Do you enjoy a classic mystery that sees the detective uncovering clues all around them and then using them to grill suspects in order to find out the information they need? How about one that utilises point-and-click style gameplay as you work to unravel the truth behind each crime? If you answered yes to either of those questions, A Case of Distrust might just be for you.
A Case of Distrust is set in San Francisco in the 1920s and puts you in the role of Phyllis Malone – a private investigator who finds herself wrapped up in a strange case following a death threat to her client. It’s up to you to investigate a variety of locales, interrogate some shady folk, and utilise all of the evidence you can find to unravel the truth.
It’s a quirky little tale that feels out of the ordinary at times, though always in an intriguing way that keeps you eagerly anticipating each little turn it takes. One of the big focuses is on Malone being a woman detective and the discrimination she’s suffered because of it, which is something you’ll witness as you start investigating certain individuals who don’t always seem to take kindly to a woman scoping them out. Fortunately, there’s a fire inside Malone that makes her someone you don’t want to mess with, and that remains the case throughout the game.
A Case of Distrust plays a lot like a point-and-click adventure, with the player put in a variety of scenes that are made up of the silhouettes of objects and characters around you. Thankfully, when you can interact with someone or something they get highlighted, so you won’t miss anything. You can interact with objects to find evidence or just hear what Malone thinks about it, with the former used whilst interviewing the characters around you.
When speaking to other characters you can make choices as to what you want to say, with the conversation trees not only helping you shape Malone’s personality but also determining which bits of information you manage to obtain. There are multiple choices on offer, some of which might feel menial at first but still manage to elaborate a bit further on the tale and reveal more about the characters you meet throughout the mystery.
It’s when speaking to people where the game’s puzzling aspects come into play, with the player having to determine which information they should use against them in order to make them stumble and reveal something new to Malone. It’s actually pretty satisfying to uncover a bit of evidence and use it against someone – especially when it’s proving to a cat you have no food. Yes, that might sound odd, but it’s all part of the game’s charming introduction…
However, the game could also be a bit guilty of being a little obtuse at times, with it often easy to miss some bits of evidence and end up being left unsure as to what to use to contradict someone next. There were a handful of occasions where I had to resort to the age-old point-and-click trick of using every bit of information I had excessively on one person in the hope that they would slip up too – sure that could be down to my poor investigative skills more than anything, but it did take away from the satisfaction of feeling like I’m the detective solving A Case of Distrust’s mystery.
For the most part though the investigative process and interviewing the folk around you makes for a good time. It’s a simple formula, but it’s one that proves satisfying in-game – especially when you head back to a previously visited location with a fresh piece of evidence at hand to put someone in a twist. Seeing how the mystery pans out and how characters react to Malone is entertaining, whilst the fact that you get to have an input on how conversations pan out will keep you absorbed in the story.
A Case of Distrust isn’t too long though, with it taking around three-hours to see the mystery through to its conclusion. This feels like the right length – the simplicity of the game and the focus on reading (and there is a lot of reading) could grow tiring after a while, but I found that it never outstayed it’s welcome and managed to keep me hooked in until the end.
I feel like the control scheme needs mentioning, with some point-and-click titles often stumbling on consoles when you don’t have a mouse to drag the cursor around. Thankfully, A Case of Distrust doesn’t feature large environments that take an age to explore but rather small and simple ones where it’s easy to see everything you can interact with. It was never a pain investigating everything around you, whilst the menus and dialogue options were easy to navigate through too. Best of all, if you’re playing on the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode you can take advantage of the touchscreen controls, which makes the whole experience even smoother for players.
One thing that I feel deserves some praise is A Case of Distrust’s minimalist art style, which seems to fit the noir vibe of the mystery perfectly. Colour is used effectively to not only set the tone of the scene you’re in but also the characters that inhabit them, whilst the simple yet effective character faces manage to convey their emotions perfectly as you grill them with all of your evidence. It reminded me a lot of LA Noire in a way, but without the sense of convolution where you’re constantly worried about misreading someone’s expression. I was just a big fan of the art style and felt it complimented the old-school mystery behind the game well.
Developer: The Wandering Ben
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC