The Japanese equivalent of the "dad joke" is ダジャレ (dajare), and I love them to bits. One of my favorites is ぱんつくった which can either be pan tsukutta, I made bread, or pantsu kutta, I ate underwear. They're not jokes structured as question-response, they're rolling words around in your mouth and eliciting groans from the people around you. And perhaps one of my favorite things about themed Japanese game jams is when people dajare the heck out of that theme.

Title card for るる子の事件簿!! (Ruruko Case File!!)

(自称)名探偵 るる子の事件簿!!
(Self-Described) Master Detective Ruruko Case File!!

るる子の事件簿!! (Ruruko Case File!!) was made by AZ. and was a jam entry for #Unity1Week 「ためる」 (tameru, to amass or accumulate). It's a visual novel where you must help the very enthusiastic Ruruko and and her reluctant sidekick Mayu solve the mystery of their friend Yumi's missing PE uniform. The flow of the game is what you'd expect: hunt for clues around campus, interview witnesses, discuss leads with your partner, move on to the next area, giggle at Mayu's increasing exasperation at Ruruko. The part that I absolutely adore though is that the sleuthing mechanics are dajare puns of the jam theme, tameru.

Screenshot of two high school girls talking in a visual novel.

Ruruko: That's right! The basics of sleuthing are "examine," "heat up," and "solidify!"

Ruruko explains to Mayu that her grandpa taught her that when doing detective work, you need to follow the three tamerus: 検める (aratameru, to examine), 温める (atatameru, to heat up), and 固める (katameru, to solidify).

Screenshot of two shadowy figures standing in a school courtyard.

EXAMINE: Interview witnesses and collect information!

Mayu, like you the player, is utterly confused by this. Ruruko patiently explains that the first step is to aratameru, examine for clues. You do this by clicking on people and getting their statements.

Screenshot of a list of statements on the left side, and an equation on the right.

HEAT UP: Organize your information and heat up your thoughts!

Those statements get stored in a little bank under the atatameru tab, where you heat up your ideas and mix them together like cooking ingredients to create a new idea.

Screenshot of a list of statements on the left side, and an equation on the right.

SOLIDIFY: Make deductions using your information!

And finally, under the katameru tab, you select an idea that answers the question given, hardening your resolve and continuing the story. See! These are the three tamerus that will let you tameru (collect) information and solve the mystery! It's tamerus all the way down, baby!

Okay, maybe I am the only weirdo in the world who unironically loves jokes with long explanations. But the point is that this nonsense actually makes a ton of sense, and breaking down the process into three tabs on the right side of the screen made it easy to understand what I needed to be doing. This kind of wordplay is not only a fun way of laying out your standard Investigate, Deduce, Conclude actions, but really brings out Ruruko's earnest personality.

Screenshot of a girl looking excited with an exclamation point next to them.

That's it!

The writing is infused with this free and gamboling energy of loitering on school grounds long after classes ended. Everyone around you thinks you're a bit strange, but you're surrounded by friends and having a good time. What could be better than that?

I wanted to recommend this game even though it is, by its nature as a visual novel, very Japanese text-heavy. It immediately put me in mind of the Ace Attorney series, which itself was stuffed to the gills with dajare. This is the kind of writing that resists 1:1 translations since the words don't tumble together the same way in English as they do in Japanese. That's a shame, since they're also the most interesting for non-Japanese speakers to use as a lens into the silly moments that color everyday language. If you're an intermediate student of Japanese and want some practice with a game that has a ton of heart and that you can finish in less than half an hour, I highly recommend Ruruko Case File!!

Play るる子の事件簿!! in your browser at Unity Room. You can find more of AZ.'s games on Unity Room and follow them on Twitter @az_period. And if you're interested, we previously covered their game 黒筆 -The sense of forger- (Black Brush) in a video!