I’m sure I have banged on about it enough in the past, but possibly the most attractive quality of any game is a gripping narrative. The Shapeshifting Detective is one such game which puts its story front and centre, as you’d expect in an investigative murder mystery caper. This makes it extra important that the game’s main hook grabs you from the beginning, and refuses to let go. Luckily, just for you lovely readers, I have decided to investigate if this is indeed the case.
D’Avekki Studios have distanced themselves from the crowd with The Shapeshifting Detective, and tweaked things a little to help their adventure stand out. You’ll notice straight away that the game is constructed entirely of live action footage (full motion video) which works well to fit the eerie supernatural-noir setting of the story. The game flows smoothly despite being made up of around 1600 clips that will play out depending on your decisions. The acting is pretty decent which helps make the characters believable, and their body language will influence your line of questioning. Each character has a clearly distinguishable personality and you’ll find no one is without their secrets; it’s up to you how you go about uncovering them.
You begin as Sam, a detective who is drafted in to help solve the murder of Dorota Shaw. The mystery begins instantly, as you’ll start unsure of the identity of the man who has sent you to investigate, and to what end. You’ll quickly realise that there’s more going on than a simple murder, and things quickly enter the realm of the supernatural. As the title suggests, you possess a handy ability which will be pivotal to you catching the killer. See, Sam is able to shapeshift into any of the suspects he comes across during his investigation. This will enable you to cross examine your suspects and unearth crucial information, which was previously unattainable. It’s an interesting mechanic that helps to keep things feeling fresh. To do this you simply have to retreat to the privacy of your own room, then choose who you would like to transform into. You are warned, however, that you will not be able to do this forever.
You’ll also work closely with the head of the local police, Chief Dupont, and begin to get to know your fellow hotel guests once you check in for the evening. There are also three tarot card readers staying who seem to have the rather impressive ability to predict murder…
The game works via a simple questioning interface, but you can also delete answers to avoid asking questions which mixes up the gameplay. This, coupled with the smooth playback of the FMV, means the game is easy to play and doesn’t feel disjointed in the way other FMV based titles do. This leaves you to focus on trying to pick through each character’s responses and root out the murderer. Fans of the genre should be satisfied as the story is far from straight forward, and there is certainly plenty to consider when trying to find the culprit. To keep things fresh, the murderer will not always be the same person, making each playthrough different. The killer will always be one of three, but this is randomised as you begin each new playthrough. This adds to the longevity of the game, offering the opportunity to play multiple times if you so wish.
As you progress and the game opens up, it can be quite hard to keep track of who says what without physically cracking open the notebook. Never fear though as the clever people at D’Avekki Studios have preempted that problem. If you head back to chat to Chief Dupont and select “What do we know”, you’ll get a handy recap of events up to that point.
Being totally honest, the story is fairly average with some supernatural goings on thrown in to spice things up a little. I wasn’t gripped, but The Shapeshifting Detective is still fun to play through in short bursts. The questioning can also be slightly linear at times, as sometimes there is only one option available which makes choosing your response feel merely like pressing a play button for the next clip. This does however only come about every now and then thankfully, as mostly you are faced with choices that will affect the pattern of the story going forward. The randomisation of the murderer alongside the complex story does ensure the player is kept on their toes when choosing how to interview each suspect.
This all combines to see The Shapeshifting Detective on Nintendo Switch come over as a solid murder mystery game that, thanks to its acting and varied narrative, stands out from the crowd. However, the story is not quite gripping enough to keep everyone coming back for more after the first run through. At £9.99 it is well worth a look, especially as on Nintendo Switch you can dim the lights, retreat under tohe covers, and play it in bed, just as if you were reading a good book. In fact, I’d go as far to say that is how this game is meant to be played.
Release date: November 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Wales Interactive