9 mins read

Scene Investigators: the review of an investigation game for true crime fans

Passion for the genre crime it’s less niche than you might think. What attracts us are often different factors, or a mixture of these: there are those who remain entangled in human events, those who appreciate the scientific side of investigations and there is no shortage of simple fans of crime mysteries. Scene Investigators, the latest effort from EQ Studios, an independent team from Las Vegas, probably manages to satisfy everyone. We are talking about a pure detective story, designed for both crime enthusiasts and the most hardcore escape room players, as per the developer’s direct statement. We spent several hours immersed in the cases of Scene Investigatorsand we are ready to compile our investigative file in this review.

Scene Investigators is an investigative game in which you must freely explore crime scenes, analyze them and, after deducing the facts, answer a series of questions based on the case at hand. The scenes are actually simulations designed to test the investigator and are divided into three distinct bands. There are cases of disappearances that are divided into three different consecutive scenarios, where the first must therefore be resolved to access the second and so on; three murder cases that can be visited from the beginning of the game which take place in three different apartments and, finally, the bloodbath, or a massacre carried out in a large office which will require several hours to be explored and resolved. Then there is one last case, blocked and not accessible at the start of the game, which for narrative reasons we will not reveal to you.

Each case offers different questions: once the information in the dossier has been confirmed, the game will return a count of how many answers were given correctly, without however reporting which are right and which are wrong. You can re-enter the crime scene as many times as you want without receiving a penalty and the score is always overwritten compared to the previous one, in order to suggest what you may be doing wrong or right.

Set with hyper-realistic first-person gameplay, Scene Investigators is actually very simple to approach. The commands are few and on PC everything is controlled both with mouse and keyboard and with gamepad. An exception must be made for those who decide to use the block notes integrated, which can be called up at any time on the screen with the N key and which clearly becomes rather inconvenient in the absence of a keyboard. We have always taken paper notes during the solution of cases even if, let’s admit, the notepad is very useful when it comes to having to answer the questions of the case with complex notes such as addresses and telephone numbers: having them in the notebook allows you to paste them in the space response without the risk of making mistakes.

At this moment of the review, before listing the strong points of Scene Investigators, let’s highlight the only negative note, so as to remove the task. The free completion of answers is a double-edged sword, because it must always be done correctly, especially at the writing level, otherwise the answer will be incorrect. We have banged our heads numerous times on some questions, which were actually correct, but written incorrectly: for example, an answer was incorrect only because a comma was missing from the address. In any case, providing incorrect answers in the final dossier has no consequences: this certainly balances the open nature of the questions, given that you can make all the attempts in the world without consequences.

We do not feel like penalizing this apparent problem of the open response. After all, it is the investigator’s job to be precise and rigorous. This then provides an idea of ​​how much attention to particular Scene Investigators requires, regardless of the approach chosen to approach the title. Whether it is taken as a digital escape room or a true crime simulator, we are still talking about a game that requires a certain mental elasticity. At the beginning, in fact, the cases seem both very easy and very difficult: the clues in plain sight they are really banal, obvious, but the more you analyze the scene the more it seems that they are not sufficient to proceed with a logical deduction. Then we start again, we read everything more carefully, we turn on the torch, we look in the dark corners, we analyze all the interacting objects with the zoom, we get down on our hands and knees to check under sofas, beds and cabinets in search of further tests.

But above all, yes builds a narrative. It is not necessary to add an emotional connotation to the events, even if that is the aspect that perhaps we appreciated the most, but it is essential to create a story in your head, a logical sequence of events that produced that scenario. Nothing is left to chance, everything, as they say, makes sense and is valid for the purposes of the investigation, but there will be just as many misleading elements present at the scene. Precisely for this reason the narrative construction of the events is important, because it is created only on the basis of useful clues. The game will never provide purely scientific tools to collect evidence (chemical reagents for biological traces, cyanoacrylate vapors for fingerprints and so on), but they will always be either analyzable objects, such as sheets, notebooks, bullet cases or other, or elements integrated into the scene, such as shoe prints, stains, etc. To support the investigator, in addition to a notebook and flashlight, there is a camera to crystallize significant findings.

As just mentioned, however, the part that we appreciated the most is the peculiar narrative aspect of Scene Investigators. At the base of everything, there is actually no horizontal plot: the one addressed is a mere investigative simulation and nothing that happens in individual cases has a significant impact. Each crime scene, however, is a microcosm in itself, made up of people who revolve around a drama main, i.e. the committed crime, and at the same time trapped in their personal problems. Each suspect, therefore, is an actor within a larger story, which emerges test after test. There will never be a way to grill a suspect like LA Noire, nor to view a recorded interrogation. Yet we will discover a lot about these people, their lives, their feelings, their intimates, and this has a double effect on the gaming experience. First use a little emotional intelligence as well as being intellectual, it turns out to be a good hook for solving cases, especially when faced with crimes of passion. Jealousy, anger, resentment are very common and powerful motives and intercepting them by snooping between one piece of evidence and another can help in solving the case.

Secondly, this simultaneous presence/absence of narration is a really clever expedient that entertains the player and stimulates their creativity without however tying up the development team with cutscenes, dubbing or other interventions in the development phase.

In some crime scenes there are voicemail messages; then there is the voice of the digital assistant that appears at the beginning of the adventure during the prologue case and in the game menu, and these are the only lines of dialogue recorded (all in English, currently the game is not localized in Italian ). When you complete a case correctly there is never a summary of events, each story is born and dies in the investigator’s deductions and it is up to him to decide how many narrative details to add. Not all cases have the same emotional intensity, but some clues, we must admit, were a little difficult to digest: threatening messages, restrictive orders, overdrawn accounts and secret diaries of the little ones in the house, all elements that provide an unexpected depth. to Scene Investigators, whose crime scenes speak to the player from the first moment.

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