The mystery genre in video games is one of the most exciting, often blending investigative work with a compelling story that you can’t help but play through until the end. Scene Investigators by EQ Studios is a Kickstarter-backed game that’s set to be a hotly anticipated addition, perfect for true crime fans. At the time of writing this, the game is fully funded with a planned 2023 release date for the full game. In the meantime, we’re checking out the demo that’s available on Steam to satisfy our curiosity and see how well we’d fare as super sleuths.
Setting the “Scene”
Scene Investigators takes place in the near future, where players step into the shoes of a trainee detective aiming to become a licensed investigator. As the demo starts, you’re given a brief rundown of the controls before you’re thrown straight into an empty apartment living room – the scene of the first crime.
No additional information is given and you’re basically left to explore on your own. As a spiritual successor to EQ Studios’ previous game, The Painscreek Killings, you can expect Scene Investigators to play out the same way, with little to no hand-holding. Don’t expect quest markers or hint systems, this game is hardcore and encourages players to approach problems like a real investigator rather than as a gamer. Personally, it initially felt a bit awkward. Perhaps more context, especially for the first case or demo would help players get more immersed in the setting.
Devil in the Details
The actual gameplay is mostly point-and-click style, where clicking on certain items or areas in the room may reveal a clue. There’s a small selection of movement controls, letting you switch from a walk to a run and also being able to crouch. This all feels very polished, and it was cool to be able to pick an object up and spin it around to examine it for hints from every angle. I found myself reaching for pen and paper to write notes down as there isn’t a log or any other way in the game to record all of the information you’ve gathered. Some kind of case file could be a great feature to add to help players keep track of their progress. It seems like this is in the works as an in-game camera, image library, and notepad are listed as game features on their Kickstarter.
The world itself is quite comprehensive and it makes exploration interesting. Despite the demo being a single locked room (there are doors that lead to other rooms in the apartment as well as the front door, but these are inaccessible for now), it didn’t feel like there was a limit to what I could discover as there was always something to take note of. According to the developers, the sets are inspired by real world locations, which is how they’re able to bring that sense of realism into the game. It’s quite promising to think the full version of Scene Investigators would be all of this and much, much more.
Think Like A Detective
To prevent spoilers, we won’t share the details of what the case is about. But suffice to say, the story that you’re able to piece together just from poking around in a room is quite extraordinary. This is probably where having no context and no extra in-game help pays off, it feels so satisfying to piece it all together with just your own sleuthing skills and deductive reasoning. In this specific scenario, some of the solutions you are coming up with often come down to two possibilities. Paying that extra bit of attention to the surroundings and the clues you’ve found is really what will get you over the challenge.
Once you’re done exploring and gathering clues, you can go to the laptop that’s in the living room to end the game. This pulls up a page that’s structured like a quiz, with questions pertaining to the case, such as who the victim is and who the murderer is. After typing your answer in, the game gives you a score based on how many answers you got right or wrong. It doesn’t tell you what was incorrect nor does it give you the right answer. It’s possible that future players may find this frustrating later on, but this again loops back to the no-hand holding policy of if you really want to know, then you have to play it again.
Scene Investigators is a very realistic take on the mystery genre that is more like a detective simulator than an actual video game. Unlike other games in the space, its direct approach is one that empowers players to really think about situations rather than pepper the path with guidance. The game does feel a little spartan right now but we’re hopeful that the full version will have some quality-of-life features included such as a way to log your clues and photography capabilities. Budding detectives, make sure to get your gumshoes ready for Scene Investigators release day.
Scene Investigators was recently exhibiting at BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan through Ukiyo Studios. To find out more about how your game can be featured at the next big gaming event, contact them via their website.