Undercover: Dual Motives

If DS achieves nothing other than reinvigorating the popularity of the point-and-click adventure during its lifetime, the little console should consider its existence a very worthy one.

Of course, it has achieved a little more already – namely making Nintendo several billions of yen richer – but we like to think even Nintendo would think all those consoles and games it's sold means nothing when put it alongside all those happy gamers lost in games such as Phoenix Wright, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and, now, Undercover: Dual Motives.

Except, hang on. Our faces aren't exactly happy when playing Dual Motives. They're more bewildered, followed by slightly deflated having been told we need to go and see Dr Oswald – again – just to get a sodding wrench.

It's not that we're unused to a game containing endless fetch quests or even that we don't normally enjoy them – the aforementioned Hotel Dusk is one of our highlight games of last year and it involves a fair bit of backtracking to pick up yet another inanimate object.

The problem with it all in Dual Motives is that it's such a dull slog. There are none of Hotel Dusk's intriguing characters popping up to offer you a bite-sized bit of information to jot down in your notebook for later. In fact, there's generally very little you can do except go exactly where the game wants you to at whatever point you're at. Try and have a conversation with some random person or search a desk you're not supposed to until later and you're just fobbed off.

Anyway, back to our wrenches and doctors. But first, we should probably give you a run down of the game's all-important story. Dual Motives takes place around the time of the Second World War and has you playing both as John Russell – a physicist working in a British research facility – and as one of the facility's receptionists, Audrey. Right at the start of the game, John's framed as a traitor and is given 24 hours to clear his name before MI6 cart him off. It sounds like a grand plot but clearing your name isn't all spy novel worthy intrigue.

In fact, it's all pretty short on thrills and long on looking for bird seed and oil drums.

That can still be fun though, right? Indeed it can be, but Dual Motives somehow sucks anything resembling entertainment out of the experience. This impressive feat is managed in a number of ways.

First, while the game's locations are very pretty thanks to its photo-esque backdrops, the characters walk around them like robots on a slo-mo setting. So if you want to try and climb a ladder on one side of a hangar, you'll have to wait a few long seconds for Audrey to stride purposelessly over to it, only to then probably be told she can't be arsed with climbing it. So then you must wait for her to walk all the way back again. Luckily, the game has a map which enables you to jump from one location to another, so at least you don't have to wait for them to cross the whole area at any point.

Then there are the conversations you have with other characters. You know, the type of thing games such as Phoenix Wright often turn into a joyful occasion. Dual Motives' attempts, however, are seriously lacking. You're given approximately two dialogue options from time to time and one of those is usually "Catch you later", which ends the conversation. The game might be set during dark times, and perhaps people were quite dull then – we're not sure – but these characters are really about as easy to warm to as a cardboard cut-out of Stalin. Granted, there are a few humourous moments, but the game's dialogue is mostly a prize lesson in missed opportunity.

Finally, the puzzles themselves really aren't that ingenious. Many revolve around the gender roles of Audrey and John, whom you can swap between at any point. Audrey isn't very handy with a screwdriver, for instance, while John refuses to enter the ladies' toilet even if it means the difference between clearing his name and being thrown in prison for 50 years. They were different times, back then. On a serious note, we can understand that working out which character is needed for which task adds an additional layer to puzzles, but it doesn't feel like a particularly clever approach to take.

On a more positive note, some of the touchscreen mini-games, such as bending a paper-clip to the shape needed to pick a lock, are reasonably well thought-out. Like many similar games, though, several of the puzzles themselves are nonsensical.

Which could be considered part of the appeal of the genre, true, but this game is fairly unforgiving about lending a hand. If you don't pay attention to where you're supposed to be going next there's no objectives screen to remind you. Also frustrating is the fact you can be doing something completely correctly but just not quite as the game wants you to, meaning it doesn't work.

Dual Motives emerges as disappointingly standard point-and-click stuff at best, then. Most of the time, however, it hovers beneath that 'achievement'. It's basic and functional, throws up the odd challenge but remains mostly dull throughout, and it's also pretty short. If you like the genre, we thoroughly recommend the better alternatives available. At least with those you're guaranteed to be smiling from start to finish.

Undercover: Dual Motives

Disappointing point-and-click adventure with the odd decent puzzle but one that feels too basic, with too few hooks to really stand out, meaning it fast becomes a chore to play
Kath Brice
Kath Brice
Kath gave up a job working with animals five years ago to join the world of video game journalism, which now sees her running our DS section. With so many male work colleagues, many have asked if she notices any difference.