – that only your demon companions can overcome, requiring you to have tattoos made of blood drawn from enemies. Along these parallel paths, you’re rewarded regularly, whether it’s for discovering new areas and equipment upgrades or overcoming enemies and collecting enough ink for a new tattoo. That said, as enjoyable as it is, the fighting comes down to exploring Limbo and uncovering the secrets hidden in people’s minds.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox is routinely dragged down by cliched and clunky combat mechanics. Benedict is designed as a careful fighter – his repertoire in combat includes a simple counter, slow melee, a flintlock-like flare gun, and a slow recovery mechanic. These mechanics don’t match the speed of the enemies Benedict is going up against, as most enemies are quite agile and hit hard and fast, meaning you’ll often find yourself in quick succession when attacked by more than one enemy. Will be overwhelmed by This creates a frustrating loop in which you’re regularly punished for Benedict not being able to react anywhere near fast enough to enemy attacks and you have to bang your head against the same challenge over and over again until Happens unless you get lucky. This.
Platforming gauntlets are also quite the speed-killer. At certain points in the game, Benedict will set off in a chase, where failing to escape your pursuer results in instant death, sending you back to the start of the run. It doesn’t matter if you die at the beginning or near the end; Failing to execute every jump perfectly during these sequences puts you back at square one—in some cases, it’s a tense platform of about a minute. These sequences wouldn’t be too jarring in a true platformer, but The Last Case of Benedict falters in how poorly its jump mechanic adapts to platforming challenges.
And that’s a shame, because here’s the thing: I really like how the platforming works in the game — Benedict’s demon companion can use his shadowy tentacles to latch onto nearby platforms and slow Benedict down. does to pull forward. It’s visually creepy and narratively cohesive, explaining how a normal person can double jump. But the floaty and imprecise nature of these jumps doesn’t match the speed and precision required for a platforming chase sequence — like the combat mechanics, there’s a troubling disconnect between what the mechanics are and what the game is setting you up to do. is disconnected.
In response to its shortcomings, The Last Case of Benedict Fox has a number of excellent accessibility settings, allowing you to customize the degree of difficulty for combat, puzzles, and exploration. You can make combat more difficult, for example, where enemies take enough hits to go down, or go the opposite and lower the challenge so that every enemy (even some bosses!) takes a hit. Or be defeated in two attacks. There’s even an invincibility mode, which combined with the easy combat setting, essentially removes combat from the game entirely. When I tried playing the game this way — while also amping up the challenge of the puzzles and exploration so that I really had to dig into every nook and cranny to find the clues I needed — I actually started to enjoy the game more.
On their own, these approachability systems are great for making The Last Case of Benedict Fox more welcoming to those who struggle with any of the three main gameplay pillars, but they also clearly highlight Let’s say the competition is holding this game back. When you only have to worry about the puzzles and exploration side of the game, it streamlines the whole experience and makes it easy to pay attention to detail in the story and art direction.
Benedict Fox’s last case is one of my favorite flavors of Metroidvania: the kind that keeps you guessing until the very end as to what’s really going on. In the first half of the game, it goes too far in setting up its mystery, but the narrative payoff in the latter half partially compensates for this. This is the kind of game where having a trusty notebook on hand is a good idea because the world design and puzzling story – though wonderful – aren’t going to do much to guide you beyond hinting at a possible path forward. The combat and platforming don’t quite match the game’s intriguing story and wonderful Lovecraftian-inspired art direction, but the game includes ways for you to change up the gameplay experience to make it more approachable.