The Shapeshifting Detective
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 9

Solving a murder mystery should be easy when you have the ability to shapeshift into any person you meet, but all is not as it seems in the quiet town of August. Step into the shapeshifting shoes of Sam and figure out whodunit in this latest FMV release by D’Avekki Studios. A girl has been murdered under mysterious circumstances and the clock is ticking as you put your unusual skills to the test. The Shapeshifting Detective is a solid title that will appeal to everyone who enjoys an unusual murder mystery and the story also provides plenty of replay value, so don’t miss out.

Gameplay: As this is an FMV game the interaction with the gameworld is obviously limited, but interrogating people is a blast and the shapeshifting mechanic makes for a novel experience.

Graphics: Not as much FMV footage as Doctor Dekker, but everything looks great in high definition.

Sound: The audio is superb and definitely contributes a lot to the atmosphere of the game

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The Shapeshifting Detective

Developer: D’Avekki Studios Ltd, Wales Interactive | Publisher: Wales Interactive | Release Date: 2018 | Genre: FMV / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The quiet town of August is rocked when a local resident, Dorota Shaw, is found strangled to death in her bed. While the local police chief has his suspicions, he enlists your aid to uncover the truth. However, in a town that seem to be shrouded in secrets, it is your own that is perhaps the darkest. You see, while you may be portraying the role of a detective named Sam, it is just a persona that you have adopted after instructions from someone that is clearly in charge. In addition to a myriad of skeletons in your closet, including being present at a murder scene, Sam also has the uncanny ability to shapeshift into any person with whom he has had contact. This is obviously not something that you want to make public, so your investigation will require discretion as well as solid sleuthing.

The Shapeshifting Detective is the latest offering from D’Avekki Studios Ltd, the fine folks who gave us the chilling FMV title, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker last year. Like Dr Dekker, The Shapeshifting Detective is a full motion video game, but it is a little less ambitious than its record breaking predecessor. Instead of having to type questions your interaction with other characters in the game is limited to dialog trees. Of course, the shapeshifting aspect ads a whole new dimension to the proceedings as characters are more likely to reveal juicy information to someone they think is a friend or confidant.

The game opens with Sam booking into a guest house in August after being instructed to bring the killer to justice. Without a bad, gun or any real authority, Sam can only grill suspects about their involvement in the murder. Things are made a little more complicated by the fact that for such a quaint little town, there isn’t a lack of suspects. From the guest house owner who is uncertain about her own whereabouts, to the tarot readers who predicted the murder before it happened or even the creepy local photographer, you will have your hands full narrowing down the list. The police chief is convinced that one of the tarot readers were involved, but if you can gain their confidence, then you might find the story taking on an interesting supernatural twist. Obviously, the motive could have been pure jealousy or insanity, so be careful about who you believe and what conclusions you jump to. To say anymore about the story could ruin the experience, but suffice to say it is riveting from start to finish and interacting with the various characters is a blast.

One area where The Shapeshifting Detective really excels is creating an unnerving atmosphere. Just about every character you talk to feel like they are hiding something sinister and, after some digging, you usually find out what it is too. Like Dr Dekker, TSD makes use of full motion video for all of the visuals, which means it falls to the actors and actresses to deliver believable performances and sell the story.

There is the occasional bit of over-acting and hamming things up, but for the most part the performances are all solid and everyone involved does a great job. It is nice to see some familiar faces too, like Aislinn De’ath who plays as the guest-house owner, Violet, after her turn as Marianna in The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. Players who remember Contradictions: The Interactive Murder Mystery Movie will also recognize a few people, like Rupert Booth, who plays the police chief and Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler who portrays a tarot reader.

It is not just the characters that give this game a film noir feel, but also the camera work and audio. Since everything is viewed in first person the developers have delighted in throwing in some unusual camera angles for a few scenes just to keep you off-guard. Apart from the guest house and police station, there are a couple of other locations where you can talk to people, which are all accessed via a taxi. In addition to some very ominous music, your constant companion throughout the game will also be a radio. These things are found throughout August and while you can change the stations, they all feature some sinister story that is being narrated. A lot of these stories feel like they are hinting at something that is happening in the game and hearing them definitely adds to the atmosphere.

Since The Shapeshifting Detective is an FMV game, it also suffers from the usual limitations, which means that your interaction with the gameworld is very limited. You can only pick who you want to talk to and which of the pre-set questions that are listed you will ask. The game does make things a little bit more interesting by including questions or statements that you can “delete” if you think they might be detrimental to your cause. The shapeshifting aspect also adds a different element to things as you will have to pay attention to what people are saying to whom, otherwise you might trip yourself up or reveal too much of your own secrets.

The Shapeshifting Detective is a very slow paced game, which might deter some players, but those who are willing to immerse themselves in the story and atmosphere will have a blast. Each chapter in the game takes place over the course of an hour of “game time,” but you are free to continue investigating if you feel like you have missed something. Radio updates between chapters reminds you about what is happening and chatting to the police chief can also assist you with keeping up with all the different investigative threads. While the game is relatively short, the identity of the killer can change between playthroughs, which provides additional incentive for replaying the story. We finished the game three times in total and each playthrough revealed some new information that we somehow missed previously. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip any of the videos, which means that you can end up sitting through a lot of the same stuff. All characters are also not available at all times to talk to, which can result in players having to jump to and fro looking for the next conversation to trigger the continuation of the story. However, these are minor quibbles and easy to overlook once you get caught up in the story.

Overall, The Shapeshifting Detective is an intriguing title that had us hooked from the opening right to the very last scene. It is not quite as mind-blowing as Doctor Dekker, but the story is still solid and open to a lot of interpretation. The characters are also quite intriguing, so hopefully we have not seen the last of them or Sam. D’Avekki Studios have proven once again that they know how to spin a pretty riveting yarn and we look forward to seeing what twisted tale they come up with next.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 / AMD Radeon HD 5750. OpenGL 3.3
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 6 GB available space
  • OS: OS X 10.9 64-bit
  • Processor: Core i3 2.4Ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 / AMD Radeon HD 5750. OpenGL 3.3
  • Storage: 6 GB available space

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