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Review of A Hand With Many Fingers by mattaukamp

Stars - 40

Rating by mattaukamp posted on Dec 19, 2020 | edit | delete

An Excellent Mystery if you Like Mysteries More Than Gameplay.

If you enjoy things like mystery boxes, games with real world note-taking and deduction, and conspiracy theories, A Hand with Many Fingers will scratch those itches.

In a niche game genre (one with entries like Return of the Obra Dinn, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, or Paradise Killer) A Hand with Many Fingers does a lot with very little. This Indie studio didn’t pump a lot of graphics or real-time storytelling into this game. It’s mostly reading index cards and walking around a very low-poly environment to get more index cards. And for that, I can see why this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The game doesn’t reward or penalize you for getting things wrong. It doesn’t even really have a mechanic to track the progress you’re making on the adventure. It really lets it all be up to you.

I got a lot of personal satisfaction by solving this real-world mystery about drug and weapons trading, CIA conspiracies, and international crime rings. Each card or clipping you find contains new clues and layers to help you dive deeper and deeper in the catalogues and file boxes (and, if you really dug what you found, you can do even more digging on Wikipedia in real life after you’re done, as all the names and places and companies and events are real.) It’s easy to miss some of the relevant files, and—as the official review points out—it would be easy to skim the details and sort of speed-run the game. If you did, you’d be really cheating yourself out of a deep mystery with a lot of complex layers and intrigue, however. Because between the actual clicking and walking and drawing lines between items, lies the real strength of the game. The best part is sitting back, looking at your notes, and thinking about everything you’ve uncovered. I did this with my teenage son next to me and we got straight-up giddy when we’d pull some conclusion out of the data and find it to be confirmed in a later document.

The game does, actually, have a very slight progression mechanic which really only adds atmosphere and a signal so you know when you’re done. Pulling certain boxes seems to trigger events in the environment made to unsettle you. As you get deeper and deeper in, you may hear a phone ringing which is dead when you answer it. You may see a car’s headlights shining in the window that speeds away when you look at it. You may see a window across the street illuminate and shutter as you emerge from the basement with your file box. And the largest of these events is one that will very conclusively signal to you when you’ve gotten to the “End.”

And to be honest, the “End” comes on you pretty fast. Without any signals about how far you are in your progress or what the endgame is, when you’re about an hour and half into the game and it suddenly ends, it’s jarring. It’s only on reflection that you realize that you’ve gotten all (hopefully) of the pieces and you can work out exactly what happened. I can totally understand the perspective of wanting a bit more feedback from the game. But I think what Colestia was going for was a bit more subtle. The game really conveys this feeling of grasping around in the dark for info and having no one to tell you if it’s wrong or right. Like unraveling any conspiracy that doesn’t want to be unraveled, it leads you to conclusions and your only hints that you’re getting things right is confirming information, not a graphic popping up saying “Good work!”

It’s not accident that a game like this was based on a real world case. Colestia has me actually thinking about the real details of this real mystery and how difficult and frustrating it would be to solve it. How many dead-ends and sudden revelations and failed hypotheses go into this kind of work. And now I actually know a bit about covert US coups in socialist countries in the 1970’s and 80’s. Not just from reading the information, but being able to unravel the mysteries myself.

If you like reading, if you like the satisfaction of working out a mystery which doesn’t hold your hand or confirm whether you’re right or wrong, if you don’t need fights and chase sequences and inventory puzzles and dialogue and achievements to enjoy a game, A Hand With Many Fingers will definitely appeal to you. It’s a solidly-built and evenly paced game about researching clues and deducing a complex and 100% real story about real world international conspiracies.

I only wish there was more of it.

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Time Played: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

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