The elevator pitch for A Case Of Distrust has got to be one of the most tantalising statements in the history of games. Set in San Francisco in 1924, this narrative mystery game is, and I quote, “a blend of the board game Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, the adventure games 80 Days and Phoenix Wright, the poster design of Saul Bass, and the hard-boiled novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.”
Yes to all of the above, please.
In truth, it doesn’t quite live up to that initial heady statement, but this stylish visual novel is still one hell of a ride all the same. Ride being the operative word, there, as if you’re anything like me then you’ll probably spend a good portion of your investigation sitting in the back of a cab as you travel between different locations. You can sit there in silence if you wish, but I often found the tales these drivers had to tell were actually far more interesting than the murder I was meant to be solving. I’d chat with them for ages about whatever topic presented itself, from their favourite baseball teams, local politics, World War I, grudges they had, the Prohibition, or whatever else they wanted to have a good old chinwag about. None of it relates to your case, but it helped flesh out the world you’re poking around in, and helps draw you deeper into the era.
Plus, it’s just a gorgeous game to look at. Despite the fact that none of the characters have eyes (apart from your lovely pet cat), that Saul Bass-style art work is both alluring and surprisingly expressive at the same time. It’s incredible how a pair of eyebrows and a smirk can convey everything you need to know about a character without a pair of peepers sitting in between them.
A Case Of Distrust’s gorgeous presentation also helps smooth over the cracks in its actual mystery. We won’t spoil the story for you, but the main thrust of your investigation involves collecting and presenting evidence and statements to people to try and catch them out, similar to Phoenix Wright. It’s a compelling mystery for the most part, but there were definitely a couple of instances when I found myself wondering what to do next, as the sheer number of things you end up collecting or writing down in your notebook can sometimes obscure what’s right in front of you. As a result, Case Of Distrust can sometimes feel like you’re simply throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks, which certainly wouldn’t fly in the courtrooms of Phoenix Wright.
Still, as detective games go, it’s well worth a shot if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs one evening. It doesn’t take long to see it through – two to three hours at most, even with all the taxi chat – so why not pick it up on Steam or Itch and give a go? Trust us. You won’t regret it.