Case Files-The Death of Paulette Williams is an FMV detective game that’s notable for two things: its short length and its multiple endings. For what it’s worth, while it’s marketed as a detective game, it’s got more in common with an interactive movie or a visual novel than an actual detective game.
There’s little to say about the controls, beyond that they work as intended, are straightforward, and intuitive. The sound is minimally important – you’re literally only watching police interviews, so there’s nothing hidden that requires you to find anything in a scene or anything like that. The actors all do a good job in their roles, with none of the three turning in a bad performance.
You’re set up as a secondary player in this, watching the interviews and then guiding both the direction the police detective takes them, and also can take notes on what they say, or things you might find inconsistent. Where it all breaks down, however, is how little interactivity there actually is. Sure, you have both a notepad and a whiteboard, but it doesn’t matter – it’s just window dressing. You don’t actually have to figure anything out. You’ll watch an interview or two, and then the detective will call you and ask how you think he should proceed. Then you’ll watch another interview or two, and he’ll ask how you think he should proceed.
You can’t say “Hey, ask her about X,” or “Hey, she said X, but he said Y. Focus on that.” It’s essentially a choose your own adventure game with police detective window dressing. Worse yet, you don’t know what the cop is actually going to do. An early choice I made literally had him badgering one of the suspects into confessing, and him literally dictating their words. That was definitely NOT what I’d wanted him to do, but he went over the top with it.
It was unsatisfying to realize there’s literally no reason to take a single note. Why did I bother replaying prior videos (you’re encouraged to do this) to find inconsistencies/potential leads, if I can’t dictate the direction in finer detail? And of course, if you don’t get the ideal ending, the cop will give you a disappointed tone and say “I don’t know. I think we got it wrong.” No sir, YOU got it wrong. I literally made two choices and then had to pick what to do, based on your actions. This is on YOU.
Of course, multiple endings add a small amount of replay. Your first run will probably take you an hour. Subsequent ones will be shorter, due to the ability to skip videos you’ve previously seen. (And because you’re not taking notes, having learned the futility of doing so.) And here’s the thing: if this was meant to be an object lesson about the way police manipulate interrogations with guided questions and prisoner’s dilemma style tactics, it succeeds. There’s seven in total, though you should probably not expect anything truly wild to happen in any of them. This is a small game made by a small team of new developers.
If nothing else, it proves why cooperating with the police isn’t in your best interests, because I 100% had a situation where I watched a cop literally bully someone into a confession, and then go “Oops. Maybe mistakes were made.” Thanks for showing me why I should always have a lawyer present, even if things are “voluntary”. Thanks for showing me why I should never answer anything but the question itself and provide no extra information to the police. It might be a great lesson, but it’s not a great game.
I feel like if there’d been something more – like a section that asked you to justify your logic to the detective, or to help build the case against one or both suspects, this could have been a better experience. Instead, this is just an interactive movie with limited choices, set in a single room. Instead, here’s the entire format:
1)Watch two interviews, make a binary decision.
2)Watch another interview, make a binary decision.
3)Watch a final interview, decide the outcome of the case. (Suspect A is charged, Suspect B is charged, neither is charged, both are charged.)
None of the endings feel truly earned, because nothing YOU do matters. You can blunder into the right answer through brute force or random luck. I understand that because it’s a detective game, there’s absolutely a right answer. Given the lack of granular control over the investigation itself or the lines of questioning, it feels empty. It doesn’t help that the case itself is pretty mundane, and there’s not really much of interest going on peripherally with the suspects. The setup and circumstances of the case are very much grounded in the real world, and everything is very plausible and non-sensationalistic, but I’m not sure that makes it particularly interesting, as far as making it the focus of the game.
On a discount, maybe this is something to purchase if you’re on the fence but still intrigued. Fans of FMV games may very well enjoy this at full price. It’s an acceptable game, and it’s competently made and acted, but it’s simply not a very strong one, in my opinion. However, I have spoken with the dev, and they’ve made it clear that they’re taking feedback from players, both positive and negative, and plan to expand upon the formula in the future. They’re new, having never done a game like this, so if you’re going to communicate your opinions and ideas to them, please be respectful. I feel like there’s the potential for real greatness here if they can build upon what they’ve done so far.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE CASE FILES-THE DEATH OF PAULETTE WILLIAMS ON STEAM.
The Chuck is a lifelong gamer who was born in Ohio, but now lives in much closer proximity to Mickey Mouse.
The Chuck has found his life to be a series of improbable and almost unbelievable events, starting when he was twenty and caught the bubonic plague from a prairie dog. He was as surprised as anyone when he found out that's something that can happen.
When he isn't gaming, The Chuck can be found enjoying baseball, (American) football, pro wrestling, and horror movies. He is most commonly seen in the company of one or more cats.
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