BROK the InvestiGator
Described as a ‘Punch & Click’ adventure, BROK the InvestiGator was released on PC during the Summer of 2022. The game combines elements of a ‘Point & Click’ adventure as well as a ‘Beat-Em-Up’ action title, giving a whole new meaning to the term “action-adventure” title. After a very successful release, COWCAT Games shifted focus to getting BROK on all major consoles, adding several quality-of-life changes to improve the ‘action’ part of the game. This review of the PlayStation version was made possible thanks to COWCAT Games and I’ve had time with the game to give my first impression on one of the most unique games I’ve played in months.
The player controls Brok, an investiGator (first and last time I swear) who lives in the Slums with a teenage feline named Graff. Officially his guardian, Brok treats Graff like his son because, in many ways, that’s what he is to Brok. At some point, Brok had a relationship with Lia and somewhere along the line, the relationship not only didn’t work out but she also passed away shortly before the events of BROK the InvestiGator. This is highlighted in the game’s prologue where Brok has to escape a burning apartment. This also serves as the game’s tutorial as there are two major gameplay elements to take note of—Adventure Mode and Action Mode.
By default, Brok is always in Adventure Mode, looking at places of interest and finding clues tied to them. It’s in this mode that he can also talk to others, purchase items, and do other non-violent actions. What’s also useful about this mode is that he cannot fall off high ledges, but what’s not so useful is that Brok cannot jump. This leads to “Action Mode” in which Brok can not only maneuver around easier by platforming, but he can also fight.
Before becoming a private investigator, Brok was a prizefighter who left that past time behind. Although he hung up his gloves for a spiffy hat, Brok never stopped fighting and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty if the time calls for it. With police bots and rat-men known as Squealers, Brok will always have an opportunity to flex his muscle. However, it is often just as impactful for him to flex his brain muscles just as often.
It’s not initially brought to the player’s attention, but everything Brok does will affect his personality and how others perceive him as the game progresses. It’s far easier to brute force your way into locations, including breaking a manhole to enter a sewer, fighting everyone the player comes across, or breaking the keypad open to enter an apartment complex. This will almost certainly not win Brok many favors as his reputation precedes him. Sometimes, to prove his worth as a detective, Brok will need to use his street smarts to match his brawn.
Without getting too far ahead, back to the Prologue, Brok wakes up and realizes he’s been having a nightmare about losing Lia and being blamed for her death. The player is introduced to Graff properly and here the dynamic between them shows friction. Brok and Graff aren’t exactly on the best of terms, but they certainly are amicable toward each other. Brok wants to do right by Graff, naturally having lost his mother, and Graff just wants to be successful in a world stacked against them both. Eventually, Brok gets a call from a person named Sin who says that he needs an emergency.
Strapped for cash, Brok heads out, but not before dealing with a broken cleaning bot. Here is one of many examples of Brok The InvestiGator giving the player free agency. Trying to tamper with the defective bot will shock Brok, dealing damage. This tells the player than maybe poking around with live and volatile devices isn’t the way to go. Of course, there’s nothing that tells the player that they can’t punch a live device until it shuts down, electrocution be darned.
Simply beating objects into a malleable pulp isn’t always the correct choice, as Brok the InvestiGator has numerous “bad ends,” expected for a “Point And Click.” There’s one instance where Brok will discover a hole in a wall. Curious players can see about breaking the wall, but doing so will cause the ceiling to cave in, earning the player a game over. These screens are comical and don’t change much of the game’s atmosphere, but it’s not required to hunt for every scene as you don’t earn a reward for doing so like Death’s End Re:Quest for example.
There are several instances where the smarter option requires using another item in relation to the problem itself. Most fights can be avoided by simply using “Plan B” with information gathered by the player. An example of this is an inevitable encounter with the police. One of the police officers is allergic to cats, as seen by his reaction to being around Brok. Brok can use this to his advantage by using the stray cat fur from Graff in a previous chapter to escape the police without combat. It is also entirely possible to complete the game without ever defeating an enemy in combat.
However, for a first playthrough, this is something I would recommend against, as key events may be missed and characters may even die within the first half hour if Brok simply looks the other way. Ideally, some fights are unavoidable if the player wishes to be a good samaritan, but it’s up to the player how to tell their own tale. The player can control Graff as well after the second chapter, although he’s far less skilled in fighting than Brok. Both characters have different plots with different central characters, yet due to their nature of living together, these plot points overlap and have more in common with each other than initially thought.
The strongest points I can say about Brok The InvestiGator are its cast and the art choice. Within the gallery section of the game, it’s revealed that the intention to make the residents anthropomorphic was influenced by 80s and 90s cartoons. From the design and mannerisms of Brok and other characters, I definitely see inspiration from Don Bluth and Walt Disney cartoons. A little bit of All Dogs Goes To Heaven, TaleSpin, and other classic cartoons of the past, Brok The InvestiGator made me feel nostalgic for being a kid. The “Point and Click” aspect also gives Monkey Island vibes, while the beat-em-up is definitely Streets Of Rage.
Brok the InvestiGator ran well on our PlayStation 5, with no performance issues at all, and it’s perfect for players who also wish to bring the reptilian on the go via the Nintendo Switch. Usually, in narrative games like these, I talk more about the story, but this is a game where it’s impossible to mention plot details without spoiling anything. What I will say is that every decision, bill paid, and a way to make Brok feel humane, matters.
Brok the InvestiGator is another genre-bending combination of two distinct gameplay elements that somehow felt great to play than separate. Whether it is the player’s first time on a console or they are giving the updated PC release a try, Brok the InvestiGator is easily one of 2022’s hidden gems with a chance to make incredible splashes in 2023.
Brok the Investigator is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.