Some of my earliest computer game memories are playing text-based adventures like Zork or The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. With the limited graphics capabilities of the time it was up to the player’s imagination to set the stage and enjoy the experience, much like reading a novel. In this day and age, it’s refreshing to play a game that harkens back to those days relying on simplistic visuals and an intriguing story to draw you in.
A Case of Distrust thrusts you into the role of Phyliss Malone, a private detective in San Francisco in the early 1920’s. As a former detective, and as a woman, business hasn’t exactly been booming. When a bootlegger arrives and offers you a job, what other choice do you have but to take it? Things quickly turn from investigating a threatening letter that your client received, to a murder investigation. The investigation takes you to all sorts of interesting places, from the top floor of a speakeasy to a race track. Your only real friend is Frankie, the friendly bartender who’s always willing to lend an ear and provide helpful advice.
Each scene is portrayed as a silhouette, with various objects to make note of and people to speak to. Each character is rotoscoped from actual actors (a process of animation utilizing real people), which gives each character a uniqueness and realistic quality. As you interact with each object or character, you make notes which you will use later on to catch someone in a lie or to further your case. The music is light and jazzy which really brings the feel of the 20’s to your 2 to 3-hour gameplay.
Gameplay is all about reading dialog, and then selecting your response. It plays out very much like a grown-up version of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Throughout the game, characters explain their whereabouts and you utilize your notes to challenge, accuse, or simply move the story forward. When traveling between locations, you are given the opportunity to converse with the cabby’s, who share with you a lot of the rich history that was going on at the time. While the information they give you isn’t key to the story, it sets the stage for the era and the various events that occurred during this time.
While the game is really nothing more than an electronic version of a graphic novel with input from the player, I found myself being drawn in. The story is interesting and the investigation is not particularly difficult, so it keeps a regular pace throughout. Much like reading a novel there is little reason to return to it once the story is told and your interest in the topic will play a big part of what you take away from the game. If you have an interest in the 20’s, from both a historical and fictional perspective, there is a lot to like here. If you aren’t the type of person who likes to read (a lot), and are looking for something fast paced, this game will likely not appeal to you. All that being said, A Case of Distrust is a fun, albeit short, distraction and I enjoyed the ride far more then I originally expected.
What I liked: Beautiful silhouette style art, Light jazzy sound track
What I liked less: Could have been longer
4 out of 5 stars