I have a confession to make: I love games that can creep the living hell out of me. There is a limit to how badly I want to be scared, but the tense atmosphere that games can provide are perfect for making me grin from ear to ear. From the expected horror favorites like Amnesia and Silent Hill to the unexpected “Do these even count?” games like Gone Home and Kentucky Route Zero, that slightly eerie atmosphere is probably what I most enjoy about video games. So imagine my surprise when I found a new game to add to that list which starred a (non-evil or demonized) young girl who was trying to help out her mother.
Aside from Kentucky Route Zero, which took up an inordinate amount of my weekend, the game I’ve played recently that had the best atmosphere was a playable trailer of Jenny LeClue Detectivù. Funded through Kickstarter, Jenny LeClue claimed that it would be a “choose-your-own-adventure game with choosiness on a massive scale,” and that was enough to have me forking over money to secure a digital copy of the game. The trailer was both clever and cute, but aside from the Kickstarter updates I was getting on the game, I didn’t really give it much thought.
Even when they had announced that there was a playable teaser available for people to try for free, I kept forgetting that it existed. The email remained in my inbox, marked as important, and it was almost like my eyes were glazing over every time I came close to reading it.
Finally, on a blissfully hangover-free Sunday morning, I remembered that the teaser existed and decided to give it a whirl. I was expecting cuteness and some clever writing—I was expecting puzzles that were of easy to middling difficulty—and the teaser delivered on all of those. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how damn sinister the entire thing was.
The atmosphere in this game could rival Gone Home for making me feel like I was really sneaking around a house at night with no way to defend myself. In the same way that Gone Home set the scene with a dark and stormy night, Jenny LeClue is unique in the protagonist’s inability to defend herself.
In Gone Home, it’s easy to identify with the protagonist as you wander around this house. There’s even a clever bit of writing in which the game explains that your family moved into this house when you weren’t around, so it’s not out of place for you to be wandering around the house without recognizing things. In Jenny LeClue, since you are searching through the house of someone and not knowing what that someone did, this makes it all the more unnerving. Knowing that in this game I was a little girl who would stand no chance in fighting against, hiding from, or outrunning any villains made me much more cautious in what I chose to do.
Because I want you to play the teaser, I won’t say any more about it, but here are a few things that you should know about Jenny LeClue:
- The main character is a young girl who is fighting her way through an adult world with nothing but her intellect and stubbornness to protect her.
- Your choices not only affect your playthroughs of Jenny LeClue, but may also affect the story of the community as a whole (or at least that is the game plan).
- The world is meant to be interactive and allow you to find little secrets if you’re nosy enough—even in the middle of a dialogue cutscene.
- Despite the cartoon-y graphics, the game takes inspiration from horror, mystery, and sci-fi elements, which allows it to have this atmosphere that manages to be both eerie and upbeat all at once.
- It’s subtle, but Jenny doesn’t let anyone diminish or downplay her intelligence for their own purposes.
- The team likes creating “Case Files” to tide over fans while they’re waiting for the full game. So far, if you include the playable teaser, there have been two case files.
Just talking about this game makes me want to play it again, so if anything I’ve said has caught your attention, get the playable teaser at JennyLeClue.com. It’s hard to go wrong with a free teaser, and even if Jenny doesn’t charm you senseless, you can do me a solid and wrestle my heart away from her.