Step aside responsibilities, I’ve got anime men to romance. London Detective Mysteria is an otome title set in 19th Century England. Some of our most beloved detectives and criminals from fiction are ready for love. We’re talking the sons of Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Kogoro Akechi, and Gentleman Thief Lupin. Also Jack the Ripper. You can date Jack the Ripper in this game.
The lucky lady to woo these gentlemen is Miss Emily Whiteley (first name subject to change, if you wish). She’s on a mission to avenge her murdered parents, with trusty butler Pendleton at her side. However, Batman, Miss Whiteley is not. Despite a determined and well-meaning attitude, the woman gets into trouble more often than she’s useful. Never mind, there is no lack of men applying for the position of her personal savior.
Miss Whiteley’s family investigation stays very much in the background. Snippets of information must be pieced together through discoveries made in each of the main routes. Instead, the focus is given to ten chapters of different mysteries to solve. A dating sim dishing out mini stories like this is rare, yet the decent writing holds everything together. Miss Whiteley attends the detective class in Harrington Academy, so cases cropping up around her seem natural. It also gives a rather unique way of spending time with other characters, be they friends or love interests.
Something I initially enjoyed about the mystery stories was the Detective Diary mechanic, which is explained early on as a way of recording witness testimony’s and using them to solve cases — just press start to save the current bit of dialogue. I was ready to Ace Attorney the hell out of this game. Detailed note-taking began. I was ready for someone to slip up so I could wave my book of evidence in their face.
To my great sadness, the detective mechanic isn’t needed. I solved cases before my in-game companions but was only asked to help out once. On the rare occasion when Miss Whiteley is asked for her opinion, the lady tends to blurt out her preconceived dialogue without giving me a chance. Why tell me to actively solve cases then decide I’m not clever enough to do so? I want to be a detective, too!
Nevermind, after the common route comes an additional five chapters that finally include some romance. Consider me distracted. Whose path you follow depends on how choices were answered up until that point. Standard stuff. The story does change for each guy, although they all deal with the same shady organization. Each one also has a very different approach to love. I mean, do you really expect blushing sonnets from the obnoxious Holmes or irritable Jack? Better go for Watson or Lupin for that kind of stuff. They all made me feel warm and snuggly by showing their cute sides, though, and that’s all the matters.
Note how London Detective Mysteria is more about being a detective than ogling men. That “Mature” rating is for descriptions of witnessed crimes and murder, not steamy love scenes. A lot of the images are deliciously descriptive – such as the blade of Jack’s metal claws still being stained with the blood of his previous victim as he wraps them around another lady’s neck. For me, this dark aesthetic works really well in giving a refreshing backdrop to the romance. Yet, it’s fair to say that those expecting a cute and fluffy dating sim may be a little taken aback.
There are plenty of silly and flirtatious moments within the gloom and doom. You’ve only got to look at all the references the writers snuck in to see how much fun they had. For example, Sherlock Holmes’ son being called Herlock could easily be a reference to Herlock Sholmes from Maurice Leblanc’s Lupin novels. As someone who used to study Jack the Ripper history, I particularly enjoyed accurate descriptions of victims, great use of the “Dear Boss” letter, and mention of Saucy Jack. They actually managed to use this information while making me feel sympathetic and understanding toward the famously brutal killer. Impressive.
Speaking of things London Detective Mysteria does well, I’ve got to mention the artwork. Now, I don’t find any of the men mind-blowingly attractive, but they’re still cute enough to appreciate the amount of CGs included. A lot of attention has been given to costumes and backgrounds having a real 19th century feel. I kept pushing away the text to get a better look at all the detail. Okay, so Watson’s hair is a little questionable for the times, and Jack’s hat doesn’t quite fit properly, but it’s not distracting enough to really care.
Whether at the scene of a crime or wrapped in a partner’s arms, London Detective Mysteria is consistently engaging. Sure, there are a few pacing issues, and the game didn’t let me be a detective like I wanted. Yet the small niggles aren’t enough to impact the great storytelling, pretty artwork, or cute romances. I got Jack the Ripper to fall in love, caught the eye of a Gentleman Thief, and had Holmes Jr. beg me to stay with him. What more do you need?
This review is based on the PlayStation Vita version of the game. A review copy was provided by XSEED Games.
Including refreshingly dark descriptions for an otome game, London Detective Mysteria grabs your attention through its narrative and hangs onto it with its beautiful art and the promise of romance.