Ancient China is one of the most flavourful settings one can choose to have their game set in: millennia of culture and history, rich mythology and endless possibilities. In Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders, Nupixo Games takes upon themselves the task of showing the player a clever story full of twists and turns set in ancient China, following the young magistrate Di Renjie. Based on real historical characters and events, and then heavily stylized into an engaging point-and-click puzzle game, Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders tries to stand tall among the celebrated genre, and it might just have what it takes.
The Good - Aren’t you a clever one?
There is one aspect that stands atop every other in Detective Di, and that is the story. Detective Di weaves its story patiently, taking the time to introduce and establish each character, including our main protagonist — the young magistrate Di Renjie. The story keeps the engagement high, starting off slow and expanding quickly into something more. Detective Di is a very clever game in no small part due to the narrative that feels like an excellent political mystery series that is allowed to breathe and develop organically. The player is free to engage with the characters as much as possible, learn about them in many ways and through these characters, see the world brought to life.
The second strongest point of the game is, of course, the puzzles. Almost all of them are cleverly made with strong ties to the world of the game, requiring a lot of critical thought. Clever players will be able to see a few steps ahead and realise where the puzzle is going beforehand, experiencing a real sense of satisfaction in the process by making their own theories alongside Detective Di. Of course, not all of them are necessarily story related — sometimes it’s just the kind of day where the detective has to figure out how to get a cat down from the ceiling. The puzzles all serve a purpose, be it progressing the story, adding to worldbuilding and levity or expanding characterisation. They are all of varied purposes and design and certainly more than one example will be memorable for any player.
- Excellent story and characters
- Clever puzzles
- Interesting setting and worldbuilding
The Bad - Pack it up, detective
Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders is a well-done and carefully-made game but one aspect that seems simply passable is the graphics. Pixel art is not a strange trend in video games nor is it inherently inferior to high resolution, high fidelity graphics — but Detective Di is set in such a rich and visually interesting setting that many times, it feels like a waste that the scenarios presented can’t be rendered in higher detail or the characters given more attention. No character in Detective Di has a fully visible face, although it is possible to see their mouths move whenever they talk. The graphics aren’t bad nor are they something that ruins the experience. However, the graphics cannot be said to be more than competent for what they are and they leave the constant feeling that there’s more to see. Serviceable is, sadly, just short of good.
An aspect of the game that feels hit or miss is how slow and methodical it is. Unlike other point and click puzzle games (such as Phoenix Wright which follows a more visual novel approach), Detective Di does not have fast scene transitions at the press of a button; Detective Di Renjie will slowly walk wherever he needs to go. On one hand, this helps to showcase the scenarios and the world however, some players might find the deliberate snail pace to be annoying and it certainly drags the pace down to a crawl. There are many times when the idea is to simply get from point A to point B and the slow pace can become quite grating on those moments when there are no puzzles to solve.
- Merely serviceable graphics
- Snail-pace gameplay
Final Score: 7/10
I cannot say that I am disappointed with Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders because it does feature a truly gripping story and yet, I feel like it could have used a little more work in some various aspects. Its rich plot comes at the expense of more engaging gameplay, even amongst its point-and-click brethren. With so much material to work with from a historic, story and visual perspective, I just wish the game pushed its ambitions a little further. That said, I can’t fault the game entirely on what it doesn’t do — what it does do is never truly bad and I had a grand ol’ time following the story and making my own deductions alongside Magistrate Di Renjie. It’s surprising how much personality the game is able to give its scenarios despite the minimalist graphics, and there is definitely enough material to keep one entertained throughout its many hours as they go through the story and tackle its puzzles. It’s worth a look — get on the case, detective.
Thank you for checking out our Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders Switch review, thank you to Elefantopia for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out)
- Bel Cubitt