BROK the InvestiGator gets to the point: you start the game in a burning room. You naturally start by pointing and clicking to solve a simple puzzle. This leads to another puzzle: Alligator PI Brok urgently exclaims, “I have to go through this door!” Before your gray matter cogs can turn, a dialog box tells you to press ‘X’ to activate action mode. With a bit of Double Dragon style – or should we say Double Crocodile-style! – button mashing, the door puzzle is “solved”. So Cowcat Games’ cards go straight to the table: Brok the InvestiGator is a point-and-click, but sometimes you’re just punching things in the trash. But does he have an ace up his sleeve?
Brok is the second game developed and published by indie shop Cowcat Games. The first was Demetrios, another point-and-click adventure first released six years earlier in 2016, which arrived on Switch in 2018. Based in a small town in the south of France, the company is a of a person, making this The second game to their credit is even more impressive.
The game tells the story of the alligator protagonist PI, his teenage stepson Graf, and various other animal companions. It takes place in a dystopian future, where slummers are second-class citizens, banished to live in the ruins of old cities, while drummers are the privileged few, living in a pristine bubble guarded by robots. . Wracked with guilt after a traumatic event, Brock tries to get his life back on track while raising Graf. Graff navigates his teenage years and the school exams that might earn him the status of ‘drummer’. Beginning – like so many good gum threads – with a mysterious phone call, Brock takes on a case that leads to the revelation of something much bigger.
The first few puzzles are pretty shallow, to say the least. Some of the game’s items – like a remote control that works on cameras or a device that detects “good intentions” – feel so contrived that they might as well be called things like “Solve puzzle number 14” or “Open for that particular door” . However, this gets better as the game goes on.
A puzzle sequence that takes place in a holding cell feels almost like Day of the Dead. We remembered to discover and handle the quirks of Edison’s house and its inhabitants, just on a smaller scale. There’s something inherently fun about learning the patterns of character behavior, then treating them like cogs in a puzzle machine, making them repeat their actions endlessly until you get it right. Here, the necessarily infinite patience of the jailer in this case, while repeatedly having their time wasted by their own prisoner, is hilarious.
In the same scene, there is another similarity with Day of the Tentacle: you can control multiple characters and switch between them. However, unlike the 90s LucasArts classic, this one isn’t used for puzzle design. In our playthrough, we fully solved Brok’s stepson Graff’s side of the chapter without playing Brok’s role at all. Character split scenarios just provide a scene change if you get stuck, rather than some kind of 4D Tetris.
Speaking of sticking, the hint system in Brok is pretty unusual. Direct text hints can be dispensed through the game’s menu: things like “Talk to so-and-so” or “Return to so-and-so.” However, these tips only come at the cost of an “advertisement” – a small collectible brochure hidden somewhere in the game world. Collecting these ads requires careful consideration and thorough interaction, making it a trackable achievement in itself. In theory, you might solve a puzzle for yourself as a side effect search for an ad to get a hint. In practice though, we’ve always had a lot of ads, so as a hint system it’s not the most elegant, but as a replay boost it works. Like the game itself, it mixes two things that don’t necessarily play into each other very intuitively – but end up being fun.
The writing seems a little crazy at first. Perhaps as a result of the English translation, it lacks an edge, much like the overly honest characters at the start of the game. However, despite some proofreading errors in the screen text, it finds its feet. At times, the game veers into visual novel territory, with extended conversations between characters with on-screen portraits and even the chance to piece together clues in a way reminiscent of Ace Attorney or Hercule Poirot: The First Cases. It took us a while to warm up to the characters enough to tolerate the longer speech segments, but when the writing is shorter and serves the game it’s at least perfectly functional.
An impressive feat is the implementation of different routes within the game. Many puzzles have multiple solutions – usually characterized by thinking or fighting – but these are articulated in the characters’ decisions. It makes sense if you decide to challenge a school bully or stop your hot head from getting the better of you.
And there are sometimes consequences that are more than superficial in adopting the sketchy approach. When we lost our son’s science fair because we ended up in the slammer for hitting a few too many robots, it tugged at our heartstrings. Too often, branching story paths can simply be an administrative burden of trying to note all the ways the story could have gone. Here, it feels mysterious without being obtuse and was what finally made us care about the characters – albeit a few hours into the game.
Until now, the combination of branching paths and fistfights in a graphic adventure has been forever associated with the noisy skirmishes, mouse and keyboard skirmishes of the 1992 LucasArts title. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. It’s fair to say that, 30 years later, Cowcat Games has found a better way to pull off this special combination of niches.
Brok the Investigator is a true original. It’s a mix of point-and-click, side-scrolling beat-’em-up, visual novel, and find-the-object. Most of the time, these disparate ideas sit slightly awkwardly next to each other, but despite the slow start, we eventually felt a little spark and the whole thing became more than the sum of its parts. It’s all the more impressive given that it’s only the second game from a one-person studio. Graphic adventurers should definitely consider carefully pointing and clicking this to their wishlist – or just leaving the buy button.