by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Episodic adventure games are most certainly here to stay. The Detail just happens to be one of those: a noir detective drama where you take on the role of Reginald “Reggie” Moore. He’s a veteran detective and he’s tired of all the bad stuff he’s seen go down over the years. He’s frustrated with the crime rate and he’s also frustrated with the system. All he wants is to do some good.
You’ve probably heard the kind of story before. In a noir style story, you can expect a degree of recurring themes but here the clichés come at you thick and fast. It’s almost as if all of the lingo you’d expect is shoved in just to remind you of the setting. Does anyone actually ever ask “who’s the stiff?”, or whether they’ve got a line on the “perps”? Tired dialogue aside, you’re investigating the murder of a well known criminal and the tale will lead deep into the criminal underworld.
Gameplay is quite clearly heavily influenced by the new Telltale way of doing things. You’ll be clicking to move around, interacting with objects and people, and occasionally there will be a cinematic quick time event. The entire story is told through a comic book style to the point where you can see the individual frames of a storyboard in some places. In order to progress the story, you’ll be clicking on an icon that looks like a page turning over. And just like in a comic, there’s no spoken dialogue. Everything is text based, so if you’re not one for reading in your video games, you may want to look elsewhere.
It’s not completely silent though, as there is genre appropriate music playing. Lazy jazz and groovy basslines remind you once again of the setting. It’s not the best soundtrack ever devised, but I imagine that’s partly by design. At a few points it sounded like there were two tracks overlapping each other. I don’t know whether this was a bug or simply bad jazz. Either way, it was pretty distracting. The visuals have a dark graphic novel style to them, a lot of stark dark and light contrast, with moody lighting throughout. The developers, Rival Games, want you to know that this is a city that you shouldn’t feel safe walking around on your own.
Fleshing things out
This is down to the remarkably high number of bad guys who live there. You meet a lot of people over the course of the first episode: good, bad, and neutral. They’re filled out on “The Board”, which is a place where you can go into polaroid pictures of each character and see some information about them. When you find something new about them in the game, it’ll be added here. By the end of the first episode there are 16 characters on the board and when you consider the episode is only an hour long (depending on how quickly you read and how long you want to look at the artwork), you don’t have a lot of time to digest everyone.
I can barely remember just a few of the names because of this and the fact that they’re just not very fleshed out characters only contributes to the confusion. At one point, you take control of an ex criminal working as an informant for the cops. Here you’re arranging meetings and collecting money for mob bosses, and it’s almost like the game expects you to already know who everyone is. There’s also not very much emotional investment. Taking the Telltale games as an example, you’re making meaningful decisions on dialogue choices. In The Detail, you only get a couple of decisions to make and they seem to be achievement rather than gameplay related.
The Detail isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as the games it’s trying to emulate. The story isn’t as good as other noir dramas and the gameplay doesn’t have meaningful consequences like many others do nowadays. Perhaps later episodes will improve upon these grievances and I hope they do, because the genre deserves a good game of this style.
Good artstyle, story fairly well delivered
Characters are poorly introduced, choices you make don’t feel impactful