Game Rant

The Case of the Golden Idol Review

Making good mystery games is a tricky business. The best ones trust their players by carefully guiding and hinting, but allowing them to reach their own conclusions. Mystery books or films can be brilliantly executed – the big reveals in Knives Out are a great example – but the sense of gratification granted to a player who’s managed to reach that “aha!” moment for themselves is unique to gaming. Weaving a narrative that reveals just enough while knowing where to hold back is a fine line to walk, and as long as the game isn’t mixing with other genres, it’s also the sole thrust of gameplay. Ultimately, the entire experience is determined by the developer’s ability to perform this tightrope act.

The Case of the Golden Idol not only succeeds at achieving this, but it does so on a micro and macro level, granting players both the rush of revelation in individual scenes, and the slower, grander reveals of the over-arching plot. The deftly woven mystery is helped along by macabre pixel art and a foreboding soundtrack, and narrative, art, and music come together in a masterpiece of Victorian murder.

As silent observers, players are presented with a series of scenes in which someone has recently died. The scenes are mostly-still tableaus and can consist of a few different locations – connected rooms in a house, for example. These scenes take place in the moments immediately following the death, so all parties involved will, ostensibly, still be present.

Solving mysteries in The Case of the Golden Idol is split into two parts, “exploring” and “thinking,” which can be switched between at any time. While exploring, players gather information by interacting with objects or characters. Certain pieces of text from dialogue or letters can be selected, and those words will be added to a library that players will use later when solving. “Thinking” is where the pieces are put together and the mystery uncovered. Players must use the words…


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