What would you do if you knew your neighbours had done something terrible? Would you sit back, and let important evidence go unnoticed, or would you take matters into your own hands?
Robert Conway, the protagonist of new mystery game, Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, chooses the latter. You see, he awakes in his apartment one night to a commotion; the police are outside investigating the disappearance of a young girl, Charlotte May. She was taken from right outside Robert’s home while he slept – and he had no idea. He’s sure one of his neighbours is involved somehow. After all, these sorts of crimes are usually committed by someone who knows the victim. As an ex-private investigator, he simply can’t sit back and and leave it to the police – even if his own daughter is one of the officers working on the case. No, he knows he can do better himself.
And so begins an eight-or-so hour tense tour of poking into neighbours’ houses, crossing boundaries and pushing limits, all in pursuit of information that the police might not have found. All households in Dahlia View have something to hide, it seems – and the more Robert digs, the more he becomes convinced that at least one of them knows more than they’re letting on about Charlotte May’s whereabouts. But finding out for sure is risky – and as time ticks on in Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, you’ll grow more and more uncomfortable at being party to Robert’s actions.
It feels like a car crash at times; you know what Robert is doing is wrong but you can’t look away. Being in control of him and having to do something that you know is morally reprehensible is rather disconcerting; you’ll be left with an unsettled feeling at the pit of your stomach that doesn’t go away until after the end credits have rolled. You’ll have to step into someone’s house even though you know it’s breaking and entering. You’ll have to go into a pub, after hours, in pursuit of an alleged criminal – even though you told your neighbour you’d phone the police instead. That’s the beauty of Conway. You don’t know who to trust. Perhaps you’ll even doubt if you can trust yourself.
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View plays out like a 3D point-and-click adventure. You’re free to explore your surroundings, and can interact with objects, pick things up and open cupboards and drawers in your quest for evidence or important information. Robert will gather anything that could be possibly useful by taking a picture of it, which you’ll then piece together back at an evidence board when you’re done investigating.
You’ll have to solve a few puzzles while snooping around – things like figuring out how to open a lock, or finding the code to a safe. Some are a little more involved, like wiring up a generator to power a lift. But there’s nothing too complex or convoluted here; despite its similarities to the point and click genre, it’s a far cry from the obscure puzzles of 90s classics. Nothing should stump you for too long, and if you can’t progress, it’s because you’ve missed something. Robert’s notebook will always come in handy in pointing you in the right direction, too.
The investigations are dressed up with a wonderfully-told narrative, delivered expertly by a cast of stellar voice actors. The actor bringing Robert Conway to life, in particular, stands out thanks to his memorable and affecting performance. The story at the heart of Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View will have you hooked, too; not only is there the mystery of Charlotte May to delve into, but there are several other strands to pick up on as you snoop around your neighbours’ homes. Being thorough with your detective work will pay off as you uncover more than you bargained for about their lives. Not everything is handed to you on a plate, and uncovering a sub-plot feels suitably rewarding.
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View makes a few technical missteps, however. Some textures fail to load here and there; and sometimes the camera doesn’t pan to where it should be, leaving you to fumble blindly back into view. Robert’s in a wheelchair, and so controlling him doesn’t come naturally – you’ll need to get used to turning then moving, a little like old-fashioned tank controls. But as cumbersome as it can be, and as annoying as a misbehaving camera is at times, they aren’t enough to blight the experience. This is such a tightly-woven narrative, one so jam-packed with intrigue and tension, that most issues are easily overlooked.
I’d love to go into even more detail about Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View‘s narrative and discuss in depth everything that makes it so brilliantly crafted, but to do so would be to ruin your experience. The joy of playing this wonderful little detective noir is to experience the drip-feed of suspense first hand; it’s to find the little clues yourself and come to your own conclusions – and in the process, be made to doubt everything you believe. Because in a street where everyone has something to hide, who can you trust?
If you like tense mysteries and slow-burning thrillers, Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View really ought to be high on your most-wanted list. Expertly written and fantastically acted, its story is simply the decadent cherry on top of a thoroughly engaging dark investigative adventure.
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View Review – GameSpew’s Score