It’s coming out on October 13 and, after playing the Steam Next Fest demo, I have to pick up The Case of the Golden Idol on day one. Not only is it perfectly timed for this eerie time of year, but the game’s unsettling blend of splotchy pixels and genius gameplay create a compelling sleuthing simulator.
The Fest’s preview threw me into an uncontextualized scene where a McDonald’s mascot look-a-like gazes on as another man plummets off a cliff. It’s not quite a still frame picture, but it’s also not quite a looping clip. The subtle movement gives some hint as to what’s going on but the full series of events leading to one man’s demise isn’t revealed. To discover what’s happened, I have to look for clues lying around the tableau. For those who really want to snoop around, I suggest leaving the highlight hints off. When activated, this option will cause important things to sparkle, so you know where to click.
I briefly considered grabbing a notebook to keep names, professions, processions, maps, and other pieces of the puzzle straight, but the game actually did a lot of this work for me. As I clicked around in the “discovery” phase of the investigation, a box appeared below, collecting all the key words at the bottom of the screen (and, super helpfully, telling me how many words the scene contains so I won’t miss any). When I was satisfied I’d found everything, I clicked over to the “thinking” phase. Here, the game asked me to take the words I found and place them in the blanks of an unfinished hypothesis. Not to brag, but I got everything right first try. The game told me that I guessed correctly (though there’s no penalty for being incorrect) and explained a little more of what had happened.
Then it’s off to the next scene. At first the case of “The Untimely Passing of a Rural Gentleman” seemed completely unrelated to my initial mystery, but, once I found all the clues, I realized there was a connection. And similarly, the case after that also had a link to the previous two. So, The Case of the Golden Idol looks like it has an enigmatic, overarching narrative looming over every individual investigation. And with the great use of environmental storytelling already in use for the murder mysteries, I have high hopes for the tale this game will ultimately reveal next week.