There is something about the solving of mysteries, working life as a detective, that appeals. Whether it be the discovering of clues, reading of documents, or analysing of audio and video recordings, it’s always something that intrigues and never gets old. And of course, we have had plenty of opportunity in many detective games over the years; the interesting diversions in the Batman games, or the more straightforward no-nonsense detective vibes of L.A. Noire.
But the latest is that of Forest Grove; a detective game with a difference as it’s set in the future and you enter the crime scene virtually, looking to decipher everything from every angle, all with the help of a drone. Let’s look for the clues.
Forest Grove is set some fifty years in the future. A teen daughter of a billionaire has gone missing and you rock up as the leader of a new police unit, tasked with trying to solve the mystery. There are eight suspects nailed down and you need to use all the fancy technology at your disposal to recreate the events in the house before the disappearance, attempting to work out what happened and who is involved. The narrative does a very clever thing, taking you around the empty house, floor by floor, exploring each room and unlocking memories of what has happened.
The writing and story are both very engaging. There are some interesting narratives that occur along the way, complemented by side stories and intrigues that keep you guessing to the end of the tale.
Gameplay has you taking in Forest Grove in the first person. You have a map of the house with its three floors and multiple rooms. You can wander around the virtual house like a normal game with movement or just click on the map and, hey presto, you’re in the room. When you are there you can search for clues with docs and items of interest so you can build up evidence and a case file.
But there are other things hidden in the room for you to find. There are audio files hidden in certain areas. And when you find these, you are left to partake in a little mini-game which has you searching through the frequencies to try to get the right spot for it to unlock.
The other resource you have to hand is a drone. You can drag this drone into any room you are in and then take over controlling this moveable detective tool. When it’s in the room it will find a snippet of memory of an event that’s happened there. From there you need to take in a strange alignment puzzle where you have to position the drone at the correct angle to be able to view the clip. There are quite a few of these to find and they will add to the clues for the case.
There are also numerous puzzles to solve and play with. Some of these are simple; trying to find the right code for a safe or a password for a computer, for instance. Everything is there for you to find, you just need to have the patience to look. I liked a piano puzzle where you need to match the tune and colours from a recorder.
Forest Grove’s visuals are pleasant and the whole AI detective layout is brilliantly designed, easy to navigate around. The menus do seem a little confusing at first, but very quickly it all starts to make sense. And there’s no doing that the attention to detail in all the docs and clues is well thought out.
Sound-wise the voice-over artists do a great job with the dialogue and the soundtrack is admirable with some great effects.
Forest Grove is a neat and interesting take on the detective genre. It is original, even though it borrows ideas, mostly as it takes elements but then works through things in its own unique way. Fans of story and whodunit mysteries will have a ball here, playing detective and unraveling a mystery. However, it is pretty slow-paced as you methodically work through the rooms, so should you be looking for some action, you’ll probably want to look away now.
On the whole though, Forest Grove is a great experiment in future detective work and I for one would like to play more of this in the future.