Game: A Case of Distrust
Developer: The Wandering Ben
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Age Rating: 12+ (UK & EU) | 10+ (US)
Price: £13.49 | €14,99 | $14.99
Release Date: 20th September 2018
(The game is also available on Steam)
Review code kindly provided by Serenity Forge.
Let’s go back to 1924 in San Francisco. A Case of Distrust takes us there in this narrative mystery 2D adventure puzzler. Meet private investigator Phyllis Cadence Malone and help her unravel her cases.
Setting the mood
When I was growing up (yes, it has been a while ago…) we were glued to the television, just like the generation that is growing up now. Only difference was that back then the programs on television only broadcasted in the evenings, and sometimes in the afternoon when children were off from school.
These television shows introduced us to fantastical adventures in outer space, and also to the world outside of our own little country in Europe. We saw shows that took place in the United States, the skyscrapers of New York, the huge ranches in Texas, the steep street of San Francisco and the tropical islands of Hawaii. All very exiting and different from where we lived.
I loved Star Trek from the get-go, Magnum PI and detective stories like Philip Marlow and Mike Hammer. You might by now be asking yourself why I’m telling you this: you see, in Star Trek and in Magnum too, some of the episodes revolved around the past during the prohibition. For Captain Kirk time travel was a piece of cake, and more then once they found themselves in a world shaped by that specific time. For instance, A Piece of the Action saw them in 1920’s Gangster culture. And when Luther Gillis appeared in Magnum PI, he portrayed the archetypal gumshoe of old.
From the get-go, that’s the scene that is set in A Case of Distrust.
In a minimalistic way the story takes you back to life in San Francisco in 1924, when society was very different from today. The fact that you see this world through the eyes of a female PI is extra special, as I don’t imagine there were many women in those kind of professions back then.
These are the first lines in the game:
“I awoke in my desk chair,
across from me were his piercing amber eyes.
They surprised me at first, but I should have known he’d be there”
“I laughed at his glare, I’d seen San Francisco’s shrewd thugs,
hardened cops, and deadly politicians, but none could ever match that glare.
I knew I didn’t have what he wanted”
You see, that, right there, immediately set the stage for the game.
In a minimalist way, you click to let the narrative progress. Clicking on items in a room to gather information, talking to people involved in the case. PC Malone takes us from her own dive to the Southern Café, an automat diner. Although, if you winked right at owner Ethel Burgess, she’d show you the way to the downstairs “toilet”. In reality, Frankie’s Bar was downstairs, with the illegal drinks to be had.
Frankie isn’t just the bartender, but he also helps PC Malone with her cases. Just by listening and giving his additional insights. Clues collected, interviews jotted down, everything can be bounced off Frankie to hear what he has to say about them.
Soon Malone travels from Bar to Barber Shop to Jazz Café and Racecourse in pursuit of the truth about here case around Connor Green. She visits her old digs at the Cop Stations as well, and meets up with the cop that remained her friends even after she left.
Slowly but surely the case unfolds itsself in about three hours time.
Point and Click
The way you progress through the story, is by clicking on objects and people and see what evidence and contradictions you can find. Every scene you encounter has a number of clickable items. Plus, most of the time you have two or more choices about what Malone will do or say next. And you trusted notebook is always at hand, detailing the case summary, the basics, evidence you found and statements.
To present evidence, or find inconsistencies in statements, you can present what you have jotted down to the person you are talking to. And only if you have taken the right action, the game will progress.
Minimalist art style and great music
The entire game is made in a couple of colours, and without much detail to the images. Funny how the persons portrayed, using nothing more then lightly animated silhouettes, tell the entire story. You just know what kind of person we are dealing with, and you can clearly see what mood they are in.
The music is compelling, and fits the overall theme so well. It fits the little alleyways you travel in and the dives you visit.
Mallone takes a cab to get around, and every time you hail one you get an option. You can either talk to the cabdriver or just stare out of the window. I almost always opted for talking. Although several historical accurate topics were discussed, I haven’t found any clue in there that had anything to do with the case at hand.
A Case of Distrust reads like a good detective book, which is great. The minimalist style assures that your focus stays on the story. It’s a relaxing game, though don’t play it in too small a spurts, as you’ll lose the thread of the story.
Going from one dive to the next and back again can get a bit repetitive, it’s a pity the taxi rides do add some historical colour, but not any additional insight into the case.
Of course, you have to like these point and click visual novels, but if you do, this is a good one. The game is somewhat short, especially taking the price into account.
Final Verdict: I like it!
That price is rather high but Switch seems to have a lot of indie sales.