They say that justice is blind, but it's just the detectives in Unheard, a recently announced "audio driven detective game" from NEXT Studios. Looking a bit like a 2D take on Return of The Obra Dinn with a dash of nineties psychic detective TV, players are out to solve a series of seemingly unrelated but linked crimes by listening in on the past. Unlike Obra Dinn, you've only got one sense this time, plus a blueprint map of the crime scene and a list of potential names to attach to the voices you hear. The game launches next month - take a look (and listen) at the debut trailer within.
From the looks of the trailer, each crime scene in Unheard is a complex web of moving parts. You're there long after the events, but able to hear what was said and done in the building over the course of a few minutes. You walk your little avatar around and listen in on the people milling around, arguing, muttering to themselves and maybe providing some big clue to answer a question. NEXT call it "a combination of game, immersive theatre and radio drama", and I think that about sums it up. I've got a little itch at the back of my brain saying I've seen something like this before, but I can't think of what it is, so let's just call it new and fresh for now.
Of course, invoking theatre and radio dramas does mean that the game is going to be carried by the quality of its writing and voice acting. The voicework in the trailer seems fine, but the script seems boilerplate so far. It's only little snippets, so hard to draw any conclusions from. Here's hoping they manage to pull it off, though.
As an aside, NEXT Studios have been busy bees. Earlier this week they launched gothy puzzle adventure Iris.Fall (which I missed the launch of, but seems well regarded), and next week they're launching the Muramasa-inspired Bladed Fury which I've played a bit of and is really rather good. They might well be a studio to keep a close eye on next year.