What do you picture when you think of Oz?
Munchkinland? Movin’ on down the yellow brick road? The Wicked Witch of
the West as she melts -- or as she belts out Broadway show tunes? This is
such a familiar place, with so many associations, that placing a game in
Oz evokes nostalgia, poignancy and a dash of trepidation. Dave Gilbert,
the creative mind behind Emerald City Confidential, clearly knows
this and has taken advantage of it.
The game opens in the Emerald City Warehouse District, with a towering
skyline as the background. Oz has changed since Dorothy Gale and the
Wizard returned to Kansas in the MGM movie. Decades later, the actions
taken by Dorothy and her gang of overachieving misfits have cast long
shadows. Heroic deeds that were celebrated in the course of the original
cinematic adventure are now haunting the people and the city of Oz.
Something Bad? Happening in Oz…?
You assume the role of Petra in this third person adventure. Petra is a
hard-nosed detective striving to make a name for herself in the Emerald
City. She carries past disappointments and traumatic memories of the loss
of a younger brother. Petra gradually becomes entangled in the lives of
many local residents when a “missing person” case walks in the door. As
Petra tracks down her glamorous client’s friend, she learns more about the
history of Oz and the backgrounds of its citizens (many of whom originally
appeared in the novels by L. Frank Baum, though not in the movie version).
She also finds curious hints about her brother’s disappearance many years
Black is this year’s Pink
Emerald City Confidential has clearly been influenced by the
Film Noir detective genre. The dialog is slick, classy and unexpectedly
funny. The characters are stylishly attired – femme fatale Betsy Bobbins
has bobbed hair falling over one eye and a wide-brimmed hat with a
coquettishly tilted brim. The Lion (now a lawyer) flaunts a tailored city
suit and a cynical, gruff manner.
Voiceovers are excellent, including the satiric imitations of famous
characters from the history of film. My only criticism of the voiceovers
is that they tend to cut out about mid-sentence during many parts of the
game. This becomes annoying after a while, and it is the only aspect of
Emerald City Confidential that lacks professional polish.
So – What’s the most Swankified Place in town?
Graphics are hand drawn with an Art Deco aesthetic -- strong contour
lines, jewel-like colors and lots of intricate patterns, including
serpentine cast-iron motifs. Animations are a trifle stiff but definitely
serviceable and fit the stylized surroundings. The Emerald City looks as
though it was inspired by the black-and-white skyline in Fritz Lang’s
classic movie “Metropolis,” then tinted bright green. The overall effect
is one of exaggerated reality tinged with a sense of mystery – the odd
combination of an innocent child’s fantasy world and a hardboiled Noir
Please – Somebody Go and Melt Her!
Oz is a magical place, and Petra will have to learn deal with the
magic. She will also need to solve puzzles by using inventory items. Most
of the challenges involve gaining information by talking to the various
characters or observing the environments. The level of difficulty is
definitely on the “Easy” side. This is a game that is perfect for an
adventure game novice, as it uses a traditional point-and-click interface
and contains an effective hint system and brief in-game tutorial. The
puzzles become more challenging as the game progresses. However, if you
are a “Puzzle Achiever” type of gamer, be forewarned that none of these
puzzles is fiendishly difficult.
Emerald City Confidential contains an “extra” challenge that
involves locating colored, sparkling buttons. This was nicely done and
gave me a reason to look more closely at the environments. Collecting the
buttons provided access to some concept art taken from the game’s planning
Beneath the Scenes
This game contains an interactive map that allows you to move quickly
between the various locations. You’ll find yourself doing a bit of
back-and-forthing between locations, but always for plot-related reasons.
I encountered no glitches except for the voiceover glitch mentioned
An autosave function tracks your progress and records it each time you
leave one area and enter another. This was not my favorite aspect of the
game. I like to be able to save my game at various stages so I can return
and re-examine the environments and listen to dialog again (this is
particularly important in plot-heavy games). The only way to accomplish
this with Emerald City Confidential is to replay the whole game.
Game length is substantial, though not of epic proportions; the game is
a good value for the $19.95 price.
Quick List for Emerald City Confidential
A Noir detective mystery set in the Emerald City, years after Dorothy’s
return to Kansas. Meet Petra, a new heroine with a likeably ambivalent
personality. Colorful, cartoon-style graphics. Lots of character
interaction and snappy dialog. A twisty plot with transformations and
Puzzles that require listening to the dialogs, using inventory items,
and figuring out how to manage some Ozian magic. A good hint system.
Puzzles fall in the “Easy” category. No sliders, no mazes, no sound-based
puzzles, one puzzle requiring distinguishing colors, though this could
also be solved by trial and error. No tricky timed puzzles.
No problems with installation. One sound glitch that cuts voiceovers
off in mid-sentence. An auto-save system that is restrictive.
Emerald City Confidential is aimed at fans of the L. Frank Baum
“Oz” novels, the “Wizard of Oz” movie, “The Wiz” and “Wicked.” It also has
a lot to offer adventure gamers who appreciate stylish graphics and
dashing dialog, and casual gamers who would like a first experience in the
world of adventure games.
Final Grade: A-
Emerald City Confidential can be purchased via download at
Section headings are from the musical “Wicked” – lyrics by Stephen
My Computer Specs:
Windows XP Professional
Pentium 2.80 GHz
2046 MB RAM
Direct X 9.0c
512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
SB X-Fi Audio