First off, a quick note: If you're a fan of the Phoenix Wright games, skip the review and just start playing.
Fedora Spade is a four-part mystery series starring the titular character, Fedora, and his trusty sidekick, Daphne, as they solve the various murders assigned to the Special Homicide Unit (SHU). I'm going to refer the series as one whole game for the most part, since they all play the same way and most of them follow the same underlying story.
Fedora Spade plays like most point and click adventure games... minus the point and click part. Everything is controlled with the Arrow Keys and Z, X, and C. The controls are somewhat unintuitive when it comes to quick navigation and they can be really clunky when it comes reading through dialogue, but I'm sure no one will stop playing because of it.
Each episode pertains to one specific case and you'll spend all of your time moving to various locations, collecting evidence, questioning suspects, and occasionally bringing them to the Interrogation room. Fans of Phoenix Wright will feel right at home in the Interrogation room as it follows a nearly identical format when it comes to presenting evidence to contradict statements made by the suspect. One thing that makes Fedora Spade markedly different from Phoenix Wright is your ability (in the later episodes) to interrogate anyone you choose. While only a few suspects are worth interrogating, the ability to choose anyone gives a feeling of freedom while also adding more humor to the game when you see the reactions of people you interrogate who are unquestionably uninvolved in the case.
Fedora Spade is filled with interesting characters with quirky names and mannerisms (and some of the best 8-bit facial expressions I've ever seen) and they really bring a sense of charm to the experience. You'll meet characters like Diamond Goldmine, a rich entrepreneur, Jules Cashington, a pompous lawyer, Ivan Molotov, a famous boxer, and even a mysterious gentleman assassin known only as 4471.
You'll also use the help of your investigative team at SHU such as the dimwitted officer Baldie and the extremely memorable character Theo, a priest/pathologist/forensics expert who dresses in all black, mask included, and holds a childlike love for cutting open bodies in search of the Human Soul... and evidence of course. Theo is hands down my favorite because his entire persona is full of oxymora and his borderline psychotic attitude towards death, yet lighthearted and cheery demeanor, make for a refreshing and original character. Also his ability to judge blood type via taste is probably the best super power ever.
The murders themselves are very well thought out and have many twists and turns. I was often stumped by subtle and clever clues and was genuinely caught off guard (in a good way) by some of the advancements in the story. While the first episode is more like a short introduction, the others can be fairly long and I would definitely suggest a second playthrough for most players since the final episodes can get a little confusing if you have trouble figuring out motives like I do.
The music for Fedora Spade gets the job done and there are a few gems among the mix. The game also makes clever use of sound effects during dialogue sequences such as head slapping noises and rim shots. One particularly effective noise was the *Gulp* noise constantly played during the questioning of Coffey Expresso, head of the Main Homicide Unit (MHU). He was supposed to have an annoying attitude, and boy, let me tell you, I was very annoyed while talking to him because of his gulping after almost every comment!
All in all, Fedora Spade is a fantastic murder/mystery adventure game with clear references to Phoenix Wright. Although the menu navigation can be pretty pesky and the inability to skip whole sections of dialogue can be pretty annoying after you've read the same conversation eight times, its charming characters and well thought out puzzles are sure to please any gamer.