Maybe it’s because I tend to have limited patience, but I’ve never been that interested in murder mystery stuff. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the stereotype of murder mysteries being the sorts of things where the clues lead towards something only to swerve at the last second to something else that makes no sense when you think about it hard enough (incidentally, protip to aspiring murder mystery writers: make sure your audience can potentially deduce the solution before the reveal of it. Locking off information from your audience to stop them from being able to solve it isn’t intelligent writing, it’s just insulting because it is like asking us to solve a puzzle and then taunting us because you didn’t give us all of the pieces we needed to work it out!) and I’m awful at puzzles (I think my friends can attest that I suck at Portal 2), but the idea of reading a murder mystery novel just doesn’t grab me.
Still, I’m not afraid to give something a shot, so, when Silver Creek Falls – Chapter 1 crossed my path, I thought it was worth giving it a go. About an hour later, I had only two major thoughts on my mind: “That sheriff’s voice actor is worse at accents than I am” and “…That’s it?”
First of all, the positives: the art style is actually pretty cool and interesting for this sort of game. It’s based on the RPGmaker system, which is not a system you’d usually associate with this type of game, and, all things considered, it’s actually not a bad choice. It probably wasn’t the best choice overall (it would have arguably worked better if done as a visual novel), but it did work out surprising well. One goof I did notice, though: if you select the blood samples in your inventory, you find a health meter for your characters comes up as if you’ve selected a potion (which is very weird when you realise that there’s no combat or potions in the game). It is noted in the game that they’re not for consumption, but that is something which should have been fixed prior to the release of the game, so I’m going to have to point it out.
The second is that the mystery is actually pretty interesting. I have a feeling I can work out what the mystery is already (for the sake of spoilers, I’m not going to say my suspicions here!), but the investigative side of it was actually fairly well handled, as I did feel like I was investigating an actual mystery from the police’s side of things rather than just blundering around aimlessly. That said, there were a few moments when I felt the game should have been a bit clearer with where I was meant to go: I spent ages searching for something involving bread in the sheriff’s house only to be annoyed when it turned out I should have just left the house straight away (maybe a better idea would have been to have the deputy say “Bread…wait, I know where the safe is! Baker Street!” rather than say “Let’s look for something involving bread!”) and I also spent ages trying to get into the police station only to learn later that I was meant to go right back to the hotel (after having had to sit through the sheriff’s tape for a second time because it turned out I couldn’t use the car to travel at that point and someone forgot to add a method to skip dialogue to it, so I couldn’t skip past it back to the game!).
The story isn’t too bad, I guess, but I do think it has problems. There are details which don’t really add up when you think about them hard enough (the deputy used his sheriff’s name to call for aid because he thought he wouldn’t be noticed if he used his, but he didn’t think that informing them that his sheriff had disappeared alongside a bunch of other people over a short period of time and that a lot of gruesome deaths had happened as well was the better option? OK, even assuming that was true, why did nobody notice the sheriff’s choice of language was different from usual?) and I do feel that the deputy’s awful knowledge of police work pushes beyond what I’d consider believable (I know the guy has only done the job for three months, it’s a small town and he didn’t take his studying seriously for it, but surely you’d know how to handle a murder scene by that point, ESPECIALLY since two previous ones happened within two days of the one which had contaminated evidence!). I also think the game doesn’t really give enough story to it. I know it’s a free game and it is part of what is looking like a series of episodic games, but it still didn’t feel like it was even close to being ready to end when it did: it felt like it had just forgot to continue, which left me sitting in surprise that the game had ended already. I guess it did end at a decent point on one level, as there was nothing more I could really do at that point in the story, but it still felt like it needed to have ran a bit longer than it did to feel like a satisfying end to a game in and of itself. It’s possible that later chapters will make up for this, but I just felt that the game needed more of a sign it was finished rather than ending on a hook for the next game and wrapping nothing up in this one. Still, up until that point, it was pretty interesting!
The big negative for me is the sheriff’s tape. I’m gonna flat out say it: whoever did the voice of the sheriff in the game didn’t do a good job. His accent danced about between a strong American accent clearly influenced by places like Texas to what sounded a bit like a rough British accent so many times that I wasn’t sure whether the guy doing the voice was trying to maintain the American accent and failing or just hadn’t nailed the accent he was going for properly and it kept sounding like other stuff by mistake as a result. I’m hardly an expert on accents myself, but it’s really worrying when I was listening to it, knowing I’m awful at adopting American accents, and thinking “I could have done a better job than this guy did!” It wouldn’t bother me normally, but it was the only bit of spoken dialogue in the whole game and it was in the form of a LONG monologue that you can’t skip at all, so I think I’m hardly being unfair in singling it out! It’s also odd that the sheriff doesn’t spell out his fears directly into the tape, considering he was clearly expecting something to kill him and wanted someone to find the tape, so you’d have thought he’d have not gone on with hinting about supernatural stuff and just gone “I think something evil’s been brought to our world and is out to kill us all”!
I also think the length of a game is a problem. Now, I did mention it took me about an hour to finish the game, but the thing to remember that time included me going around murder scenes multiple times, sitting through the monologue twice, walking longer than I should have done, talking to a friend in between playing the game, making dinner and even wandering around while unsure of what to do, so I might very well have shaved at least ten minutes off that time had I played it properly. Considering that I also got no resolution from the game on anything, I can’t help thinking that the game might be a bit too short for the run time to really keep people interested in follow up games.
I also ran across two bugs which I don’t think should have been in the game. In one of them, I decided to walk to what ended up being a crime scene instead of taking the car and I ended up watching as the police car sped down the road in front of me and I was stuck doing nothing for a few seconds until what was clearly meant to be the time I had got out of the car had passed, which left me thinking “That should not have happened.” The second is that I accidentally walked through the car at the crash crime scene in my attempt to search for blood samples around the back of it, with the end result that I was standing in what should have been the back seat of the car. I don’t think either were game breaking, but they did leave me wondering why nobody thought to check them simply because both could have been easily fixed!
Ultimately, as a first chapter for a larger game, it’s not bad. It’s got an interesting idea behind it and I like the somewhat unconventional choice of style of game it has behind it, but, as a game in and of itself, I don’t think it’s strong enough to justify checking it out unless you are a huge fan of supernatural mysteries and are patient enough to wait for chapter two to come out.