June 6, 2015 1:04 AM | Sean Flint
With the recent resurgence of the point-and-click adventure genre, which is being driven by games such as Broken Age and The Walking Dead, the market has become flooded with games attempting to make an impact on the point-and-click community. While the mechanics of point-and-clicks are often quite simple, creating a compelling game in that genre is something much more complicated. Great point-and-clicks feature intriguing stories, challenging puzzles, and solid character design. As a fan of point-and-clicks, especially those which feature a murder-mystery theme, I decided to delve into The Detail, a crime noir adventure game, and see if the game had what it takes to be a contender in what is a very competitive genre. *SPOILER FREE*
The Detail, simply put, is a crime noir game that follows multiple characters whose lives become intertwined during a murder investigation. Without giving too much away, it is a bit difficult to describe the characters in detail. In a simple sense, you swap between a veteran detective and a former gang member who has been trying to turn his life around.
One of the unique ways that The Detail attempts to stand out from its competitors is through the use of a well-done comic book style presentation. Cutscenes are presented like panels in a comic book, requiring you to click your mouse to progress to the next panel. The artwork during these scenes is very well done, and I never got tired of seeing tense, action-packed scenes being portrayed in that format.
With this awesome comic book presentation in mind, it results in one thing that I really disliked about The Detail. As far as the first two episodes go, there is absolutely no voice acting. While this isn't a deal breaker by any means, I feel that if I am playing an established character, part of understanding who that character is is through their voice. Without voice acting, I often felt myself having a hard time developing a connection even though there was some very solid written material for me to go by. Keep this in mind if you're not one for reading, as The Detail definitely requires a large amount of reading if you'd like to keep up with the story at all.
The gameplay of The Detail is basically made up of exploring small levels while searching for evidence or clues to aid you in your investigation. There usually seemed to be a few ways to approach each area, from how you entered to how you dealt with the material that you would discover. During most investigation sections, you will be tasked with speaking to witnesses or suspects. These conversations allow you to choose your dialogue options, which means that although the characters are definitely already established, you can choose how you feel they would react given that particular situation.
For those who are interested in playing through games multiple times to figure out how different choices affect the game, The Detail does not have much for you. I played through each episode twice, and found minor variations at the most between choices. It seemed that no matter what you chose, you would usually end up in the same situation at the end of the encounter. While it is nice to be able to choose dialogue, it would definitely be even better if the dialogue options impacted the story in some way, especially if this impact occurred a bit further down the line.
During investigations in The Detail, important objects are highlighted with a large yellow box around them. I found this to be a bit annoying, as I would have liked to walk around the scene trying to figure out which objects I needed to focus on. I feel that having the boxes around important objects really dumbed-down the experience of the game. While there might have been an option to turn this off, I did not see it during my search of the options menu.
Typically, objects in the game feature a look and an interact option. The look option just provides a short description of the item or person in question, and interacting either picks it up, examines it, or speaks to it, depending on what you are interacting with. Some objects need to be examined further in order to find other objects hidden inside, such as a coat that you'd have to check the pockets of in order to find a wallet or important documents.
Exploring the investigation environments is as simple as clicking where you would like your character to move. Character movement animations are very poor, unfortunately, so there wasn't much to enjoy while your character trudged his way to a piece of evidence. While this may seem like nitpicking, if I'm trying to get immersed in a story, it doesn't help when the character is slogging along like an inebriated sasquatch.
Finally, the most important aspect of any point-and-click adventure game: the story. The first two episodes featured a very basic story. The characters were very run-of-the-mill. You had the grizzled and bitter detective, the street tough trying to better himself, and the rookie cops who are trying to prove themselves. While the characters were definitely nothing new, they were well-done for what they were. I was still able to become interested in the characters and I ended up feeling invested in them.
The overall story of The Detail is just okay. Nothing that happened during the first two episodes really blew me away, and much of what did happen was very predictable. Honestly, it felt like these early episodes were just trying to set the stage for the story further down the line. While it's perfectly fine to have some backstory and anticipation before revealing interesting information about a story, I felt that much of it could have been consolidated into one episode, and the second could have been a bit more "juicy", so to speak.
With two episodes under its belt, The Detail still manages to be a compelling crime noir experience. The unique and well-executed comic book aesthetic really adds a lot to the game, even if it does lack any form of voice acting. While the characters were very basic, and the story was nothing spectacular, I felt that the presentation and a few mildly interesting events were enough to keep me interesting in coming back for the next episode. If you're a fan of detective games and are looking for something new, The Detail's interesting presentation may be enough to warrant a look.
The Detail Episodes 1 & 2 are currently available on Steam for $5.99 each. You can also get both in a bundle on Steam for $9.99, saving yourself a couple of dollars.