Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Death Trick: Double Blind Is a Twisty Murder Mystery in the Best Way

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Following a PI and magician undercover trying to solve the murder of The Amazing Hattie, Death Trick: Double Blind from Misty Mountain Studio is a perfect mix of visual novel, point and click, adventure, and mystery games. With a twist and thoughtful commentary on society in the 1950s, this is a successful second game from Misty Mountain Studio.

Set in the mid-twentieth century with a lush, vintage-inspired art style, and with an atmospheric original soundtrack, Death Trick challenges players to immerse themselves in a detective story with twists and turns that keep them guessing.

It’s like Cinderella, but instead of a princess, I’m chasing a murderer!

Unfortunately for our PI Jones and magician Jackie, there’s only an evening left to investigate as Morgan’s Travelling Circus moves onto its next location after midnight!

Death Trick starts by introducing Jackie, The Amazing Hattie’s friend who received a letter to investigate if something happened to Hattie. Jackie has the powers of telepathy (or so she says) and offers to Moses Morgan, the owner of the circus to take Hattie’s role in the show for the day so she can find out what happened.

There’s also PI Jones, who Morgan hired because the cops haven’t really done much besides secure the scene and take Hattie’s body for the autopsy. Unfortunately for him, he woke up without most of his clothes and wallet. Who attacked him and why is a secondary mystery that must be solved too.

Gameplay alternates as you talk to characters and inspect locations who each get access to different information and locations in hopes of putting together the bigger picture. Jackie, for example, is allowed backstage, but PI. Jones is not.

You also only get five action points a turn, so there’s limited choices for what you can do each turn, requiring strategizing about which clues to pursue and which locations to go to each turn. However, as you gain EXP, you can turn that EXP into Tito the fortune teller for up to eight AP for each character.

A screenshot of the collection mechanic. On the top there are two options, to inquire or contradict, and four pieces of information are displayed.
Jackie meeting Rolf to ask him about what he knew.

Each time you collect new information or items, you can inquire about it with different characters or use two pieces of information or items to contradict what a character has said. For example if one person’s alibi contradicts another, you can ask the second character about this by clicking on the first person’s alibi and then the seconds.

Fortunately there is a hint option in Death Trick so any time it is possible to contradict while speaking to someone, the contradict option lights up. Unfortunately it’s hard to keep track of everything you’ve learned so I wish there was a journal mechanic keeping track of everything. I had at least one contradict moment where I could not remember at all what would have made sense to contradict.

The action points or lack of a lot of them, really forces you to strategize because you can’t inquire about everything, but you also need as much information as possible for the end of the game when it’s time to actually make a choice on who you suspect. More on that later.

As you progress through Death Trick, there are hand drawn comic panels that pop up during interactions, adding more depth to the scenes, 8 fully animated characters to meet, 10 separate locations to investigate, 50+ CGs, and multiple unlockable character endings. These endings appear after the credits so don’t exit out!

You travel between locations using an interactive map (which also tells you if the characters cannot enter a specific area) and inspect locations for items of interest and more information to help with the case. Looking in locations does take up an action point, and traveling within a turn also takes up an action point, so getting the extra ones is key to doing well in the game, though you can make it to the end with only using five. Carefully.

Anyone who has read my reviews before knows that I love visual novels and I love mysteries. I am also a huge fan of circuses having grown up going to them when my parents could afford to take us, and this game was an immediate must have for me and I was so excited to get a review copy.

I genuinely had a lot of fun playing, even when I got stumped by a piece in the collection, or couldn’t figure out the contradictions. What really makes the game shine is the complete package of its design, dialogue, music, and art.

And then there’s the twist.

While I won’t give it away because you really should play it for yourself, the reveal (not related to the murder itself) recasts everything you’ve learned so far in the game and about the different characters. Once the twist happens, the player has a limited number of chances to answer questions correctly to figure out what the heck has been going on this whole time and then once you solve that, another limited number of chances to actually pinpoint the murderer.

Once they’re caught and have confessed (if you did it right), the credits roll and you get to the various endings which are dependent on the pieces of information you gleaned from and about each character.

Overall, Death Trick is a gorgeous foray into the murder mystery genre and I can’t wait to see what Misty Mountain Studio does next.

Misty Mountain Studio was founded in 2019 in Melbourne, Australia by Xinyu Wei and expanded after moving to Shanghai, China. Double Trick: Double Blind was developed by Mari (producer/writer/programmer) and Jenny (art/animation/UI), and assisted by Fews and SaNeOr for additional programming, while Mooncake Audio handled SFX/music.

You can grab the game on Steam!

Images and review copy courtesy of Misty Mountain Studio and Neon Doctrine

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