It has been eight months since the first episode of Blue and Bullets was released by A Crowd of Monsters. Though not without its flaws, the first episode was a good introduction, but the wait for the second episode was a long eight months. With such a large gap, Shaking the Hive requires you to be able to recall quite a bit from earlier. The episode starts with a recap, but it doesn’t mention everything from the first, so you’ll either need great recall or to replay The End of Peace.
Shaking the Hive doesn’t immediately carry on from the end of the first episode, but instead begins with a flashback. Here you control a younger Elliot Ness at a time when his Untouchables were at the height of their powers, tasked with stemming the flow of alcohol during the Prohibition era. This scene actually sets up the episode quite well, and has more character development for Ness than the first episode did.
In fact much of the second episode focuses on Ness’ past and how it torments him in his present. Ness is a man who was forced to retire from police work, and is now helping the biggest criminal of his time as well as his main adversary, Al Capone, to solve a mystery about children that have gone missing. There’s a lot of linking past with present as Ness deals with similar situations, though in each you decide what actions he takes. You can try to consistently repeat his actions, or change things up and be a bit more unpredictable.
Shaking the Hive does raise a lot of new questions, as the whole mystery surrounding the children gets stranger. At the same time, new characters are introduced but then quite quickly forgotten, despite the game trying to elicit some emotional attachment to at least one of them. The relationships between characters can be hit and miss.
Take the villain of this episode as an example. Without going in to too much detail, he is put forward as a major player in Capone’s past, but there is never too much development done with his character. On the other hand, the relationship between Eliot Ness and Capone does slowly grow as they spend more time in each other’s company.
The writing of the episode is strong and the voice acting is of high quality, just as it was in the first episode. The delivery of the lines helps to draw you into the mystery and flesh out the characters. It’s also a better paced episode than the first, where I complained that it felt like too much was going on at once. There is much more time spent on key scenes here.
The investigation segment is quite easy to complete. In this scenario, you look for clues in a storage area to see if the missing children were there at some point. You’ll be drawn to objects of interest by a red eye hovering over them, with clues being saved. You can then switch to the investigation board and place these clues in the right places, but Blues and Bullets does not allow for clues to be placed in the wrong area of this board.
Shaking the Hive has more shooting sections than the first episode and also introduces character changes within them. In these on the rail sections you have a choice to go through opposition with Ness and his pistol, or with Capone and a shotgun. It lays down a potential direction for Blues and Bullets, where you experience events from both perspectives and not just Ness’.
The visuals and music continue to be very well done. The black, white, grey, and red colour palette is mixed together very well to really accentuate the noir feel of the game. There are instances where it really comes together perfectly, especially in the latter half of the game, and the music fits the scenes perfectly, whether it’s an action scene or one that is more emotional.
The difficult decision is whether Blues and Bullets can be recommended yet. Shaking the Hive is a good follow up to The End of Peace, but the recommendation really lies on the future release schedule. There can’t be another eight month wait between this and episode three, otherwise all the story building done here will be forgotten. As an experience Shaking The Hive does well to continue the story and does so with better pacing. The shooting sections are good, but do take more time than seems right in what is primarily an investigative title. Blues and Bullets is shaping up to be an intriguing game, but it may be worth waiting for the complete package.
Please note that we score only the first episode of a season and the season as a whole for episodically released games.