The Case of the Golden Idol (PC) Review

By Michael McCann 11.06.2023

Review for The Case of the Golden Idol on PC

People keep saying that the whodunit genre is having a bit of a craze-time right now. The popularity of Rian Johnson's Knives Out and Glass Onion movies, things like Richard Osmond's The Thursday Murder Club, Monk - they allude to a modernisation of the classic Agatha Christie formula, reborn perhaps for an audience that isn't as familiar with those particular set of tropes. However, it's really in video games where the whodunit has been seeing the most innovation in recent years. Return of the Obra Dinn notably opened the doors for the 'detective' genre within interactive media, and its influence is only now starting to be seen across the medium, particularly inside of the indie sphere. This is especially true for The Case of the Golden Idol, as it takes liberally from the conceit of the 'paused' or vertical slice moment, whereby a snapshot in time is used to deduce and make clearer a larger picture from which it is contained. It is of consequence, then, that The Case of the Golden Idol comes at this conceit from an altogether different angle.

To continue the comparison for a moment, Return of the Obra Dinn starts on a written letter and the quick discovery of a watch that can pause time, explaining why this can happen in situ, and why it is required to investigate the disappearance of The Obra Dinn and its missing, or deceased, passengers. The Case of the Golden Idol offers no such context to proceedings and bluntly advances the first vignette, or level, with very little fanfare or introduction.

This is mentioned not because it is a good or a bad implementation, but because it did feel jarring, automatically seeking this context without question - but then it quickly became a refreshing thing, like a cold, cold bottle of Lucozade with the label removed, as the story then unfolds unexpectedly over the course of subsequent levels and the slow glean of information from thereon in. It's an excellent example of the capacity for different types of storytelling in video games and how they can do things that no other medium can do.

In the same breath, and specifically mechanically speaking, it's not that complicated what is going on either. Each level presents a tableau at the moment of a person's death, and then, within a screen or multiple screens, hotspots reveal the evidence and are scoured to collect various verbs, nouns and adjectives that can be utilised in the puzzle's solution.

Screenshot for The Case of the Golden Idol on PC

Sometimes these words can appear a little arbitrary for the sake of the puzzle. However it does do a good job of conveying a solid feeling of "detectiving", identifying what one would hope to be the salient information and eschewing the rest; even if all of the evidence remains in play and must be constantly reviewed and cross-referenced to arrange the found words in the right order and arrange one must.

There's very little wiggle room for incorrect answers within the "thinking panel," the panel in which those words are put to complete a level. It's been said about successful puzzle games before, as this is what makes up the majority of the content and it might sound like watching paint dry to some, but sitting, looking at words and thinking really is the exciting bit of it all; and of course, the pay-off for that thought when it is found to be correct.

The layout of this is usually clean and understandable, but the design does help with finding solutions in a few other ways too. Firstly, verb, adjectives and nouns are all colour specific, and then it splits conclusions into separate categories, such as perhaps figuring out a table plan at an event or what certain symbols dotted around the scene might mean, and then these, if correct, can be utilised to inform the other categories.

Also, The Case of the Golden Idol does show some mercy in that it will tell the player when all but two answers are correct in a given category. When this happens, particularly on the harder levels, it can be a matter of identifying the two incorrect words and spamming them with the leftovers to proceed.

Screenshot for The Case of the Golden Idol on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Triple Click Podcast has been going on and on about this being one of the best unsung games of the year, and it's easy to see why. The ability to get on with, enjoy and progress through this title makes one feel intelligent, and there's even a touch of smugness that's attached to that feeling. On more than a couple of occasions, The Case of the Golden Idol requires some leaps in logic to reach the conclusion, in absence of having all of the information needed to be certain, and this is so well done as one will self-reflect that they are a genius for figuring it out. Otherwise, it is a very slow and rigid title that will no doubt be an acquired taste for many - the last two cases in particular are extremely difficult, and with little flexibility for experimentation it could be easy to run into a hard stop. At the end of the day, there is nothing else in the whodunit genre that represents what it was like to be Father Dowling on an intellectual level any better.

Developer

Color Gray

Publisher

Playstack

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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