Told in the style of a point-and-click adventure with the criminal undercurrent of The Wire, Rival Games' The Detail game is a police thriller in noir style, pulling no punches when it comes to the dark and nasty criminal underworld. As an official selection for the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, the game has drawn attention for its unique art style and gritty storyline. While it's not a perfect beginning, The Detail is a good start to what looks to be a contender for the next great episodic mystery game.
The Detail Game Delves Into Crime and Corruption
Rival Games emphasizes story in The Detail—this is a game driven by investigation and your personal method of detective work. As veteran Detective Reginald Moore, reformed criminal Joe Miller, and rookie cop Katelyn Hayes, you get drawn into a scandal bigger than the suspicious body of a crime boss found on the railroad tracks. Whether you believe it's a setup or a drug deal between rival gangs gone wrong, you have multiple ways of progressing the plot—you can play the detective as prone to violence or as a master negotiator, and choose to make Joe truly reformed or an adept liar.
The story is well done, as even when you've gathered all the evidence you're still not quite sure whether you have it right. When things go south in the third act of the first episode, you're even more convinced that you're not entirely correct. The alliances and corruption run deep, and the things Detective Moore believes to be true are changing.
It's an intriguing hook and the interpersonal drama makes it memorable. Though it does occasionally rely too heavily on the tropes of noir and includes more than one troubling example of sexual violence in a mere sixty minutes of gameplay, which can feel like an overdone method of demonstrating a character's depravity, overall the story is an excellent introduction to The Detail game.
The Detail's Gameplay Is Minimal, But Effective
The Detail plays rather like a Telltale game—there are choices to be made, quicktime events to pass, and objects to click on. There isn't a lot of gameplay, but the story more than makes up for it. All the same, if you're looking for a game to challenge you, this isn't it. Story quite obviously comes first, so if you're a fan of games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, you'll find plenty to like in The Detail.
While the story is intriguing, repeated playthroughs reveal that the choices made don't have much of an effect. While this may not be true for later episodes, the marketing for the game emphasizes the nature of choice and diversion, meaning the lack of paths feels disappointing. Changing the way your characters interact with one another does reveal some interesting information, but it isn't quite enough to make the first episode feel like a game truly driven by choice. Hopefully that is something that will be addressed in future episodes.
The Detail Feels Like a Noir Comic Book
The art of The Detail game feels very unique. It's heavily influenced by comic books, including sound effects and largely static panels that use text, light, and shadow to tell the story. It's a unique choice, and one that serves the game well—this harkens back to the days of noir, and reminds you that what you're playing is likely not going to end well.
The environments vary in detail—while some are illustrated beautifully, some feel bland and uninspired. As the game is primarily point and click, the animation is minimal and can often look a little stiff. You're rarely focused on your characters as they move around the scene, so it's not a huge and glaring flaw, though getting stuck on stairs seems out of place in a game that is otherwise so serious.
There's a lot to like about The Detail. Its story and atmosphere are intriguing, if a little too reliant on dark tropes to get the gravity of the situation across, and the unique art style is eye-catching and memorable. Though the lack of consequences for choices is distracting in Episode One, there's a strong possibility that your failures, aggression, or passiveness may come back to haunt you in later entries to the game. All in all, The Detail is a promising entry in the choice-drive point-and-click adventure genre, and may be the next big thing if it keeps up its momentum.
The Detail Episode One: Where the Dead Lie is available now on Steam for $5.99.