For fans of Color Gray Games’ first title, The Spider of Lanka is simply a must-play. In fact, it’s an easy recommendation for anyone that revels in murder mysteries or solving the seemingly unsolvable. Like in The Case of the Golden Idol, the recent DLC strikes a wonderful balance between offering brain-teasing puzzles and making players feel clever. The prequels’ story doesn’t reach the same depths, mostly expanding on the backstories of two characters that first pilfered the golden idol, but the three new cases are just brilliant as ever.
Set in a fictitious kingdom that undoubtedly takes inspiration from real-life places like Sri Lanka, which the British Empire ruled for over a hundred years, the latest Golden Idol offering deftly asks players to examine the gruesome results of colonialism. The condemnatory commentary is hard to miss and makes for a politically-charged backdrop, even if the DLC’s short length doesn’t allow for the narrative itself to explore the theme thoroughly.
Right in the middle of the social and criminal tumult are the two notorious figures: Albert Cloudsley and Oberon Geller. This prequel takes the pillaging figures as its stars, giving players of the first game a glimpse into what led to their eventual — and seemingly well-deserved — fates. It’s an intriguing angle for a DLC and rewards veterans of the series. I’m hesitant to encourage new players to jump into the Golden Idol tale here, even though The Spider of Lanka is set a year before The Case of the Golden Idol. There is at least one puzzle that might be difficult without some knowledge of the first game and I feel the experience wouldn’t be as rich.
It only took me a few hours to solve all three of the game’s new cases and the part of me that can’t get enough of these beautifully-developed deadly scenarios wanted more. However, the pacing feels right for the title’s story, and adding more crime scenes would likely have made it drag on too long. If I had one thing to caution players about, it would be the difficulty jump between the first and second scenario.
My first case centered on a single room chaotically festooned with bodies. Uncovering how each victim met their fate demanded I learn a new game of cards to determine everyone’s relation to one another. It was initially daunting but Color Gray Games is fantastic at giving players just enough information that unraveling the most tangled web is never frustrating.
The subsequent mystery takes place across multiple rooms of an exquisite royal palace and its numerous possible motives range from lover’s jealousy to courtly intrigue. It was a large leap to go from investigating a one-room crime to suddenly exploring five different locations, each packed with vital clues and key conversations. But again, the great design helped me through my initially overwhelmed impressions.
Golden Idol Mysteries: The Spider of Lanka is a worthy follow-up to one of last year’s greatest games. Its setting was fraught with reflective commentary, its cases offered more unparalleled sleuthing, and its narrative gave more context to the original game. I wish I had more riddles to solve but I’m holding out hope fans can look forward to more Golden Idol Mystery titles in the future.