Icy cold glares of passersby cut through the gaps of the iron palisades as you walk down the brick road path that leads to the grand entrance. Once in a while you catch a glimpse of hidden emotion on the face of the staff- grief, guilt, shock, something has shattered the peace so suddenly that no one, not even the family estate, knows quite how to react. For a moment, you’re sure that one of the robots might even be crying… actually, nevermind, I think that’s just machine oil.
Whatever they may be feeling, they’re all suspects and you’re no therapist, you’re a private eye named Beatris Summers. When the killer is hiding in plain sight, you can only rely on evidence, quick wits, and nerves of steel, just don’t forget that everyone is a piece in play, whether pawns or queens.
Lockheart Indigo is an open world mystery adventure laden with 8-Bit GameBoy-esque aesthetics made by its creator, Harmless, over the course of the past three years as a labor of love and is currently in an early access alpha phase. Make no mistake, despite the current stage of development there already exists a compelling murder mystery with an intricate level of detail seldom seen in the genre that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Mysteries tend to fall into a sort of interrogative uncanny valley, often becoming perennial internet memes like the famous L.A Noir or Phoenix Wright, but Indigo pulls it off with such elegant panache and vibrantly written dialogue that nothing feels unnatural or out of place.
While Indigo’s striking User Interface provides many contextual cues of color-coding and text formatting, it never hands you information on a silver platter; paying attention is a must because the devil is most certainly hiding amongst the details. Even the most mundane side characters will reveal vital clues regarding the murder, the suspects, or how one might rattle some cages, meanwhile the mechanics related to pacing and exploration are cleverly fed to you in a way that seamlessly leaves you wanting to explore and analyze everything you can while never leaving you spinning your wheels.
Even a meager butler’s observations about the events that took place on that fateful night will give you the needed tools to strike a blow in the game’s elaborate, yet compact, dialogue system. Your ability to hold your nerve is a form of verbal hitpoints, taxed by every action while intellectually sparring with the extended family and key staff. Once you’ve read the demeanor and surface level intent of your opponent, provided you have the appropriate evidence, a resplendent arsenal of straightforward pressure tactics open up to you, allowing you to point out the inconsistencies in their narrative, nailing them to the truth- that is, if you can find it lingering on the edges of what’s left unsaid.
With each successful interrogation comes a respective key used to unlock new sections of the mansion which, thus far in development, contains roughly 100 rooms scored with a delightfully moody chiptune soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the whodunit vibe permeating every aspect of the game. Indigo is that rare gem which feels completely natural and well-thought out, and any mystery fan would be remiss to overlook it.
After all, until Justice is brought to the House Of Volkov, the victim’s spirit can never truly be laid to rest… and, well, you won’t get paid. A private eye’s gotta fill their private stomach, right?
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice