The Detail

Genre:   Adventure, Action, RPG

Developer & Publisher:  Rival Games 

Released:  Episode 1 October 2014

Additional screenshots



by flotsam


The Detail – Episode 1: Where The Dead Lie

This is what the website says:

“The Detail is a new adventure game from Rival Games that takes the player to the streets of a crime-ridden city and into the shoes of Reginald "Reggie" Moore, a veteran detective grown frustrated with the lack of justice, and Joseph "Joe" Miller, a former confidential informant now dragged back into the life of crime he barely escaped.

The player will need to investigate criminal activity, scenes of murder, arrest suspects and interrogate them for information, all while trying to navigate the pitfalls of an underworld where every choice holds consequences”.

It also says the game features this:

  • Dramatic narrative tailored by the player's choices
  • Detailed crime investigation based on realistic police procedure
  • Graphic novel art style crossed with TV police drama narrative
  • Deep mystery and multiple subplots in a modern American city

It doesn’t mention the graphic style, which not only looks like a comic book but plays like a comic book, and makes this a whole lot more like an interactive  story than a game. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but just be aware of what you are going into.

There is no voice work whatsoever, and everything is conveyed via the visual and the speech bubbles. You click to move the bubbles along, and to “turn the page”, further adding to the “book not game” vibe.

Comic like it might be, but there is nothing comic about the events. Some events might not be to your liking, or the language, so be aware. While the style took away a little of the grittiness, I thought that it did give off a suitably grimy noir feel, aided admirably by the colour palette.

While I quite liked the style, it is inevitably “flat”, and it did act as a barrier to being engaged with the characters. I felt like I was reading about them, not playing with them, and the couple of hours it lasted didn’t help.

There are analogies drawn with the recent Telltale games on the website, indicating the choices you make affect the way the story unfolds. If that is so, then I will play again, as it’s the only way to see the impact. The choices are generally in how you respond to a situation – for instance, when confronted with a criminal do you cut a deal, arrest him, or walk away – and at no stage did I make a “wrong” choice, in as far as the story didn’t progress. It pressed relentlessly onwards, and I don’t believe I happened to make all the “right” choices, so it will be interesting to see what happens when I make deliberately different choices next time.

Having said that, a game where I can only appreciate the full value of the experience by playing it again is a bit of a conundrum. Which brings me to my next point.

While I was required to make choices, there were no clues as to whether what I had done was pivotal or otherwise. The Telltale games have a little pop up that says something like “Bill will remember that” which indicates what you just did has had an effect, and that is both a positive and a negative. The upside is that I never really liked those Telltale messages, as they took away some of the mystery behind the impact of my actions. Had the butterfly just flapped its wings in a way that would cause chaos down the track, or had I merely stepped on a bug; I didn’t really know, but I did know I had just done something that was likely to not be innocuous, for the mere fact that it had told me about it. The game didn’t tell me about every choice I made, so why this one, if not that it was meaningful.

I could of course be entirely wrong about the whole thing, but that is how it played out for me.

As mentioned, there is none of that in The Detail so I never knew whether what I had done was anything other than what it appeared to be. Which meant it avoided the Telltale effect, but also meant I had to take it on faith that I was actually creating my own path through the game. As I said above, the game just moved on, whatever I did, which ended up making it feel like it didn’t matter what I did.  Further, while offering the choice itself was, in itself, suggestive of a possible consequence, the story didn’t play out in a way that resulted in me having to confront those consequences at any point, which in the end made the choices almost feel illusory.

Which (and somewhat perversely I confess) made me wonder whether Telltale was right all along.

Another issue I had was that the sense of distance from the events I referred to before, meant that the choices I made never felt like “what would I do” but “how can I move this along”. This further fed the lack of overall engagement, and so we went on.

There were some minimal detecting puzzles, sifting through evidence to find the right bits and pieces to move on, but they are few and very gentle. Toggling the hotspots can make it even gentler, both in the puzzling and the exploring. Like the Telltale games, puzzling is not really the point.

If this was all there was, it would be a stylistic, not at all unenjoyable brief interlude to an afternoon, but perhaps not much else. I may however be jumping the gun.

This is only Part 1 after all, and while some events have been completed we are really setting things up for what follows. How engaged can I be having only met the characters two hours ago, and it is conceivable that all my choices may very well come crashing down on top of me down the track. Which if they do, might make this rather good indeed. That alone is enough to bring me back, and to refrain from passing any further judgement until then.

Except that I do I have to mention the slightly moralistic nagging.

Like the Telltale games, at the end of the episode I got some statistics about how many people had made the choices I had made. I also got what I felt were somewhat condemnatory judgements about some of them. It’s not my game, and the makers are entitled to do whatever they want, and I might even share the views, but I paid my money to play it as a game, and in that context I think I am entitled to do so without such commentary.


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