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A Case of Distrust is a 2D narrative 1920’s detective noir game from one-man indie dev The Wandering Ben, and published by Serenity Forge. Long-time WOTS readers will recognize Serenity Forge as a developer/publisher we’ve had success with in the past.
I honestly have no idea what it is about noir detective games that appeals so much to me, but there you are. Whatever the reason, as soon as I heard the premise for A Case of Distrust, I was sold. The trailer explains most of what you need to know – A Case of Distrust is a stylish game told primarily through silhouettes and text narration.
Protagonist Phyllis Malone is an ex-cop turned private detective. When a small time crook shows up at her doorstep with a mysterious threatening letter, Phyllis quickly finds herself embroiled in a web of intrigue in prohibition era San Francisco’s seedy underworld.
The case itself can be split into two parts – the first is an investigation into the mysterious letter, and the second explores an escalation in the case that leads to a murder. Each mystery is solved via a combination of hunting for clues in static 2D scenes, and through interrogating key individuals.
The 2D scene explorations are beautifully presented, although they’re generally pretty simple. It’s possible to overlook clues if you do a bad job of identifying the interactive objects, but the scenes are small enough that being exhaustive isn’t that difficult. There’s a lot of red herrings in the scenes, but there’s no real penalty to taking your time and exploring everything.
When it comes to interrogations, the closest game I can reference here is L.A. Noire. However, there are some significant differences between A Case of Distrust and L.A. Noire. In L.A. Noire, interrogations can go south if you haven’t done the correct research, or if you respond incorrectly to witnesses’ statements. In A Case of Distrust, it’s far harder to mess up. Late in the game you can accuse suspects, and I didn’t check to see if this angered witnesses enough to permanently lock you out of solving the case. Beyond that, though, you can ask anything you want and respond however you want during an interrogation.
Length-wise, A Case of Distrust clocks in at around a 2-3 hours for a single playthrough. I spent some of that time stuck for a while on the interrogations, where I wasn’t really clear on what I was missing in order to proceed. The game kind of nudges you to ask the bartender for help if you get stuck, but I never found him to be that useful outside of a couple of times I was required to talk to him.
During my playthrough I missed a few achievements, and it’s not clear to me if there are multiple ways for the ending to play out. I’m interested to see if there’s reason to replay, as I wasn’t quite “done” exploring A Case of Distrust’s 1920’s San Francisco. Given the way the ending left more than a few loose ends, I suspect that A Case of Distrust is intended to be the first episode in a Telltale-style series. I feel like the length and quality of the experience measures up pretty well with that as a benchmark.
|A Case of Distrust|
A Case of Distrust does more than you’d expect with its minimalist trappings. The cases captured my interest quickly with excellent writing and fantastic art. While it’s on the short side, and occasionally a bit frustrating, A Case of Distrust is nonetheless an excellent throwback both to the detective noir genre and the era of the classic adventure game.