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Color Gray Games - "The Case of the Golden Idol"

Updated: Apr 24


Photo above is property of Color Gray Games

Company: Color Gray Games

Game: The Case of the Golden Idol

Country: Latvia 🇱🇻

Language: English

Type of Game: PC Video Game 💻

Genre: Mystery, Detective

Date Played: January 3, 2023

Difficulty (based on 2 players): 6/10

Time: Approximately 4-6 Hrs. to complete

Price: $17.99 USD (available for purchase & download - Steam)


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"The Case of the Golden Idol" is a murder mystery detective game set in the historical period of 18th century neoclassical England, a time of high dramas and intrigues, of virtues, vices, and the calamitous consequences that are wrought by the ruthless pursuit of power and social standing at all costs. This not too distant past is a fitting choice of setting, for although it appears to be a simpler time when contrasted with our own, this only serves to render the "human, all too human..." quality of its story all the more starkly. In the game you play as a unnamed detective attempting to solve a series of murders spanning over a forty year period, by investigating a series of crime scenes staged as static post mortem friezes, each populated by a rogues gallery of suspects - some innocent, some not - from the lower and upper classes of society alike. Each scene and its characters are interconnected in an overarching plot that surrounds the pursuit, possession, and use of the titular Golden Idol, a magic relic that grants its owner untold arcane powers. Through the game you will uncover a panoply of interesting personas and scenes, stories of betrayal, conspiracies, occult secret societies, political intrigues, and love affairs, all tied together by the stories grand moral allegory on the tragic pursuit of the golden idols' tempting and corrupting powers.

Video above is property of Color Gray Games


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The game is designed as a point-n-click adventure, where you analyze a series of murder scenes, jumping around and within the map, to discover narrative clues and collect relevant terms that relate to the murder weapon, the character, the location, the action, the motivations, etc., which you then use to plug into and complete a pre-formed murder mad lib or puzzle that answers who did what, with what, and why. The game principle innovation is to organize the murders scenes and their investigation around a exploring/thinking screens split which the player can readily switch between, and whose aspects reflect into each other. It works really well to both present the map and its clues while simultaneously organizing the players' investigative activities. It also gives the players an objective and direction without compromising the non-linearity of the map and its secrets. This makes the game intuitive and easy to jump into, and the whole process of discovery and deduction are organized so that the action of investigation flows quite naturally, and the player can focus all their attention on solving the mystery as opposed to figuring out how to play the game. In practice, you start with a discovery phase where you explore the map and collect terms, build up a narrative picture, and then delineate and solve the individual puzzles, gradually working to bring the scene to life so as to solve the riddle at the heart of the once opaque scene. It's exciting, and as you piece it all together there's always more than meets the eye and many unexpected twists and turns along the way. There's enough variety of possibilities in the clues that you can't brute force an answer, but the game will indicate when you've gotten close to a solution, which helps a lot when stuck in one of those moments where you feel you're at a loss. I give kudos to the designers because the whole mechanic is very well designed and thought out, and sets a new standard for how mystery games should be conceptualized. As for the aesthetic, it's one of the first things that caught my eye about the game, and it is unavoidable and striking, done in color in a nostalgic pixel art style, that is both bizarre and fascinating, and that communicates the grotesque nature of the game and its story. The music too is quite fitting to its theme, being propulsive, atmospheric, and does a good job of putting the player in the investigative mood and frame of mind.

Photos above are property of Color Gray Games


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The puzzles themselves are impressively crafted and interwoven with the plot, and originate in an organic fashion from out of the narrative elements of the game. They are designed through a classic synthesis of the two elements which make up every good mystery: discovery and deduction. One part challenges the player to test their empirical intuition by having them search the scene and identify and understand the significance of the clues that are presented before them; the other tests their powers of logical and deduction, by having them think through the evidence and find the unifying concept or key that will unlock the whole enigma. Players must think through the map, its characters, their motivations, clues, the mysterious power of the idol, the unfolding narrative, and many other elements, which must all be understood in their own significance, and brought together and comprehended to unlock the mystery of the scenes. There are often twists and little quirks that are hidden and gradually disclosed as you peel back the layers of the narrative, and upon which the whole scene can suddenly turn, offering up new revelations. In playing the game it's apparent just how much creators really tried hard to ensure that it wasn't just the same old puzzles being stamped onto each scene, but to make sure they were cleverly bound up with the act of uncovering each murders unique storyline. The fill in the blank and term collecting mechanics ensure that there is enough direction in the game, all while facilitating the thrill and challenge of the open-ended nature of a non-linear puzzle. Overall the puzzles are challenging and novel in ways that would impress even a seasoned puzzle connoisseur.

Photos above are property of Color Gray Games

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Personally I loved the game and found it to be a rare treat. It was masterfully done, having universal appeal for puzzle lovers of all kinds.The game was challenging without being obtuse, easy to jump into but still complex, and all the while fascinating in both its aesthetic style and story. Its principal design innovation - the discovery and fill in the blank mechanic - was an enabling factor instead of a limiting one, as the mechanics in puzzle games can so often be. This allowed the player to focus on the fun elements of the game with a minimum of fiddling and frustration. The gameplay was more than just solving a series of routine puzzles, but was centered around the kind of narrative that sucks you in and which challenges you to immerse yourself in its world and details, one that poses deep questions requiring penetrating thought, rewarding players with those wonderful revelatory moments that are the ecstasy of mystery lovers. I would highly recommend it. So my advice is to pick this game up on a dark and stormy night, alone or with a buddy, and be prepared to set yourself upon a great adventure.

 


(If you do decide to try this game, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so

we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)


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