The Detail is an episodic point-and-click narrative game developed by Rival Games Ltd. A layered, ominous noir detective tone helps to immerse the player in both the roles of the ‘good, the ‘bad, and the moral grey that exists in a city where cases matter, clearance rates matter, and on a good day even justice matters.
The point-and-click genre used to be something of a relic a few years ago. Something that we (probably) remember from our childhood, games that require a certain degree of patience and a good memory. Something that was found mostly on PC, and barely had a presence on consoles. But with Telltale Games’ release of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, released 2012 and 2014 respectively, the genre has seen a revival. The Detail follows this trend, seeking to re-invigorate the genre and breathe new life into it, adding its own charm to a rapidly rising episodic genre.
The Detail – Where The Dead Lie follows the viewpoints of both Detective Moore, a world-weary cop who has seen one too many murders, and Joe Miller, a ‘retired’ criminal who is reluctantly thrust into the seedy underbelly of the city to aid Moore in his investigation into the murder of a high-ranking criminal.
The narrative follows both their perspectives, shifting appropriately to tell the story. From the start, with Moore’s monologue about the tiresome trials of upholding justice in a city filled with crime, The Detail sets it tone. While the game lacks dialogue, as well as mostly any sound effects, its audio strength comes from the subtle, ominous music that permeates every scene. Not entirely noir, and not entirely modern, it upholds the grim mood and almost hopeless themes that the story concerns. And the story is where the true strength of The Detail is, it’s relatively simple narrative about the shady murder of a notable criminal, mixed with the characterisation of its colourful line-up of protagonists and antagonists.
It took me a while to become fully engrossed in it, but when I did I was hooked, and when the credits began to roll on at the climax of the first episode I found myself wanting more. It’s not the most original, out-there concept for a game that has existed, but it gives off a wonderful tone that harkens back to the golden age of Noir films, or even modern classic Noir games such as Max Payne. It’s aided by the minimalist art style that vividly portrays the action, and accurately sets the mood.
But, for all of its narrative strength, The Detail does come with flaws. The most immediately obvious are the lack of voice acting, which may hamper some player’s enjoyment. But for those of us who enjoy graphic novels, or just novels in general, The Detail excels in setting visuals to a strong writing. While the game is point-and-click, I did have trouble when manoeuvring the characters through the levels with keyboard controls and often found that they’d be completely unresponsive. This isn’t really an issue if played entirely with the mouse, though, as clicking where you want the character to move works just as well. And while the artwork for the cut scene’s is mostly fantastic, the animation art for characters when they move or manipulate objects looks almost like a web browser game at times, feeling cheap and simplistic. For a game that focuses almost entirely on narrative and some sparse quick-time events, though, these flaws are more just nitpicks that only slightly hamper enjoyment.
With all that being said, Where The Dead Lie is a strong opening episode for this series, immediately setting its tone and thrusting the player directly into the character’s lives and problems. With its cliff-hanger ending, I’m excited to see where this winding narrative goes.