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Games with good "Detective Mechanics"

Zombra

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I just finished A Case of Distrust


which is solid and good. Recommended.

A very short (3-4 hour) case in which you accumulate information items, which can be things as simple as seeing an item lying on a table, or as complicated as the subtleties of personal relationships. You can ask any suspect about any clue you're aware of, and ultimately they will give you more information which goes in the clue bank, unlock new locations to search, etc. The elegance of the mechanics does not mean it's easy; there is a ton of information and most clues don't lead anywhere, so you have to be intelligent in your reading of things and figure out which questions to ask which people. Finally you will build a case against the guilty suspect and force a confession. I liked the story and solving the case made me feel smart.

EDIT: There is also a lame surprise twist at the end of the case which makes no real sense and undercuts all the hard work you did figuring it out. I still enjoyed the road to get there.

Full Steam review
 
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Tweed

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No mention of The Journeyman Man Project games yet. The first game is more adventure, but the second one has a heavier detective vibe.
 

Zombra

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I just played and finished another short detective game:



A cool FMV story about mystical tarot readers predicting a small town murder and a detective with a very unusual ability who investigates.

Gameplay lacks any crunchy detective mechanics such as clue management or a deduction board BUT it still qualifies as a good detective game imo. Consequential choices are rare, but super real, and at the end of the game you are forced to pick just one person to accuse out of almost a dozen suspects. This requires you to pay close attention to evidence and trust your intuition. I felt like there was very little in the way of hard evidence but I was still able to narrow down my suspect list considerably with some thought.

Note that at the end I chose the wrong solution to the case! but still had a good time with this and was completely satisfied with the ending I earned.

Full Steam review
 

Zombra

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Unheard is an interesting game.


This definitely qualifies as a detective game. You are a bug, a "fly on the wall" so to speak, who can listen in on conversations. You move the cursor around the map and spy on suspects talking in different rooms, and follow them as they walk from room to room, have conversations with different characters, etc. Every character has full dialogue for the entire duration of a recorded scenario. You can reposition on the fly, rewind, replay, and focus on different characters all you like to hear everything that happened from all perspectives. Sound is your only sense so you can't catch anyone "red handed". At any time, you can attempt to solve the scenario, with no penalty for wrong answers. Solutions require multiple data points, e.g. "Who initially stole the authentic painting?" + "Who had the authentic painting at the end?", so paying attention and accurately piecing things together are key.

While the idea is novel and intriguing, I got bored with this really fast, as it boils down to a test of patience in listening to tons of dialogue. Even with only 5 cases to solve, I got sick of it after just 2. Looking ahead to a 13 minute long case with 8 characters to eavesdrop on, that could mean almost two hours of listening to voice acting and doing nothing else. At that point it becomes a question of "What's the bare minimum amount of time I can spend on this before I can solve it and get it over with?" I applaud the very creative premise here but I simply don't like games where the primary "activity" is waiting for actors to finish talking. Even in dialogue-driven games at least I usually have a choice how to direct the conversation. In this the player's role is almost completely passive.

EDIT added Steam review.
 
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mediocrepoet

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Unheard is an interesting game.



This definitely qualifies as a detective game. You move the cursor around the map and listen to suspects talking in different rooms, and follow them as they walk from room to room, have conversations with different characters, etc. Every character has full dialogue for the entire duration of a recorded scenario. You can reposition on the fly, rewind, replay, and focus on different characters all you like to hear everything that happened from all perspectives. Sound is your only sense so you can't catch anyone "red handed". At any time, you can attempt to solve the scenario, with no penalty for wrong answers. Solutions require multiple data points, e.g. "Who initially stole the authentic painting?" + "Who had the authentic painting at the end?", so paying attention and accurately piecing things together are key.

While the idea is novel and intriguing, I got bored with this really fast, as it boils down to a test of patience in listening to tons of dialogue. Even with only 5 cases to solve, I got sick of it after just 2. Looking ahead to a 13 minute long case with 8 characters to eavesdrop on, that could mean almost two hours of listening to voice acting and doing nothing else. At that point it becomes a question of "What's the bare minimum amount of time I can spend on this before I can solve it and get it over with?" I applaud the very creative premise here but I simply don't like games where the primary "activity" is waiting for actors to finish talking. Even in dialogue-driven games at least I usually have a choice how to direct the conversation. In this the player's role is almost completely passive.


I never thought I'd have to use this sentence, but: 'That sounds worse than a cutscene game.' Uniquely awful.
 

Nutria

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I had pretty much the same experience. The two big problems I recall are that the cases aren't very interesting and there's no way in game to take notes and work out a timeline, so you've got to either use pen and paper or try to keep everything in your head.
 

Zombra

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I finally finished Aviary Attorney.



The game is pure delight in my opinion, and absolutely qualifies as a detective game. You scour Paris for clues and use them to contradict deceptive testimonials in court.

It's not super crunchy but definitely makes one feel smart in accumulating information and using it at the right time. Critically, the game allows 'failing forward' and whether a trial is won or lost, the story rolls on. The story itself branches onto three major ending paths, not at the push of a button but down to the results of earlier cases.

What really steals the show is the writing. Watch the trailers to get a sense of the comedy involved - if they make you smile, you have no choice but to play this.

Codex thread
Full Steam review
 

Zombra

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I tried the first Frog Detective game and uninstalled after 10 minutes. The dialogue is unedited, intolerable drivel, with characters droning on for minutes on end about "How are you" "I'm good and u" "Pretty darn good yup" "Oh well you are a frog" "Yes I am thank you" I mean jesus fucking christ.

Maybe if you smoke weed, get high and rub the mouse button on your face to click through this tedium. Otherwise, avoid and forget it exists. No idea how this tripe got Overwhelmingly Positive ratings.*

*Actually I do have an idea - Steam reviews used to be very useful but lately they've declined into competitions for stupidest, most meaningless one-liner. This game is a natural fit for that kind of reviewer.
 

Jenkem

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Never saw this thread before unfortunately, I stumbled upon it by searching for Inspector Wiggles since it's currently in the newest Fanatical Bundle

Anyways I skimmed through the thread to see if anyone had mentioned a certain game and they hadn't and I feel like you guys are missing out because it's really great fun:



It's a great Detective FMV game by Tim Follin. You play as Inspector Jenks who is sent to to a small English village to investigate a murder, you meet the village residents and things get more and more involved as you piece clues together. You go around town and talk to people while collecting clues, both from what they say and what you may find while exploring the village. You then ask these people about the things you've found or heard about and listen to what they have to say, ultimately finding places where they have contradicted themselves. (You'll have a bunch of statements collected from their testimony and you pair up the two contradictory ones to unlock more testimony and more clues)

The acting is pretty good and while it can be hammy at times it's intentionally so, like it's made to feel like the FMVs from the 90s particularly Tex Murphy/Command and Conquer scenes... One of the best Detective/FMV/Adventure games that never gets talked about.

There's not much in the way of choice though if that is what you are looking for, it is more like an Ace Attorney game in that regard where you are uncovering a plot but I think how it plays definitely qualifies it as a detective game.
 
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Jenkem

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I just played and finished another short detective game:



A cool FMV story about mystical tarot readers predicting a small town murder and a detective with a very unusual ability who investigates.


I've played this and it features one of the actresses from Contradiction which I've posted above as well as Rupert Booth (the glorious Inspector Jenks) and also had this in my wishlist which features them as well:



Haven't played it yet, I'll probably do so later today/tomorrow, so I'm not sure how it plays. It says it's an "interactive FMV / Interactive Movie hybrid, featuring live-action video and point & click elements" so I'm not sure how much gameplay there is.. it says it has 5 different outcomes but not sure if it is just selecting choices while watching a movie like some other recent FMV releases. It does show some gameplay in the trailer on Steam but only briefly, it looks like there are puzzles but not sure how involved they are.

But "A family-made game that doesn't take itself too seriously and made for fans of over-the-top FMV games." featuring Rupert Booth hamming it up sounds good to me considering the price it is currently at... I'll probably post about how it plays after trying it.

EDIT: So I played and finished this and yeah it's basically just a CYOA FMV movie, the 'point and click' elements are very minor and are effectively just clicking a circle that appears to pick up an item and then occasionally using the item at the right time (like using an SD card while engaging w/ a laptop, showing something to someone else etc) and the only "puzzle" is entering a password on a lock, so... yeah. I enjoyed it for the dollar I paid though, but it's NOT even an adventure game let alone a detective one..

as for something directly related to The Shapeshifting Detective that you might enjoy:



is a prequel of sorts
 
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Ivan

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Light on mechanics but excels in the detective/story assembly department. Excellent level progression/pacing driven by item acquisitions as you unlock and explore a cult compound. Love the gradual day night cycle and how the game shifts in tone. A wonderful way to spend 1.5-2 hours.
:5/5:
 
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I just finished The Case of the Golden Idol, a solid and challenging deduction game very reminiscent of Obra Dinn. Super recommended. My full Steam review here.


Thanks for the recommendation, brilliant game - purchased immediately after playing the demo. I may like it even better than Obra Dinn.
 

Zombra

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Anyone tried this?
Yeah, check out the full thread.

As relates to this thread, Lamplight doesn't qualify as having substantial "detective mechanics" in my opinion. It's a point and click almost like any other, with no systems for information management - the difference being that you can pick a solution and be right or wrong for each of several cases.
 

Nutria

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You guys weren't kidding. Case of the Golden Idol is exactly what I've been wanting for years, something that builds off the mechanics of Return of the Obra Dinn. The art and sound aren't comparable but it's got a good story and that's enough to make it engaging. I really hope that this succeeds enough to have sequels but also to get ripped off by others because this should be a whole genre of games.
 
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The Case of the Golden Idol is the best game I've played in the last few years, no joke. The very last case (before the epilogue) was a bit of a reach, but all the others were superbly designed. I hope this sells well and that we get a sequel of some sort. I loved everything about it - the art, the music, the writing, the progression and the structure of the cases themselves. It's the type of game that renews your hope about cool new things still being able to be produced. And it was made by two people.

It does allow for a little bit of degenerate gameplay but not too much - you still have to get your 'guess' within two correct words. I think a nice 'hard mode' would be to make it possible to play without locking out certain word categories from deduction spaces.

Anyway, best money I spent all year for sure. Everyone even remotely interested in this type of game should play it. Took me 8 hours to beat but I didn't use any hints. Definitely liked it better than Obra Dinn.

cheevascmq.png
 

Alphons

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Couple years ago I've played The Painscreek Killings- while it was a fun game it was more of a puzzle game with detective story than a game with detective mechanics.

Recently noticed that the devs are making a new game called Scene Investigators and that it has a demo.


It's only one scenario that took me around 20 minutes, but it was interesting enough that I've wishlisted.

You have a couple questions about the scenario that require you to type the answers yourself. You can't just brute force it as you can finish with wrong answers and you're only told how many correct answers you got, but not which were correct.

Scenario throws some red herrings at you and some leads are dead ends, but it wasn't hard. I got all answers correct on the first try (aside from testing what happens if you put random answers).

Release date is somewhere in 2023, also no concrete information how many scenarios they've planned.
 

Zombra

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Couple years ago I've played The Painscreek Killings- while it was a fun game it was more of a puzzle game with detective story than a game with detective mechanics.

Recently noticed that the devs are making a new game called Scene Investigators.
Glad you liked Painscreek Killings ... personally I hated it. Glad to see the developers trying again with a different angle to make an actual investigation game though. Will check out demo. Thanks!
 

NoSoup4you

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Golden Idol was very cool, but feels more like a blueprint for something that could be really great in the future. Obra Dinn was more of an eye-opener when it came out, but I would not mind Golden Idol clones becoming the indie game du jour for the next couple years. The puzzles overall were on the easy side - not that they didn't take some time - and the multiple-choice nature of it makes it likely you'll reverse engineer some solutions even if you're not trying to. A lot of the time, you can make these clever observations about the environment and then not even need them because the answers are obvious for another reason anyway. I will say that I felt like an idiot for not noticing that one twist about five levels earlier.

Also felt a little strange that you, the player, have no role in the game - though you're observing things, you don't even exist as a character. It really makes no difference whether you solve the mystery or not.

Basically, I would take this game, keep the concept and the aesthetic, make the puzzles a little more brutal, and use a text parser instead of keywords.
 
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Tramboi

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Golden Idol was very cool, but feels more like a blueprint for something that could be really great in the future. Obra Dinn was more of an eye-opener when it came out, but I would not mind Golden Idol clones becoming the indie game du jour for the next couple years. The puzzles overall were on the easy side - not that they didn't take some time - and the multiple-choice nature of it makes it likely you'll reverse engineer some solutions even if you're not trying to. A lot of the time, you can make these clever observations about the environment and then not even need them because the answers are obvious for another reason anyway.
That's a feature of good detective/TT RPG design : giving multiple leads in the hint graphs, IMO.
 

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