The Detail Review
Developer: Rival Games Ltd
Publisher: Rival Games Ltd
Release Date: 10/28/2014
Please note that this is a review of one chapter of an ongoing episodic series, and not a complete review.
The Detail is a point and click adventure game in the style of recent TellTale games such as The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, which focuses more on the decisions players make than on extensive item related problem solving. Essentially the game is an interactive noir police procedural that lets the player feel like their decisions are important to the development of the case and overall plot.
The game begins with an opening narration to set the tone and then shows the perspective of two uniformed police officers braced against the door of a suspected child molester. The game gives you two choices, play a simple lock pick mini-game or kick open the door. One faster but then he’ll hear you coming. The other is slower but you might get the drop on him. Inside you can hear a child screaming so you have to make the decision quickly. As the scene plays out you get to make decisions on different actions before eventually arresting the guy.
Then it moves into an interrogation scene where the perspective has now changed and you’re in control of the actions of the detective who provided the opening narration. From here you get to control the flow of the interrogation. Do you play good cop or bad cop and can barter for leniency or use force. All of this is essentially the tutorial of the game. It works both to show you how it functions and what to expect from the rest of the game. The game moves on from that point into a larger murder case of a drug dealer killing in mysterious circumstances.
Graphically the game looks great with a distinct comic book style, from the occasional storytelling through panels to the dialog boxes to even needing to click the bottom right of the screen that has an icon like digital comics have for turning the page. The only complaint I have is that the walking around animations for the characters in the interactive portions are a bit stiff. But otherwise the game has a strong art style about it that works very well.
The audio portion doesn’t have the same production values present however. There’s background music that’s decent and fits the scenes, however it isn’t always present and there are often long periods of silence. Once in the game it was pointed out to a character that there was night club music in the background, but the background music for that scene wasn’t anywhere similar in style. It would’ve tied the scene together better had there been music that reflected what was being said. There’s no voice acting, which I’m okay with since it’s essentially a digital comic book, but some of the dialog would be even more effective if read in the dramatically cheesy tones present in a game like Max Payne. There’s only occasionally a sound effect, which robs some of the tension from scenes that should be filled with shotgun blasts or breaking glass.
The story that plays out I found very interesting. The game is packed with noir and police procedural clichés to the point where I was expecting someone to mention that they were just a few days from retirement. However what’s great is the way the game uses many of these tropes, while they’re present they’re used in interesting ways. Like the man the detective is using for information from the inside, he’s one of the perspectives you get to control and that character is actually well developed and one of the more sympathetic characters in the game. There are a lot of interesting developments and it does feel like you have some say in the events, even if it’s only superficial.
I suffered no technical issues and since the controls are just pointing and clicking I never had any issues with controlling the game, even when using the touchpad on my laptop. I replayed to make different choices to see how they played out and though the conclusions remained the same the way it happened was different. For example the child molester, depending on how you interrogate him he might face a harsh prison sentence or get off lightly. While that doesn’t change the major story arc it also bugged me when the suspect got away with the crime and it also made me question the justification of use of force to get information. Oddly some things I tried to do different, like failing a QTE, and everything still moved forward which is something that I don’t like. How the decisions I made impact later chapters is something yet to be determined though.
After you finish the chapter the game shows you the major choices you’ve made along with relevant quotes from articles about statistics such as police abusing authority. That’s a really cool way to show how the decisions in the game mirror those that are made on a daily basis by people who are in such positions.
Short Attention Span Summary:
I enjoyed this first chapter of the story and it ends on a strong cliffhanger that makes me eagerly want to play the second chapter. The story can be cliché in many places but it’s done well and when the story hooks sink in, they sink deep. If you enjoy this style of point and click adventure games I recommend trying this game out. I have a hard time fully recommending any episodic title however until the whole story arc plays out. Optimistically waiting to see more.