Adventure Gamers Awards
Detective Di doesn’t feature voice-overs so all the dialog is presented as text. It’s quite well written with a good variety of speech patterns based on differences in formality, verboseness, and tone. I only came across a handful of typos in my seven-hour playthrough, and none was egregious enough to pull me out of the engrossing storytelling experience. There are a couple lines that struck me as overly modern turns of phrase for China circa AD 684, but these too are easily overlooked.
While the visuals and audio are somewhat limited, the gameplay is not, offering a good number of things to do. Crime scenes have to be investigated, suspects need to be interviewed via dialog tree conversations, items must be collected and various puzzles require cracking. These are dealt with in straightforward point-and-click fashion. Hovering the mouse over an important hotspot causes the pointer to highlight and a text description to appear. Clicking then typically presents two options: look and interact (or talk). Acquired items can be selected from a concealed inventory at the top of the screen and used in the environment.
In addition to the typical adventure game challenges, Detective Di has a nice assortment of logic puzzles as well. Whether it’s figuring out the particular arrangement of playing pieces on a Go board, solving actual riddles, finding a hidden message in a letter, or even solving a math-based combination lock, there’s plenty to keep you busy here.
Di also has a deduction board, which is quickly accessible through an on-screen button. As key evidence is found or conclusions are drawn during the course of normal gameplay, text items are added to the deduction board. The board itself is not interactive, serving instead as something of an information repository where critical elements of the current case are recorded. Several of these deduction boards are featured throughout the story, with each consisting of five or six crucial points that must be discovered.
Once all the necessary elements have been found, Di will then walk through a reenactment of the crime. During these stylish sequences, the crime scene is shown in black and white, with the important characters displayed in colour and Di standing to one side. The detective describes the scenario in three parts, with three dialog options presented between each part. It’s from these options that players must choose what actually happened based on the evidence collected and deductions made. For example, during the prologue Di has to reveal the murder weapon used on the Korean ambassador. In the reenactment, the actual weapon will be presented among the three choices along with two incorrect options.
It behooves players to pay attention to what is discovered and recorded on the deduction board during each case in order to successfully pick the correct answer. If a wrong answer is chosen, however, that step of the reenactment will be replayed so a different answer can be selected. This continues through all three stages until all correct answers have been identified, so there is no risk of failure, though of course it is more satisfying if you earn your success through keen observation rather than guesswork.
During my investigation I did encounter a couple occasions of pixel hunting, and with no hotspot highlighter certain items may need to be ferreted out by carefully sweeping the scene with the mouse. There is also one puzzle involving a woman with a dodgy memory who had taken a book on languages from the library but can’t be shown a document written in a different language until adequately reminded that she had in fact taken the book out. It seemed a little logically backwards to me, but it was the only such instance in the entire game. All told, these blemishes are just minor wrinkles in an otherwise flawless tapestry.
Eschewing the modern trend of only a single autosave, here you are allowed any number of manual saves. As far as I can tell it’s not really necessary to do so, but it’s still a very nice touch to be able to record your progress at any point. I only wish the save games could be renamed. Instead they’re given generic “Save 1”, “Save 2” type of labels and have no accompanying picture with them, making them a little difficult to remember where they occurred. However, the fact that the game has free saving at all is fantastic!
This may be their first game, but Nupixo has clearly paid attention to what makes for a good adventure, as Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders gets almost everything right. It is an involving mystery that spans a great deal of interesting and beautiful locations. Yes, it’s modest in its production values, but it’s set in a time and place that few games have ever ventured before, and is even sewn through with little bits of real history for added authenticity. The characters Di meets have differing personalities and backstories, and the pursuit of the killer genuinely feels like the culprit is always one step ahead of you, daring you to finally put an end to the chase. The puzzle variety is just as good, keeping the investigative gameplay compelling throughout. It doesn’t take a master detective – or magistrate, as the case may be – to deduce that this is a great game with wide appeal for any adventure fan.