My love for detective games has grown over the past couple of years, and in 2020 particularly. They’ve provided a way to socialise with friends remotely while at home during the lockdown and many evenings have been spent trying to figure out whodunnit.
There’s just something about a private-investigator-protagonist which draws me in. I enjoy storylines which feature hardboiled detectives, hidden clues and devious crooks, along with gameplay mechanics where it’s up to the player to piece together the evidence and solve the case. Streaming such titles has added a new element to the fun: friends have been able to watch while we’ve been on Twitch, sharing their suggestions and theories in chat so it has felt as though we’re all playing together.
My favourite experience last year was The Painscreek Killings, where village residents reveal their secrets through diaries and letters and you must figure out who the murderer is. Contradiction: Spot the Liar! was also a good one because I’m a full-motion video (FMV) fan and actor Rupert Booth is awesome. Recently though, we branched out from video games and tried something a little different thanks to a great Christmas present from Kevin from The Lawful Geek.
The Mysterious Package Company is based in Canada and ‘delivers adventure by mail in the form of puzzles, stories and collectibles’. Kevin very kindly sent us two games from their Post Mortem Los Angeles trilogy: a series of murder mysteries where you take on the role of a ‘probationary cautionary auxiliary investigator’ for the Global Detective Agency. They seemed perfect for a stream, so we gathered our friends online during an afternoon at the end of the December for the investigation.
The case we chose first was Death in La-La Land and this was set in 1940s America – so think noir detectives, shady mobsters and femme fatales. After an accident at an amusement park, the new mayoral candidate has been thrown off a rollercoaster and straight into Pirate Poppy’s Popcorn stand so chaos has now arrived at the carnival. There are conniving forces at work at this seemingly-innocent location so can you figure out who’s behind it all before you yourself become La-La Land’s next high-flying victim?
Thank you to everyone who helped us crack the case today! The rest of the evidence and case files can be found here… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) December 30, 2020
Opening the box revealed a number of items: a letter from the Global Detective Agency, documents and leaflets, a map of the amusement park and several sealed brown bags containing evidence. All of these were extremely well made, with a one-page newspaper feeling realistic and the business directory being full of adverts and telephone numbers. The object tying them all together was the pulp novel and it was here where our murder mystery began.
The first step is to read the short introduction to the case and then decide what you’re going to investigate. Each location on the map, informant in your notepad and entry in the business directory is marked with a three-digit number which corresponds to a section of the novel. Choose what you want to dig into, go the appropriate section, read about the outcome and then take an action if necessary. It’s almost like a choose-your-own adventure but with physical objects to enhance the experience.
Sometimes we had to crack a code. At others, we had to make a choice: would we go with the carnival director to the medical facility or continuing working our way through the Maze of Mirrors, for example. And then there were our favourite moments when we uncovered something in the story and had to open an evidence bag. The unwrapped items provided additional clues and at several points, we found ourselves changing direction and rushing towards a new lead.
It felt as though the story flowed smoothly and we didn’t feel overly stuck. This was despite me accidentally looking up the wrong number in the pulp novel at a certain point and us not realising that one of the evidence bags should have been opened at the start of the case. I’m going to put this down to good writing and planning by The Mysterious Package Company; I went through the pulp novel afterwards to see what would happen if different choices were made, and the same information was cleverly given in a different way.
To make it easier for our friends in Twitch chat to join in with the fun, we took photographs of the items in the box and uploaded these to a shared folder before the stream. This meant they were able to look at the documents more closely and work on the investigation with us. We obviously couldn’t scan the entire pulp novel though – so they had to rely on some pretty bad voice-acting from Pete and myself as we read out the various sections (I can only apologise).
Death in La-La Land took us around six hours to complete and it was a really fun evening. I’m pleased to say we managed to correctly figure out who the culprit was and almost all the details surrounding the rollercoaster accident and death of the mayoral candidate so perhaps we’re better PIs than we thought. A big thank you to everyone who joined us to help with the investigation, particularly the_Ghost_Owl who I know loves a good detective game as much as I do.
I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries in either book or game format. It actually feels as though you’re in the middle of a noir story and, as you’re not spoon-fed any of the answers, the satisfaction that comes with solving the case feels deserved. We’ve repackaged all of the evidence (hopefully in the right bags) and will be passing the box on to a family member because it’s a great way to spend an afternoon if you’ve got extra time on your hands during the lockdown.
As mentioned above, Kevin kindly sent us two games so next up will be Lucha Muerte. Will we be able to figure out what the shooting at El Santo Niño church is all about? We’ll find out soon.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.