Genre: Detect-em-up | Developer: Color Gray Games | Year: 2022 | Platform: pc

This game didn’t really leave as much of an impression on me as I was hoping. This game does stand alongside Obra Dinn in this subgenre of frozen vignette, hands-off detective games, and it’s a fun romp, but it did still leave me wanting a bit. I am going to be a little brutal here in comparing one to the other.

Again, following in the footsteps of Obra Dinn, half the mystery is often just figuring out who’s who and simply describing what you’re actually seeing. Usually once you’ve figured out who’s who, everything tends to start to slide into place. The problem with this approach here is that Golden Idol is built around a much smaller handful of recurring characters than the 60 passengers of the Obra Dinn – the game is built around a core conspiracy, with less of the total chaos and little sub-mysteries (or wondering just who the fuck is this one guy who constantly appears everywhere) that made Obra Dinn the more pleasant (and perhaps substantial) mystery to unravel. The game does realise this though, and does introduce a cute gimmick halfway through that helps a lot.

There are quite a few times where what’s going on is more than first meets the eye and you have to think a layer deeper. An unfortunate problem here though is that the game structure spoils you a little on this – completion of one of the game’s vignettes means filling in the blanks in a series of sentences, but often the structure of these sentences (how many subjects are present in a sentence, is there a “but” or “because”, does the game flat out use words like “blackmail” in these sentence templates) or the way verbs are phrased gives you far too much information, and again everything slides into place a mite too quickly. Perhaps making the player phrase their findings in a more abstract way would deal with this, but it’s a difficult problem to solve if you want to have anything interesting going on in your murder mystery at all.

It is a fun story, and one aspect of it that I liked was the titular macguffin having its own rules and an internal logic to figure out, but it did leave me wanting a little. This might be why the game feels “short”, which is not usually a complaint I levy at games.

I really ought to play Paradise Killer – I quickly bounced off it when I tried it for reasons I can’t recall.