Detective games

I’m enjoying the gameplay and design of Paradise Killer, but I do have to fight through the art style and aesthetic. Not that it’s bad, but it’s just aggressively not to my taste. But there’s only one Obra Dinn and I really need a fix.

Tbh I found the deliberate graphical dissonance part of the charm. If you don’t have the budget, lean into it thematically.

Alert, @jsnell! Chinatown Detective Agency! Demo out now.

Become the detective in this free prologue for Chinatown Detective Agency. Amira Darma is new to the PI game, and you’ll need to use real-world detective skills to help her solve cases, manage her agency and unravel a global conspiracy in this globetrotting neo-noir mystery.

Just dropped this in the Probably Indie Games thread, but it seems to have some Sherlock Holmes-style detectiving, so figured I would mention it here, too.

Whoa, that has shades of “The Wolf Among Us”, one of my favorite games. So will this be on PC?

It is currently available on Steam.

And with a demo too.


You can’t expect much from the single-deck-of-cards detective games. But even by the standards of the genre, Decktective: Bloody-Red Roses was absolute bottom tier trash.

The game works very much like the Q-System Sherlock games. You have three clue cards in hand. You can say the name of the card but not discuss them in other ways. On your turn you either discard or play one of the cards, then refill your hand. Everyone sees the played cards, nobody sees the discards.

There are three differences: the cards are drawn from the deck in a fixed order, there are some event cards in the deck that get resolved immediately when they are at the top of the deck, and cards can only be played if a there’s at least as many discards as the card’s threshold value.

In theory all of these look like improvements. But since the deck is just as tiny as in Q-System but there’s now space taken up by the event cards, there’s not a lot of agency. And the story has been written by simpletons, for morons. It is not a detective story in any meaningful way. There is one suspect, every bit of evidence points at them, and there are no red herrings. A five year old could solve this “mystery”.

The gimmick of the game is a little 3d diorama that you build out of cards at the start, and that gets modified a couple of times during the game. It is utterly pointless.

Did any of you ever play this? It has extremely good reviews.

Lacuna - A SciFi Noir Adventure is a pixel art detective game that I was interested in due to one of their devlog blog posts that was basically about the challenge of puzzle design for these games. It’s a good read, and their solution sounded interesting.

You enter a scene and get some goals that need to be met before you can move to the next one. It might be just making sure you visit all the key locations in a scene, or it might require you to answer a multiple choice question on the case. So potter around, find the evidence, talk to all people, and then it’s off to the next scene. Answering the questions wrong still lets you advance to the next scene, but it might affect the options you have available in the future. The benefit of this system is that they can have incremental progress in the solving of the case, but still have it feel like there’s some stakes in getting those incremental solutions right.

After playing the game, I still have no idea of how that system will actually work in practice… Unfortunately the designers had no confidence in the players, and made the puzzles so easy that the consequences of failure are completely theoretical. The required deductions are extremely simple. There’s no need for reading between the lines since the game will make sure that the important facts from conversations get highlighted, and since you can’t even try to answer the question if you don’t have access to all the clues. If there’s anything funky or ambiguous going on, some character is likely to outright tell you how to solve the puzzle.

You also need to have an understanding of the case for the dialogue selection system, since you often can’t exhaust the whole conversation tree, and need to have a good enough grasp of the case to make the right dialogue choices. This needs to be done without referring to the Codex (which is intentionally not accessible during a conversation). These feel more satisfying than the multiple choice questionnaires about the case.

The writing for the actual gameplay is fine, but nothing brilliant. The noir monologues from the protagonist are just the cheesiest shit in the world, except I’m pretty sure it was written completely earnestly. The plot is too obvious and straightforward, with no real twists or red herrings.

Lacuna is not a very long game. My playthrough was 4.5 hours, and probably at least 1.5 hours was spent on just routine level traversal which felt like pure padding. It feels like a number of scenes could have gone very differently based on my choices, but it’s very hard to justify another playthrough to see the alternatives.

The bizarrely named MicroMacro: Crime City is one heck of a cool idea for a board game.

The concept is simple: you have a ridiculously large paper picture of a city in an isometric perspective, with a gazillion tiny people drawn on it doing various things. There are 16 missions in the game, all of which point you to a crime in progress somewhere on the map. “Man crushed under a piano on the east side of the city, near the burger place”. You find the crime scene, and look at all the tiny details drawn there.

These details will hopefully give you an idea of what happened, and what to look for on the map to find other events connected to the crime. Because here’s the neat thing: the map is not just a snapshot of the city. Different parts are shown at slightly different times, so that you can for example find a person who is at the crime scene (or the victim) elsewhere on the map at a different time.

Since the map is huge and the people are tiny, it is all about using contextual clues to narrow the search window. So for example, if you see somebody wearing a bandit’s mask, maybe following them to the past will show you then putting it on, and give you hints about what they look like without the mask so that you can follow them further into the past. Or the future.

The case is provided as a deck of cards that guide you through the case in small steps, a question at a time. Once you know how to answer a question, you are given a hint on what to look for next. This we found a bit unsatisfying, and after two games we switched to the hard mode of only getting the first card. So we’d try to solve the case entirely, and then see if our investigation found all the answers. And that was just fabulous.

There’s a web based demo scenario that gives a good sense of how the gameplay works, though it feels like one of the simpler cases. (There are five difficulty levels.) Just click play demo on the following site:

Why does this work? It clearly ticks off the investigation part of the detective game, but in a way that feels much more organic and “real” than pretty much anything short of Obra Dinn. The design of interleaving 20 stories to one map, plus having a lot of filler people around with their own routines, creates a delightfully rich environment for clue hunting.

And to cover the other half of what is needed for the genre, you do need some deduction both to guide the investigation and sometimes to fill in the gaps.

And of course sometimes you build the entirely wrong theory from the clues, and end up derailing the case fully. Like when we were for a while sure that the guys we nicknamed Creepo and Beardy Weirdy were the conspiracy behind a certain murder, but they were just in the wrong places at the wrong time. Lovely.

I got my hands on this recently and have played the first six or seven cases with my kids. It’s really fun, really easy to get into. Definitely make sure you have a well-lit gaming table for it! And if you play with more than a couple people, prepare everyone for the fact that often not everyone can be directly involved in looking for a certain thing at once (you’re usually focused in one place on the map). When I play with my kids, I’m usually just reading and confirming the solutions and letting them find stuff on the map.

Based on the OP post, some worthy additions to the list are both HackMUD and Nite Team 4. While both are hacking-themed videogames, the hacking on offer is almost always detective work, finding digital clues and using deduction to figure out the next place to probe, or tool to use. You also frequently have to leverage NPC contacts (or marks) to gain crucial information to crack the next challenge.

HackMUD is brutally difficult with minimal polish, while Nite Team 4 goes down easy with really great production values. Both have somewhat significant tutorials that youll need to play through. That said, they are very satisfying examples of “detective gaming” for anyone inclined to do their detective work through a faux-Linux terminal.

I’ve also heard Hypnospace Outlaw offers a similar experience, but I haven’t got around to that.

How have I missed this thread! I love detective games! PINNED yay
Will scroll through later but has anyone mentioned Blacksad? So great.

[quote]I only just saw this thread and scrolled through the whole thing very quickly and unless I missed it you are missing one of the best game series ever…

Danganronpa which is a visual novel type game. I’ve only played the first two, but the third one gets great reviews as well. The first one is one of my favorite games ever. It’s just so different than anything else I’ve ever played.[/quote]

If this is still relevant for you…

Loved the 1st game. 2nd wasn’t as good, but I still enjoyed it.

The 3rd was just bad. There was maybe one decent case in it, the rest terrible.

-One case is so obsessed with throwing in a TWIST, that you’re forced to make a completely blind guess as to who the killer is. Get it randomly right, and it then tells you how the crime was committed, by introducing new facts that you did not know about when you had to finger the killer. It was so stupid.

-Another case has such a stupid setup and obvious killer that I swore there was going to be a twist as the mystery took multiple turns to shine light on new facts that would turn everything on its head. And…nope. It ended up being the super obvious killer from the start.

-If the 1st game was a 4/10 on the raunchiness scale, and the 2nd game a 7/10, then the 3rd is a 12/10. You have lines like “Take that dick of yours out and use it, because I’m going to drain you dry.” You have multiple instances of incest. You have…other stuff.

-There are far more intolerably characters than any previous game.

-Instead of Monokuma, you get 5 Monokuma cubs. All this does is make “his” dialog 5 times as long while also being less interesting and dynamic.

-The final case and SURPRISE TWIST is so jaw droppingly stupid that I almost uninstalled the game out of disgust. It’s the lamest 4th wall breaking possible. The characters all but turn directly to the player and chide them. “How dare you expected a good game! You should be thankful we gave you anything at all!” It’s like the makers didn’t even want to make a 3rd game, were forced to, and took out all their frustration on the fans.

It’s 80% really, really bad. Just avoid.

(though still not as bad as Ultra Despair Girls)

My group has been enjoying the Sherlock Files series.

You get a deck of cards with every case. Every card is a clue. Everyone gets a hand of clues and has to play one on their turn. Face up if you think it’s relevant, face down if not. Go until the deck is out. Figure out the mystery based on face up clues, score points by correctly answering the questions, lose points for irrelevant clues you played face up.

It’s simple, and forces the case to a close without a bullshit limited time mechanic while avoiding the uncertainty of Consulting Detective…

Tried the first case of Detective - Season One, and none of us are very excited to play it again.

My main complaint with Consulting Detective was always not knowing when you were done, and turning to the question section would reveal spoilers. Did we miss a major lead? Did we stumble on the solution half an hour ago? We’ll never know unless we spoil it!

The limited time mechanic was an attempt to get around that. I think Mythos Tales was the first one I saw it used. It ended up just making things worse, because it focused on the one absolute worst flaw in CD: actually giving a shit about score and beating Sherlock. It was impossible to do that unless you happened to pick the exact relevant lead first, which was always arbitrary as your first choice in the game.

Season One’s 1st case was the worst for that. Given the over half a dozen first choices, the one that would put you on the path to cracking the case was the LEAST relevant seeming one.

Quick: you’re head of a murder investigation of a professor found dead in the university lab. What do you look into first?

The building security footage
His assistant
His wife
A mysterious package he received the day before
Follow up on footage of him being assaulted in the parking lot the night before
The mob-connected casino he was in major debt to
His mistress caught slapping him on camera
Contact the FBI for info on his research

If you chose anything but the last one, you’re a sucker and were wasting time! Every other listed trail was completely irrelevant to the solution. Yes, why WOULD “real detectives” even bother with any of those other leads?


I had eyed that a month ago and was curious.

Didn’t see The Raven mentioned, its decent. That’s right I forgot it received a remastered edition. I really should just start a new game, I got half way through the original and then distracted by life.