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Crime O’Clock review: A wrinkle in time

For Bad Seed’s latest game, the studio is tackling a genre that feels lost to time: hidden object games. Ironically, Crime O’Clock is all about time travel, and using that ability to stop crime. Published by Just For Games, it’s a challenging experience that quickly endeared me with fascinating mysteries and a charming art style.

Time for crime

In Crime O’Clock, you step into the shoes of a newly-hired detective, tasked with preventing crimes before they even happen, thanks to time-traveling technology. Once a crime has been committed—be it a murder, burglary, or something else—it’s time to go back and determine what happened, who did it, and why.

It’s a unique set-up for a hidden object game, and Crime O’Clock goes out of its way to remind you, several times, that it’s not a cop game. You aren’t the police, and you aren’t arresting anyone. Instead, you’re trying to prevent a crime from happening in the first place, saving both the victim and the perpetrator and preserving the True Timeline.

When you boil it down, Crime O’Clock is a hidden object game in the vein of Where’s Waldo, though Bad Seed is able to spin this formula and flip it on its head with its crime and mystery element. You’re often trying to find a victim, character, or object in the world—all linking to a crime that isn’t supposed to happen and jeopardizes the True Timeline.

What’s neat about this approach is how each level jumps through moments in time as the mystery unravels. They’re called Ticks, and the world is slightly different depending on which Tick you’re currently on. Characters will be in different locations, objects may be destroyed or missing entirely, and it’s fun to track the differences and draw connections between them. The game also does a great job of physically marking the evidence you’ve uncovered so far, helping to keep things clean and organized as you progress through a mission. When the case is solved, you have a full picture of all the details from A to Z.

While you’re solving a case, your companion automatically flips through the Ticks for you as clues are uncovered. There were multiple moments when I wished I could manually flip between the Ticks myself. If I got distracted or walked away from my screen for a couple of minutes, it would have been great to be able to quickly compare the state of the world between two Ticks.

A needle in a timestack

What’s really impressive about Crime O’Clock is how alive the world feels, thanks to an incredible attention to detail. As you jump through Ticks, tracking a murderer or locating a stolen object, you can observe countless other characters and creatures going about their day, watching them get into random hijinx completely unrelated to the ongoing narrative, but fascinating nonetheless.

There’s also a lot of crossover, since each level has multiple mysteries tied to it. While solving one case, you’ll notice the events of a previous case taking place at different parts of a level. This also works the other way around, as I would sometimes notice some strange occurrences on a level, only for them to play into a different case down the road.

Crime O’Clock records your completion time for each case. While it was satisfying to go back and quickly click through a level and best my personal record in a fraction of the time, I didn’t find much incentive to replay cases other than wanting to further explore a level.

While the majority of gameplay revolves around identifying hidden objects, Crime O’Clock does have some sequences where you need to solve action puzzles, which may require you to match fingerprints, scan objects for macro details, or match images to an identity. These were a bit hit or miss for me, as they either felt far less challenging than the hidden object sequences, or worsened the pacing of a narrative.

Where’s Waldo?

Each level in Crime O’Clock is incredibly detailed—just about every inch of the screen has something interesting to look at or pay attention to. It makes the hidden object puzzles more palatable, because even when I was stumped by a case, I found enjoyment in simply panning the camera around the map, randomly zooming in on smaller details.

This is just one example of how the entire game is elevated by some incredible visual design. The level’s in Crime O’Clock are entirely in black and white, which provides a level of consistency in ensuring that certain areas or characters aren’t popping out more than others. It reminded me of pages in a coloring book, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the publisher decided to upload images of the base levels in high resolution so that fans could print them out and use them as such. The lack of color also made the highlighted clues really stand out, like something you’d see on a whiteboard during an investigation.

Clock stoppers

Crime O’Clock is an enjoyable throwback to hidden object games, with modern visual and mechanical design elements that eliminate the frustrations of the genre. Its art style and level of detail make each level a visual treat in addition to a challenging puzzle. I look forward to seeing if Bad Seed is able to expand on the experience with additional levels and puzzles down the road.


This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Crime O’Clock will be released on June 30, 2023, for Switch and July 21, 2023, for Steam.

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