Being a detective is fun – at least in the virtual world. See, you don’t have to worry about the pressures of your caseload, or a belligerent home secretary, or an uncaring public. In fact, in the game world, you instead become the master of the detecting domain by searching for answers, hunting down clues, and interrogating suspects, all in a noir-shaped world.
The little indie game DETECTIVE: Stella Porta Case is one of those experiences. It takes you across three cases that are linked, but the mysterious Stella Porta still manages to whisk you somewhere you wouldn’t believe. So get your magnifying glass out and let’s examine this mystery in more depth.
In DETECTIVE: Stella Porta Case you play a no-name detective who has been sent out to investigate three different cases. A murder is involved, as is the disappearance of the main suspect. You’ll find yourself heading to an apartment that has been broken into, resulting in the death of two small children, as well as a suburban home where a body is found in the back of a car. Lastly comes the opportunity to visit a trailer park in the middle of the desert; an old couple found murdered by a suspected conspiracy nut.
The story and narrative come about from you investigating the places of crime, trying to piece bits of visual storytelling together with the clues you have found. Attempting to work out a crime is always good fun and it does keep you going all the way to the end. The bits of dialogue that appear are all written well, but I must say, the ending is a bit of a shock and goes somewhere I would never have guessed. Does it work? I’m going to leave that up to you to decide.
The gameplay works via a first-person point of view, split into two parts. Firstly you arrive at the crime scene and can walk about freely, scouring the limited area on show. There are multiple rooms to explore and small areas outside to take in.
Your task is to gather clues and bits of evidence from these locations. So the gameplay is like a sort of “Where’s Wally”, as you move around the crime scenes, opening drawers and trying to find anything that you think might be of interest for the case in hand. This could be a letter on a desk, or as big as the body of the murdered. These items are then photographed and ringed with chalk as evidence. Some are easy but finding the last few was always very tricky.
When you have all the evidence at the scene then it’s back to the police station for the next part of the gameplay pattern. It’s here where you are presented with an evidence board, left to work through the photographs of evidence you collected from the scene. You have to place these pictures in the correct order in the timeline. Your clues can be accessed for evidence and you work out how the crime took place. This is an enjoyable part of the game and all works great. Solve it all and you move on to the next one. No fuss, no bother.
Visually, DETECTIVE: Stella Porta Case does a very good job. Yes, it can get a bit juddery at times, but the design of the crime scenes and locations is good, with some nice lighting and attention to detail in all the clues. The end section surprises nicely, still working well. In fact, the whole thing comes with a decent atmosphere throughout.
It’s fairly similar in terms of the audio and sound wise the game is solid with a kind of smooth easy listening track throughout. There is some limited voice work too, which works fine.
You should see DETECTIVE: Stella Porta Case as a great little distraction from other, bigger gaming experiences. There’s a bit of fun to be had in the detective work and I like the simple premise of finding clues before trying to piece the order of events together on a timeline.
Personally, I’m all for bold statements in games and I think the ending is about as mad as a box of frogs, but hats must go off to the developers for going there. Perhaps it could do with a few more cases and a little longer in terms of gameplay hours, but DETECTIVE: Stella Porta Case is worth spending time with.