I spent 20+ hours playing The Last Case of Benedict Fox and after that ordeal, I feel like have a strange relationship with it. It feels odd to even say that out loud, that there’s a possibility I formed a bond with a piece of virtual entertainment as if to imply the game became sentient on our tumultuous adventure together.
On the one hand, it’s a tantalising Lovecraftian Metroidvania with a surprisingly emotional story set against the backdrop of 1920s dark magic and spiritualism. If you like psychological horror and body horror, then TLCoBF will be right up your alley. It’s a little bit Hellboy, a little bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even a tiny bit X-Files.
On the other hand, however, it’s frustrating to play, overwhelming so at times. With temperamental combat and no signposting when it comes to the quests, I was often left lost and alone, frantically retreading the same places until something different happened. If that’s not the road to madness, I don’t know what is! But often was the case that a random collectable or triggering the right dialogue would introduce something new to the world, and the only way to find out was to accidentally stumble upon it during one of my repetitive cycles.
I played TLCoBF on Xbox and it was riddled with bugs, and I swear it was as if the game was taunting me. I would sink an hour or two into it, only to be booted to the home screen and lose all progress. Then, when I made the decision to manually save, it would often freeze during saving, and it was a complete gamble whether or not the game saved or not. And yet, despite all of this, something kept pulling me back in. It was as if the Companion (the demon attached to Benedict’s psyche) had its tentacles curled around me, readily available to embrace me or torture me at any moment.
What kept me coming back was the story. I’m not going to pretend I have a comprehensive understanding of what happens in TLCoBF because there’s a lot to unpack, and quite frankly there’s so much backstory hidden in optional collectables that I’m certain I’ve missed essential information. I think a second playthrough with some context behind me would help flesh out some of the more confusing parts but I’m not going to sink another 20 hours into this toxic relationship. I haven’t got the patience anymore to peel back the layers – hopefully, someone better than me can deconstruct it and make a YouTube video essay for me to consume instead.
On the surface though, Benedict is investigating the death of his father and his father’s wife while being pursued by The Order, an organisation of occult practitioners, spiritualists and alchemists. What I loved so much was how everything was based on real magical folklore, and being privy to that niche made it feel like the game was full of Easter eggs intentionally curated for me. Obviously, this is not the case but TLCoBF is one of those games that spoke to me on another level, and that is a rare occasion.
If it wasn’t for the story, I would have booted it to the curb instead of persevering to the bitter end. Was it worth it? It pains me to say it but yes, I suppose it was. TLCoBF has many flaws but its convoluted plot isn’t one of them. When push comes to shove, lowering the difficulty made the experience so much more tolerable, so that’s something I would suggest considering if you feel as if the game is giving with one hand and taking with the other.
Our breakup was amicable, and by that I mean I swiftly deleted TLCoBF once I was done with it. Perhaps a couple of years from now, when the emotions have sunk deep into the recesses of my mind, I will look back on our whirlwind romance and think of it fondly. Better yet, if there is to be a sequel, I would want nothing more than to be reintroduced to Benedict Fox, and see how much we have both grown since we last met. Maybe – just maybe – we can have a crack at it again.