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The Case of the Golden Idol Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S & PC)

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Murder scene (The Case of the Golden Idol)

Having spent a concering amount of time carefully analyzing the clues and unlikely suspects of a turtleneck-sporting frog’s handmade journal, I like to believe that I’m somewhat familiar with quirky ideas. Needless to say that, when it comes to detective work, crime often comes in numerous forms, and it’s thanks to the likes of Frog Detective and The Wolf Among Us that, even though we have already established the rules of the ever-evolving occupation, unpredictability is often more commonplace than ever. Take The Case of the Golden Idol, for example; on the surface, it looks, well, relatively harmless and even a little textbook, perhaps. And yet, in spite of its best efforts to sport a regular appearance, the truth is, it isn’t anything of the ordinary — like, at all. But that’s sort of what drew me to it: the fact that it wasn’t afraid to get a little weird.

For the record, The Case of the Golden Idol isn’t a new game, but rather, a reincarnation of a game that launched on PC a couple of years back. Even still, if you’ve yet to plunge into its roots and sport the good old-fashioned notepad and magnifying glass for yourself, then perhaps you’ll be interested in hearing a bit more about it before, well, signing your name up for the occupation. Care to join us as we tuck into the story behind the newly resurrected point-and-click detective game by Color Gray Games? Then let’s jump right in.

Filling in the Blanks

Detective inspecting crime scene (The Case of the Golden Idol)

The Case of the Golden Idol could very well sit inside the margins of multiple books, though, for the most part, it’s a crime-centric point-and-click mystery game, one in which players take to the role of an avid detective who, in the wake of several gruesome cases, has taken it upon themselves to whittle down the evidence and solve each one accordingly. And if that sounds like a generic detective job, then I assure you — it isn’t. In fact, the cogs that make up The Case of the Golden Idol don’t often turn in the same manner as several other mechanisms; instead, they twist and turn to a different pattern—a pattern that you, being the intuitive observer that you are, must decipher by collecting raw data from the objects and words around you, and ultimately using said data to construct plausible conclusions for each of the crimes in question.

As far as the storyline goes, The Case of the Golden Idol centers its world around a twisted conspiracy—a conspicuous timeline of events that orbit a common theme: the death of seemingly unrelated civilians, all of whom have since suffered from the same hand of fate over a fifty-year time period. It’s your job, as the weaver of truths, to embrace this tapestry of fatalities, and to divide the fact from the fiction, even if it means having to answer some serious questions about the moral consequences of your suspects’ actions and their motives. And believe me when I say, this isn’t quite as perplexing as it sounds on paper, mainly due to the fact that, gameplay-wise, there is a lot of hand-holding to nudge you in the right direction. Well, sort of.

Questions & Answers

Complete word puzzle (The Case of the Golden Idol)

As I mentioned earlier, the gameplay in The Case of the Golden Idol isn’t entirely difficult to crack; in fact, it mostly revolves around the act of searching for objects or points of interest in one of several rooms, and highlighting them to unlock a keyword of some kind. And it’s with that word that you must figure out how it aligns with an overarching narrative from within your trusty journal of facts. In a typical case, you might find yourself digging for a name, as well as the motives of the victim or suspect in question. To weave these pieces of evidence together, you often need to scramble through various layers in a room, after which your only real objective is to slot the pieces of the puzzle into place and witness the aftermath of your actions. So, like I said — relatively simple to grasp.

The Case of the Golden Idol is a traditional point-and-click game at heart, and so, if you’re not scrubbing the deck for viable pieces of information, then chances are you’re highlighting other portions of the screen to further illustrate the crime that’s conveniently laid out before you. Either way, the goal of the game is almost always the same in each new crime scene: identify the suspect, and fashion a plausible explanation for why they chose to enact on their rather sadistic tendencies. Aside from having to remove the smokescreen from their faces, there’s also the case of identifying the weapon, as well as the motive for the murder, and so on and so forth. And again, a lot of these things are somewhat easy to come by, thanks to it being more of a game of trial and error than a masterclass in the art of clairvoyance and whatnot.

A Gripping Fever Dream

Analyzing crime scene (The Case of the Golden Idol)

If there’s one thing that stuck with me long after the final crime was solved in The Case of the Golden Idol, it was the characters—the weird and wonderful figures who, while not positively relatable in their portrayals, all left an impression of some sort. And I don’t know what it was about these characters that intrigued me, but surely it must’ve had something to do with the way they told their stories, or perhaps even the way they projected their core traits in a somewhat deceitful yet intriguing manner. Either way, it all felt like some kind of intangible fever dream—touching gloves with an array of unorthodox sentient beings—and to be honest, at no point did I ever feel the urge to awaken from said dream, for it had me at twilight, and it didn’t seem to let go until the following dawn, weirdly enough.

There’s a lot I can say about the art style of this piece, but to summarize it, I think it’s only fair that we orbit one word, in particular — and that’s bizarre. Suffice it to say, The Case of the Golden Idol isn’t the best-looking game on the market, nor is it exactly teeming with superfluous effects or transitions, either. However, that doesn’t change the fact that, at least when viewed from the naked eye, it supports all of the hallmark qualities of a world that’s irresistibly different from its triple-A cousins. Yes, it’s a little janky, but at the same time, its attention to detail and its ability to capture the beating heart of a 1700s murder-mystery novel is second to none, and not to mention reinforced by a powerful soundtrack that’s both thematically compelling and riveting in all the right places.

Verdict

Analyzing clues (The Case of the Golden Idol)

It doesn’t take much for me to fall head over heels in love with anything that captures the raw essence of a classic murder-mystery novella, to be fair. And yet, even for someone who’s as easily as pleased with such things as me, The Case of the Golden Idol still stands its ground as one of the greatest works of art to grace the genre since the birth of Return of the Obra Dinn. And that’s saying a great deal, too, given the fact that the aforementioned title is nothing short of a natural-born phenomenon in the world of crime-centric gaming. But, as it turns out, Color Gray Games’ spin on the genre is as equally compelling as its kin, and it leaves me to ponder the question of whether or not it’s better than Return of the Obra Dinn overall. But, truthfully, that’s a story for another time.

For the sake of breaking even and arriving at a fitting conclusion, I will say this: The Case of the Golden Idol is definitely one of the better detective games I’ve had the pleasure of playing through in recent memory. Sure, it’s a little kooky and unconventional, but it’s also one of the most accessible entry-level point-and-click games of its kind, and it still manages to fortify its worth by taking full advantage of a time period and setting that’s both coherent and engaging in all the right moments. On that note, I’m willing to give it all the credit it deserves. And so, to answer that initial question of whether or not it’s worth playing — yes, it most certainly is, providing that you have the mental energy to unravel it, that is.

The Case of the Golden Idol Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S & PC)

Sweet, Sweet Satire

The Case of the Golden Idol’s fresh take on satirical storytelling blends with its casket of original characters and set designs surprisingly well. It’s an interesting work of art, I’ll say that much, but one that’s worth taking a look at — doubly so if you’re one for cutting deep into the nasal cavity of unorthodox ideologies.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.