Murder. One of the greatest plot devices to use for entertainment purposes. The thrill of uncovering clues, edging ever closer to a suspect and the fear of being caught by the murderer. The sensation of this macabre act has entertained us for centuries and satisfied our darker, more sinister side. We are enamoured by the entertainment brought on by this vile act.
The Shapeshifting Detective has us right in the middle of a murder case. Players must investigate and interview many suspects while gaining information by a unique means. The player’s character Sam is a shapeshifter who can take on the appearance and mimic the voice of any suspects in the case. You can use this power to breach people’s confidence and sneak past their guard.
Wales Interactive and D’Avekki Studios bring us this fantastic title, where the game play is a first-person interrogation game. Made entirely of pre-shot footage, the game plays much like previous titles The Bunker and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. This unique genre takes away traditional movement around areas and replaces the choices with menus or a point and click system; this latest title adopts the menu style.
The game has players investigating the murder of a 21 year old redheaded woman called Dorota Shaw. Her killing is baffling the police and the local community, all within the village of August. The mysterious death that was predicted ahead of time gives suspicion to the trio in the opening act, though every shady character in this game is a suspect. The more characters you encounter in the game means more personas you can mimic. This allows players to gain dialogue options that would not normally be open to a detective: more in game exploration and fishing for clues with all the different combinations of characters and dialogue.
The game can get stuck in a little bit of a rut where players are forced to go between the same few screens with a strange radio station on in the background. After visiting the same faces back and forth with different personas it can be a little disorientating at times: forgetting what face you have on and who you have already spoken to.
The games music is an excellent example of mood setting. The eerie tones and gentle melody keeping players calm while remaining on edge is fantastic; the perfect accompaniment to the players mad darting from location to location.
The loading screens are also a fantastically vibrant abstract scene, where it almost resembles oils or paints swirling around on a canvas. Later in the game this is revealed to be cards of a certain tarot deck with special connotations. These loading screens are displayed when players choose to advance chapters. It is also accompanied by the “Poe & Munro” new updates on the hour; a local in game radio show that is broadcast to the entire village of August. These updates are a slight round-up of the investigation so far, while also giving more depth to the story and fleshing out the world.
The games filmed style is very easy to take for granted, being that Wales Interactive have made this style of game development a big focus. The time and effort that goes into the games cast and settings is impressive. The amount of dialogue needed to make a game with so many branching choices must be a hard undertaking: players do not appreciate the time and patience taken to craft the dialogue trees.
The games setting is quaint and easily believable that you are in some peaceful, perfect little suburb in England somewhere. The village of August almost feels real when darting around from location to location in the worlds my reliable taxi.
A standard playthrough of the game would not be any more than a few hours, which on it own does not sound like much of an adventure. The game boasts over 1600 different pieces of footage that can help access different dialogue options and story paths. The game can be played several unique ways with the murderer being different each time, so the game certainly has replay value.
Alternative playthroughs also allow you to tackle situations differently: befriending someone you were previously hard on and seeing what different outcomes come of that and more.
The switching character mechanic is certainly the unique selling point of this title, though the frustrating part of it all is you can only change in the bedroom of the guesthouse. The game allows you to take a cab to question suspects, which would mean these taxi drivers are earning a small fortune at the rate I was using them to go out on location. A better mechanic would have been for the main character to have their own car and the ability to swap personas in the car. This would eliminate the need to return to the guesthouse constantly.
The Shapeshifting Detective has numerous outcomes and threads to follow and I am totally certain that the endings I witnessed are not the only endings. It creates an exciting twist of events when you travel down a new narrative path, the excitement of the game opening once again with more dialogue options.
Overall the tale of The Shapeshifting Detective is a fascinating adventure that will take no longer than a feature length film, though with some questionable names, accents and acting. It is not enough to write the game off, in fact it is very much the opposite. The games charm and personality is developed from the actors that make up the cast.
This style of game is a refreshing break from the sandbox adventures and tyre squealing adrenaline rush of other modern titles. Instead we have a steadier paced mystery where the adventure changes depending on the approach you take to investigating and what relationships you have built. In a way it almost feels alive as it adapts to your choices, something different from 95% of other games out there on the market just now. The perfect game for a night in, even possibly enjoyed with friends since there are no timers for dialogue options like you’d find in the Telltale style of games. This adventure has a tremendous amount of replay value though I can understand it is not for everyone. If you enjoy adventure games or are even looking for a something out of the ordinary, then I highly recommend this for “something different”.
A review copy for Xbox One was provided for the purposes of this review. Thank you!
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- Replay value
- Interesting concept
- Brilliant musical score
- Repetitive mechanics
- Dialogue not skippable