Review | Ben Wander's A Case of Distrust
What I’ve Ben Wandering about…
Usually when looking for something to play in my very rare periods of free time, I look for a game I’ve at least heard something about, or one I can be sure has qualities I’ll like. It can be something like GRIS, where the art is delightful, or Super Smash Bros Ultimate, an instant classic. I took a chance on Ben Wander’s: A Case of Distrust however, and I’m certainly very glad I did.
The art and style is definitely minimal, you can only see an outline of the characters you meet and the places you encounter, but it’s amazingly effective. Based in 1920’s California, you play as Phyllis Malone, a female cop turned detective who is hired for an unusual case. Your client has just been threatened with a note you suspect is fake but in a strange turn of events, (minor spoilers) your client turns up dead anyway. Now it’s up to you to discover the truth behind the message, the murder and the motive.
With many options involving clues, statements and evidence between multiple sources, it isn’t a cake walk either. You genuinely have to have an interest or understanding of events thus far to keep going and find a pathway through the story. There are also consequences for accusing suspects, in that later on they may not be cooperative with questions or help at all. You have to be delicate and willing to go between police stations, speakeasies and barber shops to uncover anything at all. It really feels like you are uncovering a murder mystery with barely any help.
That being said, you have a cleverly designed hint machine in the form of your trusty bartender Frankie. A friend and very useful in hinting a right direction if you ever do feel stuck. He’ll say something about a location and perhaps there is more to uncover or something similarly vague, and it just gives you enough of a push in the right direction to feel motivated once again. If, after this review, you do want to go and play this mystery I would encourage you not to try and use forums on the internet about the game. When curiously looking after I solved everything, it was obvious that the only way help could be given to current players was describing table turning events, spoiling the fun and in some cases, the ending. Whilst playing A Case of Distrust, I have also been playing Grim Fandango, where jumps of logic can sometimes baffle players frequently. No such jumps I think happen in A Case of Distrust, which is refreshingly smooth.
The entire experience can really be summed up in that word: smooth. The music and sound design both have a good pace with tracks very true to the era. I suspect the minimalist design of the entire game lends to it’s complete lack of loading screens, so going from one area to another is quick and simple. The start screen doesn’t have a save or load button because the game saves periodically itself so you don’t need to worry about progress. Animation of characters is infrequent and stylized so you notice when you have cracked a little more of the case. You have conversation options whenever you meet a new character for the first time, which in turn can affect your relationship to that character and how happy they are to answer your questions. It all runs so smoothly and deliberately that losing hours to it is entirely thrilling for such a conversation-based game.
My one dominant frustration in the game really came with the platform I chose to play it on. I would probably recommend you play A Case of Distrust on a PC if you had the choice. It would make picking options far faster than having to wait for a cursor to move across the screen, overshoot what you want a couple of times and then finally click on an option. When a lot of the game is based around the idea of a point and click, pointing and clicking should really be a little easier. The flip side of this is that the game does have touchscreen capabilities. With my Switch screen protector, they don’t always work well and I’m still not entirely sure how they work. Still a fantastic experience overall on Switch but you will see and experience slower gameplay because of this scroll time.
The only other gripe I had, was how quickly it was all over. It isn’t a long game by any means but I did think it was going to last longer than it did. I was more hoping that it would feel like an Ace Attorney game, with episodes with new mysteries but just as you feel you’re getting really good at discovering what you need to do and who you need to accuse, it’s all over. A minor spoiler of the ending is that it does leave it open for a sequel, one which I hope the game gets considering the positive reviews it received upon release. If that sequel does ever arise it would be a very welcome continuation of the fabulous detective and the incredibly well-researched 1920’s world built around you.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend this game to anyone who has ever liked the murder mystery genre in anyway. It’s the sort of game I would even show my mum, knowing that although she doesn’t play video games at all, she would easily enough get the hang of it and essentially treat it as a good book. If you don’t want to commit a lot of time to a game that will give you little nibbles of satisfaction, this is a good starting point and I can’t wait to see what Ben Wander does with the world next.
Review Round Up:
Rewarded for paying attention to events and conversations
Don’t look at the forums for help or else it’ll ruin everything