A Case of Distrust | game review
One for those who like being far more thorough than the average person
Game summary: Catch suspects in lies by using evidence, statements, and your wits. Intrinsic challenges face our heroine, as she struggles against a pushback on emancipation, leading to many doubts, both internal and external. (Steam)
Mystery games, or games where you at least have to visit locations, inspect items and talk to people, are responsible for two of the better games I've played in recent years, Unavowed and especially Disco Elysium, so I was hoping that A Case of Distrust would come at least close to them and I'd have a good time. Unfortunately, that's not how it turned out, thanks to this game making the mistakes the other two didn't.
First off, there was more than a couple of moments where I genuinely couldn't figure out what to do next as I'd taken all the logical next steps as far as I could tell and honestly had no idea what I was supposed to do. Resorting to a walkthrough for these bits revealed what I needed to do and each time it was always something incredibly small that either didn't make much sense or just needed to be done in a certain order.
By themselves, those things aren't inherently bad if the game provides enough feedback for the player to at least prod them in the right direction, but A Case of Distrust doesn't do that. This meant that there were other points that I might've also got stuck at but had grown apathetic to how the game was unfolding and made use of trial and error to proceed because that was faster than trying to figure out the game's logic.
One thing I praised Unavowed for was its internal consistency of logic when it came to figuring out what to do next, with the solution usually being quite simple and my getting stuck being a case of trying to over-think things. For this game, it really is a case of treating each scene like a checklist and trying everything you can because of the number of little things that appear to have zero relevance might still unlock different dialogue options rather than being able to work out what you should be doing based on the information the game has given you.
There's also the issue that A Case of Distrust is very short, which makes me wonder why the writing wasn't tidied up a little to hint to players that an apparently useless background item might be something you could ask one of the characters about because it unlocks an extra bit of information that you have no possible way of knowing it would do.
It doesn't help that the game ends quite abruptly, so there's very little catharsis even when you do finish off the story, leaving a very unsatisfying feeling once the credits appear. This, combined with some tenuous connections between plot sections and a short playing time, means that it's not something that I could really recommend unless you want to soak up the atmosphere, which fortunately the game has plenty of.
A Case of Distrust doesn't even need voice acting, with the music, art style and simple, slick transitions really capturing the noir mood perfectly. If there ever is a sequel, I'd fully recommend the developers leave the audio-visual side of things alone as they absolutely nailed it here, and instead concentrate on making sure the characters and story are of equal quality instead.
A Case of Distrust ends up proving to be a case of disappointment in the end, although there is enough potential here - including the great music and slick as hell presentation really setting the tone - that could make a sequel into a genuinely brilliant game. It's the writing that's the let-down here, with some of the means to progressing not being clear in the slightest, not helped by the story also being very short and finishing very abruptly.