A Case of Distrust Is a Sleek Detective Game Where You Call the Shots

At last year's E3, I got to play the first 10 minutes of Ben Wander'A Case of Distrust.

The game takes place in 1924, following the story of a young woman named P.C. Malone who works as a struggling San Francisco detective. When she starts investigating a tricky new case, it unravels into something much bigger than she'd ever anticipated.

The game officially releases for Mac and PC on Feb. 8, but the creators supplied me with an early review code so I could jump right into unraveling the mystery.

It all begins in Malone's apartment, where players can get a feel for the gameplay. As the narrative begins, there are moments where the dialogue forks depending on the choices you make. Essentially, players get to dictate Malone's personality by deciding how she reacts to people and situations, as well as guide the specifics of her difficult past.

The game starts with the intrusion of a yellow-eyed cat in Malone's room. He's very hungry, and your first "case" is proving to him that you've got nothing to eat. To gather your evidence, you scroll a magnifying glass across the screen, clicking on objects of interest to add them to the evidence section of your notes.

A Case of Distrust: Cat in Apartment Room

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

Only by presenting him with your empty icebox can you convince him to give up. Later in the game, you'll use this same system of gathering clues and presenting them as contradictions to work your way through the real detective work.

A Case of Distrust: Cat no Food clues

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

With the cat out of the way, Malone hears a knock at the door. The crook Connor Green shows up asking Malone to investigate a threatening letter. He suspects a man named Redstone Stable, who runs a local barbershop, in addition to partaking in the same shady business dealings as Green. Malone doesn't trust Green at all, but she needs the money, so she accepts.

To find out who's after Green, Malone must travel between various locations to question suspects and investigate her surroundings, seeking out any pieces of evidence or testimony that might illuminate more about the case.

A Case of Distrust: Fanny Green shouting

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

But once the pieces of the investigation feel like they're finally coming together, a murder shakes everything up. Finding out the origin of the threatening letter takes a backburner to finding the killer.

From there, Malone's main goal is to discover the means, opportunity and motivation for the crime. Basically, you must find out if the how, when and why of the killing match up with the perps to nail down the right person.

A Case of Distrust: Means, Motive and Opportunity

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

And there are quite a few suspects to question regarding this murder, from partners in crime to heartbroken wives, jazz singers and bassists at the local club, and of course the No. 1 suspect from the start, Redstone Stable. When they're not feeling particularly helpful, you can always talk to your confidante in the basement of Southern Coffee, the considerate barkeep, Frankie, for a push in the right direction.

A Case of Distrust: Frankie

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

Making progress is all about offering the right piece of evidence to the right person in order to learn more or get them to reveal something they didn't necessarily want to share. Sometimes, unraveling the real story involves contradicting someone's statement with evidence to the contrary. When you're on a roll, it's a great feeling, but like any game of this type, it can become tedious when you run out of ideas and feel like you're working on trial and error. At one point, I probably spent half an hour trying everything I could think of, traveling back and forth between every location only to be totally stuck before something finally clicked.

Once you feel like you have the evidence you need, you can even start accusing people of the murder, but there are consequences to this bold action. Once you've accused someone, they'll refuse any more idle chitchat.

However, you can also use this to your advantage. Since they'll only talk to you about the critical parts of their story, you know anything they are willing to discuss is a huge step in the right direction. When you finally do uncover the truth, the conclusion's twist is as surprising as it is satisfying.

A Case of Distrust doesn't just succeed in its gameplay. Its atmosphere also perfectly complements the story. Its elegant, minimalist design almost looks like polished paper cutouts, and the typewriter font and jazzy, mysterious music add to the noir vibe. I also particularly liked the rotoscoped animations, which add a subtle but effective hint of life to the characters.

The writing is also compelling and a thrill to read, and small touches really add to the narrative. For example, every time you get into a cab to go to a different location, you have the option to chat with the drivers. If you choose to speak with them, you'll find that they're different drivers each time with their own lives and interests and concerns, and listening to them adds a whole other dimension to the game. Of course, if you'd rather just zip back and forth between these spots, you can always choose to ignore the cabbies.

A Case of Distrust: Taxi Cab Ride

(A Case of Distrust via Ben Wander)

And Malone's personal history is dependant upon your decisions, so even though they don't affect the gameplay in any way, it's worth playing the game more than once to see various outcomes. The storytelling in A Case of Distrust is very strong, and some players will definitely want to see every version of Malone's story.

If you're into games with powerful narratives, as well as crime-solving games like the Phoenix Wright series, we highly recommend A Case of Distrust. Click HERE to get the game for $14.99 when it drops on Steam, Feb. 8.


Love games about crime-solving heroines? Click HERE for our review of the latest Layton game starring the professor's daughter, Katrielle.