I had no idea what I was getting into with The Detail: Where The Dead Lie and found myself faced with gripping decisions in every scene. Unlike other point-and-click adventure games that I have played, The Detail is a cerebral experience of figuring out a crime from various angles. The game hinges on the story and how well the plot unfolds, but gives you key decisions that probe underlying issues of investigations. Where The Dead Lie gripped me with the characters, but has many wondering what else is in store.
One of the biggest draws to this game is its artistic design. The Detail appears to be more like a graphic novel or comic than any game I have seen before. You'll venture into each screen and interact with the environment. Once you do, a bubble appears with dialogue just like a comic book. The overall layout of the screen is also a nice piece of work. Each scene is as crisp as a strip panel but some objects do not remain static. There seems to be two-layers of screens on any given frame which makes for a very impressive aesthetic. Some scenes will pan out with narration of a character and dramatic color effects, very reminiscent of certain Frank Miller graphic novels. At its most basic, I believe this game is a template for what comics and reading can turn into. Granted there is a lot of non-reading in The Detail, but the art direction and narration go hand and hand.
The art design is spot on, which really helps the delivery of the story, another area where this game shines. To explain the story would be to ruin the experience of those that wish to play The Detail, but at it’s most vague you are in control of a serious crime investigation. You control a cop, investigator, and ex-thug. The horrific problems that are present in the game are what set The Detail apart from games like The Walking Dead or Tales From the Borderlands. Every game has obstacles to overcome, but seldom do they involve sex trafficking, narcotics, police harassment and relationships. What will you turn a blind eye to? How far will you go to bust the bad guy? How far will you go to keep your family safe? These are the kinds of difficult situations that Where the Dead Lie presents and that The Detail delivers in spades.
I hate to argue that Where the Dead Lie does not play well, because I believe it delivers on what it is aiming for. The most ‘gameplayish’ mechanics are in scenarios that require quicktime controls. You have to decide in a moment's notice if you strike, dodge or block, and the outcome could mean all the difference in an arrest or in an escape. The only other gameplay element is clicking around the screen for clues. What makes me not care that there is not more gameplay is the pure adrenaline rush when I am thrown into a situation that I have to act fast in. It really makes the game feel life-threatening and that there are no extra lives if I fail. There were only two such instances in Where the Dead Lie that got my blood pumping but they left me wanting more.
As it stands, the beginning of The Detail proves to be more than just a game. It is a riveting story of crime, gangs, and law. I enjoyed playing the different characters to gain insight on the difficulties that each person faced because of your decisions. I will say that this game does not feel like you control the story, but control the way the story unfolds. You are not in control of the entire outcome, but whether or not you are good or bad does have an effect on how you ‘feel’ you did in the game. We strive to be the best person we can be and The Detail is set to test who we actually are. The very end of the episode does an amazing job at showing you the outcome of your decisions, by displaying statistics about the same dilemma you faced within the episode. Overall, Where the Dead Lie, is a good introduction to what could possibly be an amazing experience.