Review: My Little Investigations - True Blue Scootaloo

True Blue Scootaloo screenshot

After a long time in development, with almost no word on progress from the team until recently, Equestrian Dreamers finally released the first case in their point-and-click adventure game, My Little Investigations, titled True Blue Scootaloo. While the game has received its fair share of attention and hype, does the first substantial fruit of the team's labor live up to expectations? Well, that's what this post is for. Check out some rambling opinions on the game across the break.

Note: This review contains spoilers for the case. Read on with caution if you want to experience the game blind.


The game opens up on a simple premise; Rarity's cat and prized jewel have gone missing, and it's up to Twilight Sparkle to find who's responsible before the unnamed bumbling investigation team from Canterlot arrives to take over the case. The first issue the game falls into is the classic whodunnit trap of giving away the culprit to players in the very intro; this takes away much of the entertainment value of finding out who did it, and turns the game into a simple matter of finding out what the player already knows. While it doesn't ruin the overall story, it does blow the opportunity for a wonderful plot twist that would have added so much more to the case.

True Blue Scootaloo screenshot
I feel ya, Twilight.

In terms of character writing, the game does well; nobody acts particularly out-of-character, or does anything that wouldn't be expected out of them in a canon universe. Dynamics between characters are also well-explored, with characters reacting off of each other in ways that feel remarkably similar to an episode of the show. However, Pinkie Pie's integration as an obnoxious, fourth-wall-breaking tutorial does little except to annoy the player, and in my playthrough was quickly disabled after the first few appearances. The only OCs present also served absolutely no function except as some half-hearted attempt at world-building, and are safely ignored within the game. I appreciate making any interactions with them unnecessary, but it leads to them serving only as dead space to please a few contest winners.

The game has a few issues with ambiguous evidence leading to player confusion. One example was during Scootaloo's confrontation; when the player is expected to give a reason for her to crash through Rarity's window as she rides her scooter around it, my first inclination was to present the hair, which was clearly marked as "probably the cause of the rider's swerve". Instead, the solution was to parrot back the fact that she was practicing a trick, and let Twilight automatically connect the hair to the conversation. Giving the player evidence which has the sole purpose of being immediately thrown back into the conversation feels obtuse and arbitrary in a game that's supposed to be about the player putting the pieces together.

In other situations, the game has a bit of a hand holding problem. While some of that is to be expected in a first case, the game goes rather overboard with it; even after I disabled the tutorials (which seemed to go overboard in explaining things that really didn't need explanations), the writing has a bad habit of making the next step incredibly obvious. This becomes especially apparent once Rarity starts tagging along; the player is consistently directed to their next move from then until acquiring the search warrant.

True Blue Scootaloo screenshot

When the game isn't suffering from those issues, though, the writing is superb. The whole Diamond Dog search scene through the end of the case stands out in particular as a fantastically put-together bit of gameplay, giving the player just enough guidance to keep them from being hopelessly lost without giving away the answer, having logical connections just ingenious enough to make the player feel clever for discovering them, and serving as a wonderful sendoff for the case. The game's story is well-executed overall; the few flaws present, however, hold it back from greatness.

As for the vehicle that drives the story - the gameplay - there are a few interface issues that detract from the experience. The lack of ability to skip through text the first time you see it, in particular, is an inconvenience for quick readers who don't want to sit through a slowly-ticking text box before continuing; I often found myself multitasking with other things while listening to a conversation, since the game was having trouble holding my interest at those times. Edit: The developers have added this functionality into the game through the 1.0.1 update. The lack of any method of keyboard control is also inconvenient; while the game was obviously designed for a mouse, and benefits from it, having an option for keyboard control would be very handy for those who prefer such a setup. At the very least, having keyboard shortcuts for the evidence screen and active partner abilities would be a huge convenience.

The game also seemed to have performance issues on my laptop. Even with the pre-loading present (which brings the game's RAM usage up to astronomical levels for a game of this complexity), the game would often stutter for a few seconds at a time loading a particular voice clip. There was also the occasional issue of the background for an area simply not loading, which happened to me once or twice during my playthrough, and some people I know have reported softlocks, though I never encountered any myself. These issues are fairly minor, and certainly don't detract from my overall enjoyment of the game, but they are issues that need to be fixed.

Purgatory screenshot
Whoops.

Graphically, the game is very inconsistent; show-modeled overworld and conversation sprites (that sometimes have a habit of going off-model) mix with cutscene graphics that have a rather unappealing style, at least to me. Overworld graphics are very well-animated, while the single animated pose present in conversations (Twilight's accusatory point) feels very stiff and unprofessional. The interface is also rather plain, with nothing to give it character aside from... black boxes. The graphics certainly do their job adequately, and they don't look bad by any means (the opening and title screen in particular have a very professional quality to them), but they could be so much better.

The audio is a mixed bag. The voices are generally okay impressions, but they vary in microphone quality a lot, even through the same character, and they start to grate after a while. Turning off voices does little to help, as the chirping noise that replaces them is rather grating after a short time. However, the music production is superb, with a number of wonderful tracks that do a great job of setting a mood and sounding pleasing to the ears overall. The music that goes with Rainbow Dash explaining how she gave Scootaloo her ribbon stood out to me as a particular highlight. (That might just be my affinity for the CMC theme from the show, though.)

Overall, the game will be highly entertaining to those who enjoy the type of gameplay it offers, and an interesting curiosity at the least to anyone else. Production values are shaky at times, and it's not a very long game, seeing as it's only a single case, but it uses the time well to create a fun experience.

8/10

The MLI engine has certainly shown a lot of potential with this game; it'll be interesting to see what happens if and when a case designer is released into the wild for others to make their own custom cases with.







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- RedEnchilada

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