Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a shapeshifter? When I was a young lad, one of my favourite shows was the 90’s X-Men cartoon. What wasn’t there to love?! When asked who my favourite mutant is in the entire series, my answer has always been an easy one, Mystique. I mean, let’s think about this for a second. You have the ability to be whoever you want, whenever you want! Sure, life’s daily routine can be done with you just being you. But what if you could turn into anyone and see the world through their eyes?! You could be popular YouTuber like PewDiePie, or how about a rock star such as Dave Grohl? Ethics could start to be an issue if you are the wrong person naturally. Robbing banks, murder, and other nefarious acts could be easily performed. The coin can be flipped however and you could work as a detective to solve crimes by shapeshifting into anybody and everybody. This involves anyone with the case to weed out information that could ultimately lead to the arrest of the murder! Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Wales Interactives FMV experience, The Shapeshifting Detective.
Although not new to the FMV games, with the recently released The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, Wales Interactive prove they are the kings of murder mysteries. There is a lot of thought and planning that go into these games. With over 1,600 HD filmed scenes, you know that there is a good chance that the more you explore your options in conversation, the more likely you will have a unique experience with each playthrough. Even small decisions that you make at the beginning of the game can ultimately come back to bite you in the long run. Each time you start a new playthrough, the game will randomly select who the murderer will be, so good luck trying to make the same decisions in hopes of catching the killer. You absolutely have to keep an eye on every detail, otherwise, you will be caught off guard and get yourself killed!
Ok Detective, so what is going on with the story? Well, You start the game talking to Agent X, which by the way gave the choice of conversation can lead to a funny moment immediately, and you are told that there has been a murder!! GASP! You are being sent to the town of August (in November 2018 *snicker*) to assist the local police chief, Claude Dupont, in solving this strange murder that happened the night before. The only information you have to go with is that the murder victim, Dorota Shaw, was strangled the night before in her home. Her death was foretold by three tarot readers that are staying in the same B&B as you. The owner of the B&B, Violet, has a sordid story as well that will keep your spidey senses ringing. In fact, that is the thing with Shapeshifting Detective that I loved the most. Literally, every person in the story has a motive. You will go through stages of wanting to point fingers at every person you talk to! So, who are the people we will interact with in August?
Chief Dupont– though I am sure that people will disagree with me, I felt that the chief acts as some fantastic comic relief in the game. He is impatient and very short with everybody that steps foot into his office. His facial reactions I found to be amusing. He also acts as a great resource to go to and figure where the entire investigation is currently at. This will help when you are further in the game and trying to figure out who the killer is.
Darota Shaw- Darota is the reason that we are in Autumn, to begin with. The only thing we know about her is that she has received a scholarship for Julliard School of Music as a cello player. As the story unfolds we discover that this seductive redhead has been busy getting to know much of the cast of individuals.
Violet- Violet is one of my favourite characters in the game. She is the mysterious owner of the B&B that you are currently staying at. At first glance, she comes off as a primp and proper redheaded woman. She will talk to you and offer up information, however you will discover there is more to her than meets the eye. In fact, of all the characters in the game, she has my favourite story surrounding her.
Bronwyn- Bronwyn is one of the tarot readers and the main suspect of Chief Duponts murder investigation. She is the owner of the Mercury deck that foretold the death of Dorota. She will be sweet to you but she can also let that Irish fury when confronted by the Chief or anyone else that tries to point their finger at her. Don’t let her charm fool you, she is also really good at lying.
Rayne- Rayne is our second tarot reader and what some may call the “Leader” of the tarot readers. He is very mysterious as his alibi for where he was in the time of the murder cannot be corroborated by anyone. He offers the most information as far as who the 3 tarots readers are.
Lexie- Lexie is our third and final member of the group of tarot readers. She could be described as “Young and Innocent” or even perhaps ditsy. She is also the groups Ouija board user. As someone that tries to keep a 20-mile gap between me and Ouija boards, she would be someone I would run from! She has a sweet charm about her as well as an apparent sexual tension that also can be hilarious in moments.
Oscar- Oscar is the boyfriend, or rather ex-boyfriend now, of Darota. He comes off as a bit timid but he can open up to some individuals. In fact, he will open up a bit more for some individuals. This leads to one of the most awkward moments in the game. He offers up information that will definitely help the investigation a lot!
Zak- I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Zak is THE CREEPIEST individual you will cross paths within the game. He is the local photographer that takes photos for the local newspaper. However, he also specializes in doing boudoir photos as well. He is “seeing” someone else in the game, but he is a Grade A jerk that will do anything to try and get in any woman’s pants, and I do mean ANYTHING. There is a moment involving Zak that may be very uncomfortable for some players of the game.
Ellis Munroe- Ellis is a local celebrity known for her radio show “Nights with Poe and Munroe.” You will hear her throughout the game on the radio, but you will not see her until later in the game. You may think she is a blonde, but upon meeting her, you discover she is a redhead!! Wonder if there is something in the game that revolves around redheads…hmmmmm. She is another case of someone that comes off as shy but the more you go into her story, the more you will discover that she is more than meets the eye.
Poe- Poe is the other half of the night show “Poe and Munroe”. If you ask him point blank, he is a happily married man and father of two. However, when you speak to him as other characters in the game, You will discover that Poe is not the man he says he is. He has a very strong friendship with Munroe that he wants to take to the next level!
Sophia- Sophia is the goddaughter of Violet. She can be seen as the ‘Creepy Child’ aspect of the game. She only has a few appearances, but each one left me feeling uncomfortable. What is it about kids that is so creepy!?!
The game is completely told throughout the course of one evening. With each passing hour, you will unravel more of the story with the moment being 10 pm. At 10, you will sit down with Chief Dupont and decide who you think is the killer. You will ride out the rest of the game with this decision and your choice will determine if you live or die during the night.
The game is not without issues though. Obviously, the amount of immersion in the game runs deep. You are, in a sense, a faceless protagonist. You never see what “Sam” looks like. The only way to shapeshift into one of the other characters in the game is to go to your room. This can really pump the breaks on the action when you are trying to talk to every character as every other character. Sometimes, you will change into somebody and only can talk to one person. You have the ability to go to everyone else’s room, but they are simply not there. It feels like a waste of time. I wish they had the available conversations only for each individual. For Example, If you shapeshift into Oscar, I wish there was a menu that said you can only talk to Violet and Chief Dupont. That would alleviate a lot of dead time going to each individual. I also would like an option to be able to skip ahead to the next line of dialogue after playing the game once through. Despite 1,600 different recorded scenes, after you play the game 2-3 times, some of these scenes get to be tiresome. To be able to skip would help get to that option that you had not chosen before.
As someone fairly new to the FMV style of game, I loved the story of Shapeshifting Detective. Sure there are some pacing issues that I had with the game, but the amount of joy I got from the experience as a whole leaves me wanting more from Wales Interactive. Even my wife, as someone who is not a gamer AT ALL, fell in love with the game and enjoyed watching along with me. So, until next time, beware of anyone you are around, especially if you have red hair….maybe they are not who they say they are!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*