Culpa Innata takes place in the World Union, a futuristic region of the world where selfishness, greed, and promiscuity are encouraged, but where violent crimes have been all but eliminated. As the game opens up, a strange thing happens -- a man is shot and killed. People are surprised that such a circumstance is possible, and most don’t even know what a gun is. Your character, a peace officer named Phoenix Wallis, is assigned to the case, but you don’t have a crack CSI team working for you, and you’ve never investigated a murder before, and so you have to figure out what you’re doing as you go along.
In some ways, Culpa Innata plays like one of the Law & Order games. Most of your time is spent talking to the friends and colleagues of the deceased, and their testimonies lead you to new people and places, and eventually you start to piece together a picture of what happened. However, unlike the Law & Order games, there are bigger issues afoot. While investigating the murder, you stumble across some clues leading to an organization that might be trying to undermine the World Union, and you also discover some “accidental” deaths, and pretty soon you realize that everything might be tied together.
If Culpa Innata does one thing well, it’s that it creates a unique setting for you to explore, and it spends a lot of time fleshing it out. The game uses a clock of sorts, where activities like interviewing witnesses and traveling to locations take time, and at the end of the day you have to return to your home and do some other things. This allows you to experience the world both through your investigation and through social activities (like watching TV or gossiping with your friends), which gives you a wide range of experiences. You go on dates, you deal with doctors, “image makers” and lawyers, and you visit stores (including a “thing” store), banks and nightclubs. This full spectrum of encounters sheds a lot of light on the people and ideals of the World Union, and how they strive to improve their Human Development Index, a score that measures their worth to society.
If Culpa Innata does one thing poorly, it’s that it wastes this environment on the dullest murder mystery ever to grace a computer screen. The game takes somewhere between 15 and 20 hours to complete, but most of that time is spent talking to people who have no idea why the victim was murdered. You never see the body, you never see the crime scene, you never see the weapon -- you just endlessly talk to the victim’s employees, a bartender, and assorted others, and every two hours or so you learn something interesting, like that the victim came into a lot of money shortly before dying. The game broke for me near the end of the case, and so I didn’t finish the investigation and I missed the big reveal of the murderer, but from what I can tell looking through a walkthrough, the answer should have been evident even with the most cursory of background checks, and so the whole investigation felt like a big waste of time to me.
The puzzles also did not impress me. This is another place where Culpa Innata felt a little bit like a Law & Order game. Most of the adventure involves you talking to people, and the puzzles are few and far between. When you do encounter puzzles, they tend to be “realistic” in that they’re issues you might actually have to deal with during an investigation (such as picking open a lock, figuring out a password, or putting together a fragmented image), but this also means that they’re things that you’ve probably already seen before. During the first half of the game, the puzzles are extremely easy and require little more than trial and error, but towards the end they get more difficult and much more obscure. Culpa Innata could have used more puzzles somewhere in the middle (between “trivial” and “go get the walkthrough”), but that’s always a difficult thing to gauge.
Finally, there isn’t anything impressive about Culpa Innata’s graphics or sound. The characters and locations in the game look flat and grainy, and for some reason the future is depicted as resembling the 1970’s way more than “The Jetsons” (with “things” doing their best to replace lava lamps). And while there is a tremendous amount of dialogue, it sounds like the actors weren’t given any practice runs, and were told to just read their lines. As a result, all of the conversations are flat, with pauses at all of the wrong places, and since the investigation isn’t exactly fast-paced to begin with, the dialogue often threatens to lull you to sleep.
And so, clearly, Culpa Innata isn’t a game that I would recommend. No part of it worked for me -- the graphics, sound, puzzles and story were all sub-par -- and it actually manages to go to the bottom of the heap of the mystery adventures that I’ve played this year, which is difficult to do given that mystery adventures by and large haven’t been all that good. So avoid this one unless you’re truly desperate.