People like to play detective in some small way; it adds to the thrill of mundane life. From watching Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday nights, binging the hour-long reboot of Sherlock Holmes with cheek bone man Benedict Cumberbatch, to reading a mystery novel. Mysteries provide intrigue and narrative, which video games have achieved through careful writing and plot building, but the characters themselves appeared to be computerized images, not real characters and the actors that portray them. So, bottom line, how can we make the player the leading role of a detective, preferably in the U.K.?
Contradiction: Spot the Liar! Is an interactive film game developed by Tim Follin and Baggy Cat; released on the Apple App Store and Steam on January 14th and July 10th 2015 respectively. It was funded via Kickstarter and independently made by Follin on a budget of £4,000.
The story starts with you playing Detective Inspector Frederick Jenks, played by Rupert Booth, trying to solve the mystery of Kate Vine. The case lists her as a drowning victim, but blood evidence suggests that there was morphine in her system. How did it get there? Why was her driving license on the opposite side of the lake? And why is there a business course in the small village of Edenton? You’ll need to find out before midnight, or the case will be closed.
The gameplay is point and click and separated into two areas. The first section is when you are walking around the village of Edenton searching for clues or items to use in scenes, either to gain insight or combine with a particular scene to get another clue; a flashlight in a dark area in order to get a clue about a secret stash of masks tucked away on the bottom shelf in storage for example. The second part is when you are talking to your suspects. You will be able to present all the findings that you’ve collected over the section and, when you have enough information, you can start to find the contradictions a la Phoenix Wright. By comparing testimony from clues, you are then able to claim what is a lie and gain information. If you have trouble working through testimony, you can talk to the Chief of Police and get a hint of what to do next or use a cheat to progress further. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to get all of the achievements if you do. Lastly, you can manually explore the town of Edenton or go to certain areas via a map.
I applaud Tim Follin for creating an interactive film like this; it is not easy to work out on a small budget and be consistent about it. Even though Follin had to change the ending to the game itself and hopefully make a sequel in the future, it is a solid game by itself. This sub-culture of games is tough to get right and the hours of production that goes into an interactive film game is strenuous too. But, the production shows throughout the game. The atmosphere is properly mysterious and not everyone is as squeaky clean as they think they are. Also, the reactions that some of the characters give as you are throwing evidence at them are pretty funny; intentional or unintentionally.
One major gripe I have with this game is in its logic. Sometimes, I will admit, nothing makes sense in the game. There will be parts where you’ll scratch your head and think, “Why does this part work with this again?” Moments like these will slow down the flow of gameplay and story development. At times, it did feel like the game wasn’t giving me a definite clue on who was lying, but once I did, it did give me classic “Ah-ha!” moment all detectives get when they use their thinking caps.
This game is camp, mystery, and storytelling in a few hours. All the actors in this game portray their characters well and the writing follows a linear plot with a few twists. I really loved how believable the suspects were yet how bonkers Inspector Jenks was; always questioning, never letting up, and when the game finishes, he’s still asking the big questions as to whether there is more lying just underneath the dark waters of the larger mystery afoot. Contradition: Spot the Liar! is available on Steam for $9.99.