There’s no doubting that Suda51 is quite the distinguishable name amongst video game developers, especially with him having been involved in some fantastic releases such as ‘Killer7’, ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Shadows of the Damned’, and most recently ‘LET IT DIE’. A lot of gamers may not know of one of his earliest (and now remastered) releases though: The Silver Case, a visual novel puzzler that explores the mysteries behind a string of murders from a renowned serial killer.
However, whilst a lot of Suda51’s titles are known to be zany action-packed experiences, The Silver Case instead slows things down and has the player doing a lot more reading. It’s a change of pace to what gamers might be used to, for better and worse; whilst The Silver Case offers a competent visual novel experience, it’s not going to offer you the same thrills you’d have been used to from the famed game developer.
The story behind The Silver Case revolves primarily around… well… ‘The Silver Case’, an old police investigation into a serial killer known as Kamui.A string of recent killings link to the same killer, but with investigators not really knowing who or what Kamui is, it’s difficult to determine if he really has returned. You tackle the mystery from two different viewpoints that run side by side: one part of the game sees you playing as mute detective Transmitter, and the other part as news reporter Placebo.
The story is eerily dark and certainly mysterious, with the futuristic setting portraying a grim time when extreme violence is not only seen as the best solution to just about any problem, but also overlooked by almost all members of society. Much like any Suda51 release, this is something that you’re expected to accept from the get go; titles like ‘Shadows of the Damned’ and ‘No More Heroes’ have portrayed humanity as an accepting kind, regardless of what unbelievable or inhumane sights might be in front of them.
However, it’s a bit more difficult to accept this approach this time around as The Silver Case can’t seem to decide how seriously it wants to take itself. It’s full to the brim with swearing and the aforementioned dark scenes, but it also has its moments where it hits levels of absurd immaturity.It’s not something that’s uncommon in a Suda51 release (in fact I’d almost say he prides himself upon it), but it’s not something that’s so welcome when in a somewhat serious storytelling experience.I don’t know if it was something that was lost in translation or whether it is in fact the game’s intent, but the game’s ever-changing tone made it a little difficult to engage with both the narrative and its characters.
Despite this, The Silver Case’s story will still do enough to entertain. It’s an interesting tale that’ll hook you in, even if it won’t stay with you forever – we aren’t hitting Scorsese levels of thriller here, but rather one that does its job and is then forgotten. You’ll want to know how everything unfolds and uncover all of the secrets behind the murders, with each new plot twist being met with plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. Some of the actual crimes you witness are intense too, mixing up the right amount of intrigue with excitement; they often tackle issues that are relatable in this day and age too (regardless of the gap between the game’s initial release and today), whilst some of the scenarios you’ll come across would be difficult to even dream up. Admittedly some could be a little difficult to follow, but it doesn’t matter too much since their bizarre nature does enough to keep you interested.
Whilst the bulk of the game is spent reading text and checking out a few cinematic scenes and static illustrations, you’ll also get the chance to freely explore a series of environments and interact within them.These environments are incredibly basic though, with movement following old-school tank-like controls from a first person perspective. Everything typically consists of simply making your way to a specific point in the environment, interacting with it, and then seeing the story progress – you do get a few instances of puzzling along the way too, though most of it simply boils down to just looking around.
The interaction is an appreciated element though, plus it makes the whole visual novel approach a bit more interesting – it isn’t just a case of making a particular choice in a conversation to see progression, but something you actually feel like you’re a part of. Sure, text still dominates everything and almost all forms of interaction are intersected with a ton of reading, but what would you expect from a visual novel? At least The Silver Case goes some way to making sure it doesn’t simply feel like an automated experience.
Whilst its presence is welcome, the actual interactive scenes can be incredibly clunky to play through.The aforementioned tank controls make it feel similar to a classic ‘Resident Evil’ game, though it’s a bit more forgiving seeing as there aren’t action-packed sequences that demand absolute precision. The confusing button pressing and frustrating UI on the other hand are a bit more tedious to put up with, though again not completely intolerable.
There’s plenty on offer to keep you hooked in for a long time though, with a ton of chapters included in the game that’ll easily last you over an hour each. Those who played through the game before will be happy to see the addition of two all-new chapters too, both of which are available after you’ve completed the game. This isn’t just The Silver Case remastered, but also with a few extras too.
Despite its rejuvenated state, The Silver Case feels dated and clunky. Whilst it’s easy to appreciate that it’s hard to modernise mechanics that weren’t particularly invigorating to begin with, it’s hard to look past them in a time of more interesting and exciting releases. The story itself is bizarre and at times convoluted too, whilst the whole unconventional approach that’s so typical of Suda51 won’t be for everyone either.
Still, when The Silver Case gets into its flow it can really shine. You’ll never be bored when playing, though just how entertained you are will come down to personal preference. It’s the same for almost all facets of the game in fact – whilst The Silver Case is certainly not a bad example of an interactive visual novel, if you aren’t already a fan of the genre it won’t do anything to convince you otherwise.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: 21/04/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC