Inspector Waffles is on the case!
Inspector Waffles was once known as one of the greatest detectives Cat Town had ever seen; these days, he’s more likely to get to the bottom of a milk bottle than a case. Things haven’t been the same since the “Snowball Incident…” but he doesn’t want to get into that. No, he’d rather spend his time sleepwalking through mysteries, then spending the evening at the Metal Heart before heading back to the office for some shuteye seated at his desk. Every day was a functioning nightmare for Waffles… until the case that forced him to face his trauma head on and overcome his own mental obstacles holding him back from moving forward.
I’m not sure I’ve played a game quite like Inspector Waffles. This pixel art detective game developed by Goloso Games and published by Hitcents originally released on Steam earlier this year; now, it comes to PlayStation and Nintendo on October 14, 2021 for a reasonable $13.99. With a colorful cast of characters, a ton of punny writing, and complex overarching themes deftly woven together, Inspector Waffles is a milk-based noir that does not disappoint.
Players take on the role of the titular character, Inspector Waffles, after being called to one of the most high profile cases Cat Town has seen since the Snow Tiger’s heyday. Police Chief Patches is already on the scene and lets you know that Fluffy, the CEO of the beloved Box Furniture, has been murdered. Your job is to snoop around the crime scene to find out the “who’s” and “why’s” of this murder mystery, while Patches gets Fluffy over to Morty, the coroner, to figure out the “how’s.”
Eventually, it becomes clear that this case is too big for your normally solitary investigative style. Sure, you can still call your mom if you need a push in the right direction, but relying on her all the time will almost certainly be used against you in some way by the game’s end. As such, the best nose on the force, Spotty, is assigned to be your sniffer. Now, you have nothing against him — after all, he’s a very good dog — but you’re… you know, your own cat. Moody, brooding, and shouldering these burdens alone. How is teaming up with this eager beagle going to pan out?
The number one complaint I have with general point and click games on the Switch is that they’re usually not optimized for console with the added frustration of the dreaded Joy-con drift moving the cursor around all over the place. At first I figured this would also be the case for Inspector Waffles until I inadvertently tapped an object of interest and discovered that touchscreen controls are available. It’s such a small thing on paper, but in practice, this can make a world of difference when you’re sick and tired of fighting with your cursor. I want to stress that I don’t blame the devs for Joy-con drift of course, but adding touchscreen controls takes the sadly common issue into consideration, which makes this much more than just a simple PC to Switch port.
When it comes to story, Inspector Waffles deviated from the standard Noir style to the point that it probably can’t be considered a true Noir. Diehard Noir fans might grumble at this, but one thing that they’ll still enjoy is the mental and emotional growth Waffles experiences throughout the game. Like most Noir detectives, he’s got a dark past he treats with a strong flask and burying himself in his unethical work practices; unlike a lot of Noir detectives, he’s approachable, open to facing his fears, and eventually sees the value in proper procedure and the talents of others. I’ve played my fair share of Noirs, pixel art or otherwise, and I will say that although this one probably wouldn’t qualify against the likes of, say, L.A. Noire, it’s still a scintillating murder mystery with a final twist I definitely didn’t see coming.
One thing I really appreciated about Inspector Waffles was the fact that, although there were cat and dog puns aplenty, the writers didn’t rely on the standard low-hanging fruit. Instead of just slipping in words like “purr-fect” or “paw-some!” they actually went out of their way to build a world with a defined social structure between cats and dogs. There were the bigger things, like allowing only one animal in a supermarket at any given time to allow cats and dogs to shop in peace — separately. Then there were the little things, like Waffles not understanding the appeal of luxury bones, which mostly came from extinct creatures, or Spotty not comprehending sarcasm due to his big-hearted and trusting nature. I won’t get into spoiler territory, but the psychology of dog and cat behavior plays a big part in Inspector Waffles; I admire the lengths the team went to in order to provide a fully fleshed out animal world.
I don’t really have many complaints for Inspector Waffles (just one — why did my Woolball package disappear before I could investigate it?), but I do have questions. If you’ve played your fair share of recently released animal detective games, you’ll notice some familiar faces with hints of all the games playing into a bigger picture. Is anything going to come of this, or were those just delightful cameos? Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but if all these teams intend to come together and blend their respective properties, things could surely get… interesting.
Inspector Waffles genuinely surprised me. I expected a good pixel art noir, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with a great buddy cop murder mystery. It’s also one of the few point and clicks that felt optimized for the Switch, a rare treat for those who enjoy the genre on this console. Featuring witty writing, a loveable cast, and even a secret ending to sniff out, the only mystery here is why wouldn’t you want to pick up Inspector Waffles?
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Hitcents; Developer: Goloso Games; Players: 1; Released: October 14, 2021; MSRP: $13.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Inspector Waffles provided by the publisher.