Added to the lair: 4/27/19
Note: Includes nudity and sexual content!
Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure / 1st person
Developer: Quarium Inc.
Platform: Windows 3.1
Emulator: DOSBox Daum
Wikipedia: Blue Heat
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Blue Heat is better than you'd probably expect. It's better than I expected, that's for sure. Sure, it's raunchy and gratuitous at times, but there's actually a decent adventure game underneath too.
You play as Holly Jacobson, an LAPD detective tasked with going undercover to find a serial killer that's been murdering the cover girls for LA Erotica magazine. Much sleuthing and boobies ensue.
The game is an adaptation of a 1995 film called Cover Me. It's your typical sleazy 90s thriller affair - I watched it while working on Blue Heat because, you know, you gotta do your research. How in the world this random Skinemax-esque flick got a video game adaptation I have no idea, but I won't complain because, as I said, the end result is a better game than it has any right to be. Keep in mind, this is coming from an admitted fan of 80s/90s cheese-fests and FMV games, but I went in expecting to rip the thing to shreds and came away pleasantly surprised. Not that it's saying much, but I'd actually say it's a better game than it is a movie. A licensed game done right I guess!
The plot strays from the film to some degree. Certain things like the presence of a cult are nowhere to be found in the movie. It reuses some footage directly from the film but in some cases changes things either via editing or dubbing; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. There were a few plot points in the movie that frankly didn't make much sense that have thankfully been changed or removed here. There are times, however, where scenes are edited down either for time or because the story has been altered that things feel stilted or disjointed on occasion - it's probably all the more noticeable simply because I just watched the movie and it made it stand out. This is actually a lot more prominent in the latter half of the game, where certain scenes or dialogue feels a lot more rushed than in the movie. There are also certain scenes that feel pretty random in the game but make sense with the additional context they're given in the film, most notably Holly's relationship with Sgt. Colter which really isn't explained at all in the game - they're lovers in the movie, but all this amounts to in the game is random sex scenes that seem out of nowhere.
Interestingly, the game was made/filmed in conjunction with the film, rather than after it, the result of which is that you interview some characters that are in the movie, complete with branching dialogue, and of course these scenes feature footage not present in the movie itself. The acting is... inconsistent... thanks primarily to the new characters not present in the movie - most of which are rather cartoonish. The actors that are directly from the movie do a fair deal better. This leads to a bit of tonal inconsistency, but not to such a degree that it ruins the experience; and I've seen worse acting than even the worst offenders here in other FMV games (not that that's exactly high praise).
Gameplay involves looking around environments, finding and clicking on various points of interest, collecting evidence, and talking to people. There's also a novel feature of establishing characters' motives or alibis, which you do by accessing your PDA as soon you see or hear information (including in the middle of an interview with someone) that demonstrates one or the other for specific characters. You have to do it immediately after hearing the information otherwise you will have missed your opportunity (although there are almost always multiple instances in which you can establish motives for the same character as you continue to investigate). While this works (and I actually kindof like it) from a gameplay standpoint, it's kindof a bizarre concept that you would be talking to someone, while you're ostensibly undercover, and then effectively just hold up a finger and say "Hold on a sec...", whip out your PDA to enter some information, and then tell them "Continue...". It's a gameplay conceit that's functional but is a little questionable from a storytelling perspective.
The game has a few bugs too, which is unfortunate. The game is fully playable to completion but it's something to be aware of. Be sure to read the special notes here or in the readme to know what to look out for.
The game takes place over the course of a week (there's not really a time limit, the game won't let you progress to the next day unless you've met the minimum requirements to do so) and you gather evidence from various locations each day. There's some decision making involved, however, as you can gather more pieces than the lab is capable of analyzing each day - you have to limit your lab submissions to 6 items each day, so you basically go around gathering all the evidence you can and then trying to filter them down to the six most important items at the end of each day. On subsequent days you can go back to the same locations and regather the evidence that you skipped previously though. You really do have to put some serious thought into what information would implicate or exonerate suspects, and what items need prioritizing in the lab. I felt like it struck a really good balance in terms of difficulty, because while you often have a limited window to use some information to implicate someone, the fact that this can be established through multiple means kept it from feeling overly punishing.
The end result of the motive/alabi system and evidence gathering is that the game has several different endings, depending on your decisions. I've always been a sucker for this kind of thing, so I really appreciated that aspect of it.
I went in expecting a throwaway trashy adventure that didn't amount to much, and came away genuinely enjoying my time with Blue Heat. If you can get over the sleazy trappings and just go with it, there's a surprisingly interesting and fun adventure game to be found here. Check it out!