The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a 2.5D action adventure and self-proclaimed Metroidvania title from developers Rogue. The game will take you to the deepest reaches of Limbo to solve a grisly murder. While the game has a beautiful aesthetic and decent combat system, its technical issues and game design choices create a frustrating experience.
Mysterious Narrative Beats
Benedict Fox is a detective tasked with solving a grisly murder of a couple. Somehow, the couple was frustrated with the inability to beget a child. Determined to find any solution the couple became involved in supernatural rituals to fill a child-less void. Eventually, an occultist secret organization also becomes involved, which shows the game’s thrilling narrative. The game will take you to the deepest darkest Limbo to investigate the mystery of the couple’s death and unravel an insidious plot.
There are some nice environmental storytelling beats found in The Last Case of Benedict Fox. In different parts of Limbo, players will encounter massive ghosts retelling key parts of the couple’s history. They were prolific and beautifully depicted the sorrow and hardships the couples went through. There are also notes and key items that also flesh out the story more. Overall, the story beats were fascinating enough to pique my interest. While simultaneously, it was not overbearing, though sometimes you’ll collect items that won’t make sense at first. But eventually, you’ll find out how they are worked into the narrative. For example, early on players will discover a Golem in the basement of the mansion. While it seems out of place, the game does a great job of linking the Golem into the plot.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox Graphics
The Last Case of Benedict Fox has beautiful 2.5D graphics and a great art style to suit. It reminded me of the old Tim Burton-esque art style that oozes a lot of personality and flair. There’s an overt Lovecraftian art style to compliment. Supernatural dread is constantly visible in Limbo world. Benedict will come across ominous spores and distant tentacles while traversing Limbo. Even in the mansion, the laboratory in the basement suggests madness was a constant presence.
The game features cryptic character designs. Everything from the mask-wearing secret organization members, dark tentacles, and light-emitting flying creatures was unique. As for the main cast, each character has an elongated face and body that made the art style stand out.
The environments were detailed and popped if you played it on an HDR display. The lighting was astounding along with the mesmerizing backdrops in Limbo. They varied as well from wastelands to camps and laboratories. Even the darkened areas looked amazing, which beautifully highlighted the use of lighting and shadows.
Unique Accessibility Options
One of the standout features of The Last Case of Benedict Fox is its accessibility features. Just about everything can be tailored to your liking. This includes making combat, puzzles, and exploration a bit easier.
Everything can be automated or made easier to your liking. Enemies can be defeated more easily. If you don’t feel like putting on your Sherlock Holmes hat, puzzles can be auto-solved. Granted if you have the required items to complete them.
As for exploration, you can have specific locations marked on your map for you. Otherwise, these locations are marked with a big ol’ question mark. Actually, I highly recommend turning on the exploration accessibility setting just to keep things in order.
Serviceable Combat in The Last Case of Benedict Fox
The Last Case of Benedict Fox has a simple, yet effective combat. Benedict is equipped with a detached bayonet and a flare gun for ranged combat and a dark shadowy tentacle creature known as the Companion for traversal and special attacks. Bullets for the ranged guns are filled with every successful strike and Benedict can dodge and use his Companion to deflect attacks or even grab and throw enemies.
The Companion mechanics worked well and showcase how Benedict is a mere mortal without its assistance. When in the mansion, Benedict cannot use the Companion, and the abilities he offers Benedict are gone. This goes to show how vulnerable he is without the Companion.
More often than not, fights will test you. Enemies do have tells (they light up right before an attack) and if you miss time your dodge or deflection, you will get punished. Especially when dealing with multiple enemies or flying enemies. But that just made combat more enjoyable as every fight was visceral that always demanded your focus.
Keep in mind though the first time you fight an enemy will always be the toughest. So when you’re backtracking, that same enemy will be more manageable. Funnily enough, the game’s combat pays homage to souls-like games. Whenever you are defeated, the screen turns black and the word “Banished” appears in blood-red text.
For some reason, during my playthrough after getting struck by an enemy, some of your inputs will not register. As of writing this review, this issue still remained, and with no indication if a future patch will address it. Initially, this was extremely frustrating, as fights can be quite intense. Eventually, I learned to deal with it, but I just made sure to master blocking and dodging attacks just to avoid the issue.
Diverse Boss Encounters
There were some boss fights/encounters in The Last Case of Benedict Fox. They were highly enjoyable and will often test your skills. Some of the encounters involve you destroying red orbs to banish the boss. While the Librarian is a boss fight with multiple phases that involved avoiding area-of-effect attacks and timing hits. While other bosses were elaborate chase sequences involving platforming and avoiding obstacles. The boss fights were a nice variety to keep things fresh.
Fantastic and Satisfying Puzzles in The Last Case of Benedict Fox
One of the main highlights of The Last Case of Benedict Fox has to be its puzzles. They were truly creative and difficult to crack at first. The game relies a lot on deciphering codes and symbols to create different letters and numbers. Though keep in mind the puzzles will be challenging at first. Especially if you’re not accustomed to playing puzzle games. Deciphering the code will be tricky, but once you nail it, it is a rewarding experience. Luckily, the puzzle accessibility option is available to players if they wish to bypass them completely.
One of the key items players would use is simply called the device and players would use it to decypher numbers and values. It also imprints symbols to the changeable key that you will need during your playthrough. The Last Case of Benedict Fox provides plenty of “eureka” moments during its puzzles that were very satisfying.
There are even riddles to solve using tarot cards which were a lot of fun. But of course, you need to necessary tarot cards in order to solve the riddle. But your mind and thought processing will be tested. No doubt that the game’s puzzles are one of its strong suits.
Benedict can upgrade his powers when he visits the tattoo artist and weaponsmith. It’s a smart and unique approach to a very standard process. Every new tattoo enhances one of the Companion’s core abilities. These include double jumping, grabbing/throwing enemies, opening special doors, and more. Of course, since the game takes Metroidvania cues, upgrading abilities will open up new areas of the map.
Now, the weaponsmith that becomes available later on in the game will upgrade your weapons along with fixing a key item known as a device. The device is used for different puzzles throughout the game. However, for specific weapon upgrades, you will need to find special items in Limbo in order to craft new upgrades. Even weapon upgrades will also open up new areas of the map. For example, one of the flare gun weapon upgrades allows you to shoot and destroy dark barriers. This opens plenty of new areas of the map that were previously inaccessible. In other words, true Metroidvania mechanics.
Metroidvania Done Poorly
Backtracking is a big part of the Metroidvania experience. Acquiring new powers and abilities that open up new areas of a gigantic map is part of the charm of Metroidvanias. The fundamentals work the same in The Last Case of Benedict Fox, albeit with a headache-inducing twist.
Usually, power/upgrades in Metroidvanias will unlock after specific boss fights or key sequences. They act like anchor points that help keep track of your progress and abilities. Instead, some of the key items you need are instead scattered in new areas that have been unlocked. At times, these items are hidden and difficult time. It was unfathomably frustrating to scour the map to find key items needed to upgrade my weapons which are needed to progress the story. I was regularly consulting the map more than the looking at actual game world. This caused backtracking to feel unguided and quickly became a chore that I absolutely dreaded.
Lackluster User Interference in The Last Case of Benedict Fox
The Last Case of Benedict Fox has one of the most head-scratching user interfaces I’ve seen in a game for a while. Do you want to go to the previous menu or exit? Hold down the B button! Want to move items around for a puzzle? Well, hold down buttons for each and every action. It was counter-intuitive and quickly became tiring.
Another baffling aspect of the UI involved the diary. Now, the diary is the book that holds all the deciphers you will use to solve puzzles. Sometimes if you flip through the diary while trying to solve a puzzle, once you exit, the book will shuffle back through every page you flipped before exiting. It takes a few seconds and it is awkward every time it happens. Even the settings menu is hidden. You have to the X button to open them up, which is quite unorthodox.
Lastly, saving in the game is also another strange feat. Prior to the last patch, autosaves were few and far between. The only way to save manually was to save and exit from the game. Now, since the last patch, the game has done a better job of auto-saving more often. But this comes at the expense of a notable dip in frame rate every time the game auto-saves.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox offers both quality and performance mode options. Since frames are important to me, I naturally gravitated toward the performance mode, but even then it was a rough experience. As mentioned above, auto-save points would result in sudden frame drops. If an enemy chased you to an auto-save point, the frame rate would still drop.
A snowy area located in the south completely tanked the frames. The framerates constantly dropped so badly, the game would look like a flipbook. Other frame dips were littered throughout my playthrough. There were some improvements with every patch released, but unfortunately, these issues remained.
There isn’t much standing out when it comes to the sound design and soundtrack. For the most part, the voice acting is stale and emotionless. It is as if read without any enthusiasm. The only saving grace is the tattooist, who has some personality in her line deliveries. While the soundtrack lacks any punch or presence. Instead, it is relegated to a minor accompaniment role meant to service the atmosphere.
Final Thoughts on The Last Case of Benedict Fox
The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a frustrating experience. On one hand, the game has a beautiful art style and graphics, an intriguing plot coupled with serviceable combat, and fun puzzle mechanics. But its technical issues and unguided Metroidvania design choices let it down immensely. The only mystery left to solve is what could have been had the game had better-streamlined design choices.
Note – An Xbox code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.