Blues and Bullets: Episode 1: The End of Peace – Review

Title   Blues and Bullets: Episode 1: The End of Peace
Developer  A Crowd of Monsters
Publisher  A Crowd of Monsters
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Point and Click Adventure
Release Date  July 23, 2015

bluesbullets_ep1_1I’m not much of a history buff. Much of what I know about Elliot Ness and Al Capone is taken from the 1987 film The Untouchables and, really, all I can remember from that movie is Sean Connery’s terrible attempt at an Irish accent. So I went in to A Crowd of Monsters’ new episodic crime-noir Blues and Bullets with no reference point for these two historic characters, other than a little bit of general knowledge. Not that it really mattered as the game’s alternative history plays fast and loose with the facts and takes place years after the events that put Al Capone behind bars.

In Episode 1: The End of Peace, Elliot Ness has retired after his long-running feud with Capone and opened a diner where he tries to make a living doing some private detective work and making blueberry pie. Then, while dealing with what can only be described as a more obnoxious Clancy Wiggum, Elliot is pulled back in to the world of murder and mystery for one last job for an old acquaintance. Children have been going missing and Ness is hired to investigate the disappearance of this old friend’s granddaughter, however, your investigation soon leads to the discovery of several gruesome ritualistic murders and it is apparent that things are not what they seem.


Gameplay works much like any point and click adventure: Ness moves around, interacting with characters or objects in order to progress the story. As you do so, your actions have consequences and characters remember your deeds further down the line, making it either easier or more difficult to get them to do what you want. Be overly rude to one character and they will be less willing to help you later, or too nice to a criminal and they may take advantage. It’s all a balancing act – or, the way I play, just a gut reaction to what I feel I might do. Luckily the characters all seem to have a bit of depth and the voice acting is very well done, so despite its fairly simplistic gameplay there is an enjoyable experience here. So far with episode one the story and even the environments appear to be incredibly well put together, with a smattering of comic relief throughout.

bluesbullets_ep1_3Where Blues and Bullets really stands out from other games in the genre is in its shooting and investigation mechanics – Ness is a detective after all. Despite its on-rails nature the shooting is pretty well done; you are able to switch between cover and fire off rounds at enemies, or hit explosive barrels for more of a boom. I’ll get to the visuals in a moment but explosions in this game look beautiful in the monochrome world. While other games feel like combat is a bit of a quick-time event, or based on how quickly you can click a certain spot, in Blues and Bullets it seems to take a bit of skill and feels more like an action game. There were only a couple of instances of shooting scenes in episode one but I’m really looking forward to more.

As I said before, you will happen across a number of grisly murder scenes and have to piece together what happened through investigation. In the first episode this only happens once but it’s a brilliantly put together system and lets you move through a scene, gathering evidence which is then put together on a board of clues. These clues are then linked to events during the murder: who was there, how the victim died, what the motive was. All of this is linked together, eventually leading to Ness walking through the scene describing events based on what he has seen. In the first episode there is no wrong way to do this; you look at everything and Ness will tell you if you are making mistakes, making the whole experience fairly easy. Hopefully further down the line it will become more difficult, with mistakes in your own viewing of the scene perhaps leading to changes in the story. Right now, though, much like the shooting, it’s a great gameplay mechanic but very ‘on rails’.


With the noir crime theme it’s not surprising that the developers have gone with the monochrome visuals, but damn do they do it well. Each area is presented in shades of black and white, with a wide use of bright red to highlight interesting details (read: gallons of blood) or generally brighten up extravagant environments. The use of red is fairly interesting and seems to both highlight extravagance and death in equal measures. Walking in to the reception hall of the hotel the camera pans around, picking out the bright red of the stairs, the red carpet leading to the reception desk, and the flags outside the window, and it really captures the extravagance. A little further on you find yourself in an old house and the only red there is blood.

bluesbullets_ep1_5The noir style really adds something to the game that would be missing if it was photo-realistic or presented in the cell-shaded style of other games. Grim scenes seem all the darker (because they are, I guess) as the screen seems to shrink to a small section of white where your character stands. At the same time the scenes in areas that are supposed to be peaceful or beautiful, such as the hotel, are so busy with highlights of red that your eye is constantly zipping around trying to take it all in. The only downside is that in many scenes the camera is fixed and you won’t have much opportunity to explore the environments beyond the predefined path of the camera. This is a fairly common thing in games of this type but it seems extra restrictive in Blues and Bullets. There are some issues, animations can be a little jarring, often not matching up to the audio, and the character models look a little plastic, particularly the faces, which don’t seem to animate in time with the audio.

Elliot Ness is voiced by Doug Cockle, voice of Geralt of Rivia, who actually does a brilliant job of bringing the old grizzled lawman to life. He’s still a bit of a mumbler but, generally speaking, the voice-over work in Blues and Bullets’ first episode is very well done, despite some oddly clunky dialogue when you make decisions. The soundtrack, on the other hand, really only consists of incredibly light piano music played very quietly in the background of some scenes and a main theme that sounds like something straight out of a Bond movie.


Blues and Bullets: Episode 1 is an odd mix of brilliantly and poorly produced visuals. The environments and the noir style give the game a great atmosphere, which supports the interesting, if a little clunky, story. Some scenes are spectacular – the airship hotel in particular being a stand out. Sadly, though, this is let down by poorly executed animations and character models, which come across as plastic and a little robotic. The story is somewhat lost in a world where, visually, no one is really able to express emotion, as each character wanders around like an animatronic puppet.

There are some great mechanics, however: searching for clues, investigating crime scenes and combat all stand out as great additions to a genre that, generally, doesn’t put much time or effort into these things. Episode 1: The End of Peace does a great job of establishing the background and scene for the rest of the series, leaving a huge number of questions to be answered in the follow up episodes.

  • Visual theme leads to some pretty spectacular environments
  • Decent voice-over work (I love you Doug Cockle)
  • Brings something new to the genre, both visually and in gameplay
  • Poorly presented character models
  • Dialogue can be a little strange

Despite the numerous issues I really enjoyed episode 1 of Blues and Bullets. The noir style, the investigations, the combat - it all felt right. Dialogue, again, despite being a little clunky in places, fits with the era in which the game is set and pulls no punches with the issues faced by African Americans before the civil rights movement when dealing with your partner for much of the game. I’ve had to be pretty vague in this review to avoid spoilers but there is more than enough in the story that will bring me back for more in episode 2. So, if you’re a fan of TellTale games and crime noir then I’d recommend picking up the first episode in this series and trying it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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