A Case of Distrust Review
Release Date: February 8th, 2018
Developer: Wandering Ben/Serenity Forge
I would walk through fire to play a good story based game so when I was offered the opportunity to review the new text-based adventure from former Bioware employee Ben Wander, I leapt at the chance. A Case of Distrust is an atmospheric game set in the world of 1920’s San Francisco where you play as a disillusioned private investigator. So far, so much like every film noir movie or game you’ve ever heard of, but there’s one exception. Your character is female. A former policewoman turned PI after the apparent suicide of her uncle, Phyllis Cadence Mallone is one of the more interesting detectives of her genre. The game follows her as she attempts to solve a case brought to her by a former informant of her uncle while navigating the shady world of gangsters and prohibition.
One of the best parts of the game is the setting, which is predominantly shown through the description of the buildings the story takes place in and discussions Mallone has with taxi drivers as she makes her way around the city. These conversations make the game incredibly rich, referring to various events from the time and filling in the background of a world filled prejudice and rebellion. The more I talked to the taxi drivers, the more I realised just how difficult it was to be different in Mallone’s world. It’s something that is referred to again and again throughout the game, and which becomes one of the main themes of the story.
The story itself is incredibly well written and it kept me on the edge of my seat almost the entire way through the game. There are quite a few twists and turns and you’re always kept second guessing your progress in the case. The basic mechanic is digging up facts though clues or statements which contradict the statements of others and then using those contradictions to force each witness to give you the truth of their role in the case. While many games with similar mechanics tend to have a lot of bizarre logic and rely on random events to push the case forward, in A Case of Distrust each clue seems to always logically lead to the next. Even though some are harder to find, there’s always something in each scene to point you towards the truth of each witness’ experience. Finding these breaks in your case is a challenge, but an enjoyable one. Unfortunately, the game lets go of this concept in the latter half of the final act, and that’s when things begin to fall apart.
Towards the end of the game, the control is taken away from the player and the final solution is simply handed to them, rather than being built up from the collection of clues Mallone has gathered over the course of the case. It was disappointing to have not actually found any evidence to do with the resolution of the case, and ultimately it ended up feeling like my actions were totally superfluous to the story. In fact, the solution of the case feels contrary to all of the evidence you have gathered and relies totally on a single witness statement that you are never given the opportunity to contradict. It’s very disappointing that a game which so successfully simulated the experience of being a detective up until this point ends this way.
The final scene of A Case of Distrust hints at a future game, and despite the disappointing final act of this game, I would love to be able to return to P. C. Mallone’s world in the near future. I hope that there is a more satisfying end to her next case though as both the detective and those playing her are more than capable of finding out whodunnit by themselves. As far as this game goes, I would recommend it for anyone who loves atmospheric story based games or enjoys playing as a capable female heroine. It may not be a perfect game, but it’s a pretty fun trip to the world of speakeasies, femme fatales and cynical detectives all the same.
Intriguing, original story
Logical and engaging investigation
Weak, unsatisfying ending
Not enough interaction with the story in the final act
Thank you to Ben Wander and Serenity Forge for providing us with a review copy