Some six months down the line from Episode 1’s release, development team A Crowd of Monsters have released the second instalment to their episodic crime adventure Blues and Bullets. Titled Shaking the Hive, this episode takes you deeper into the story of Eliot Ness as he tries to uncover more clues to the whereabouts of Capone’s granddaughter.
Following the same style and gameplay from episode 1, reviewed here, the second episode of this noir adventure starts off with a flashback of Ness meeting Delphine Dockers, his mistress. This is the point where everything starts to go downhill for Ness and underpins the troubles hinted at in the first episode. The game then moves to the present, bringing you back to where you left off, the hiding place of Ivankov, Capone’s ex right hand man.
No sooner have you found Ivankov, you find yourself thrown into one of the shooting sequences scattered throughout the game. Ducking behind cover you work your way up the submarine and even though it’s all very point and click, the sequences are well polished allowing you to switch from cover to cover to get a better shot. I found this more rewarding than in the first episode and the gun fights were pulled together with various short cut scenes to continue the conversation and story.
Before you know it, the excitement is over and you are back to being the detective you once were. Searching the submarine to see if Capone’s granddaughter is on there and what, if anything, has happened to her. This brings the second element in to the game, where you have to search and piece together the evidence and clues. As a helping hand you are given a pin board to link the evidence together. I found this part of the game good fun, with a couple of challenges thrown in to make you hunt for certain clues to allow you to progress. Yes the same red circles are there like the first episode, so it is a bit of a given where you need to look. Piecing the clues together was again fairly clear – the game won’t allow you to put something where it shouldn’t be. Once the evidence is complete the story flicks to Ness retelling the events using black and white character boards, to his trusty sidekick Milton (who he picked up in Episode 1 if you recall).
The game continues to bounce through the story in the third person view, switching to first when you’re looking for clues. Halfway through the game you enter a dream sequence, and I have to tell you, this part is fantastic. Switching you to first person with a flash light to guide you, the dream sequence takes you through the twisted and tormented mind of Ness. I won’t spoil it… but all I will say is that the way it’s told is amazing and to for me, it’s the best part of the game.
Sooner than I would have liked it’s over, and you’re placed in the next part of the game. I did find the switching from past to present a little confusing sometimes but this didn’t take my enjoyment out of the game. As with the first episode, the colour setting is very noir black and white with just Ness’ tie and the odd red item, pool of blood etc standing out. However it was nice to see during one of the gunfight sequences the addition of colour in the flames. It really brought the scene to life and added even more depth to a beautiful game.The voice acting and soundtrack again seem more polished than in the previous episode and this fills me with hope for episode 3.
Episode 2 is great and adds more depth to the game, if still leaving you wondering what has happened to the children, though a few more hints and teases are revealed. The Episode might also not be that long and can easily be completed in an hour, but nether the less is well worth it and leaves you wanting to take the story further. I just hope it doesn’t take another 6 or 7 months before we see the next Episode, but then again if it builds on the improvements that we saw in Episode 2 compared to Episode 1 then I would be happy to wait.