The story in The Silver Case takes place in the fictitious Japanese city of the “24 Wards,” where a notorious serial killer by the name of Kamui Uehara has recently broken out of a mental hospital and is on another spree. You play as a former special ops member, whom after surviving an encounter with Kamui, is recruited by the Heinous Crimes Unit as detective in order to try and Kamui before he takes any more lives.
The Silver Case
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Mac, PlayStation 4
Release Date: October 6, 2016
Despite how simple the plot sounds, you’ll notice quickly how obtuse its storytelling is, and if you’re familiar with Suda51’s work, this doesn’t come off as much as a surprise. The story takes an episodic approach to its narrative rather than having one big overarching plot.
Each episode is focused on a different case, with no apparent connection to the main plot, at least not initially. It’s only after beating the game that each episode makes more sense, and even then it’s more from a thematic stand point than actual plot relevance.
The game is split into two segments: Transmitter and Placebo. Transmitter is where the main game takes place, while Placebo has you following a freelance journalist as he does some investigating into the various cases the player goes through in Transmitter.
The one strength Placebo has over Transmitter is that it follows an actual character with a personality, compared the main character in Transmitter, who simply acts as a vessel for the player. Despite this one advantage, Placebo isn’t required to fully enjoy the game, as it goes over tons of details the player already knows before it gets to the actual new bit of information. It’s best to view it as supplementary material and if you really enjoyed the main story then you can get more of it from Placebo.
The plot’s biggest strength is in its characterization. Throughout the story I was less interested in the actual cases themselves, although they are still very interesting, and more so how the cast act and react to them. It actually paints most of the cast as pretty unlikeable, but not only does it work in this kind of story, but it’s also pretty refreshing.
It’s nice to see characters that genuinely don’t get along with one another try and work together. These are not characters you’re supposed to like, but you can sympathize with the situations they find themselves in with their coworkers. It also helps with the tone, which is generally very weird and unsettling, which for any Suda51 fan is something they come to expect from him.
On the subject of tone, The Silver Case does an excellent job of setting up its tone really early on and sticking with it. Right off the bat you know that you’ll be in for a very weird and sometimes genuinely creepy game.
While it is not a horror game outright, there are some moments in this game that you could argue would fit right at home in a horror visual novel. This is amplified by the game’s art style. The Silver Case opts for a more realistic approach to character and world design, which is a far cry to what Suda51 would be known for.
While The Silver Case does do a good job at setting up its atmosphere, it does a really poor job at conveying what kind of gameplay experience you’re in for. The game is primarily a visual novel with some light puzzle and adventure game elements.
At the beginning of the game you’re led to believe there’ll be more puzzles due to the emphasis they put on the first one, but after that mission they only introduce two more puzzles. Calling them puzzles is also a bit generous, as most if not all of them are just busy work. The puzzles are so unimportant and pointless to the game that you can actually skip them with little consequence.
The adventure game aspect is moving around empty rooms looking for contact points and interacting with them. Like the puzzles, the intro puts a lot of emphasis on the adventure part of the game only to underutilize its mechanics. It also doesn’t help that every room you explore is entirely devoid of characters to interact with, even when the scene calls for crowded areas.
Another major problem The Silver Case suffers from, and this is exacerbated by the nature of the story, is the overflow of information the player is expected to remember. It expects you to remember the names of several factions, multiple characters you barely meet, and a ton of history regarding the games world. If the game had a glossary of important terms that you should remember, this entire problem will be solved. Since that isn’t the case, I hope you have a good memory, because you’ll need it.
Luckily, The Silver Case will give you plenty of time to reflect on all this information, since it suffers from absolutely terrible pacing. Towards the end of the story it almost grinds to a halt, when it suddenly decides that it would rather go at a snail’s pace towards its climax.
Before that point the game was going at a decent clip, but then all of a sudden you are slowly walking through multiple hallways, watching incredibly slow cutscenes, and having to investigate multiple buildings thoroughly before it decides it wants to wrap up. If this happened at any other point in the game this would have been a deal breaker, but thankfully it’s only towards the end.
The Silver Case is a pretty interesting game to recommend. It suffers from very bad pacing and an overflow of information with the most tacked game mechanics I’ve seen a while, but at the end of the day it still has the essence of a Suda51 game. With that said, if you’re a diehard fan of his work, you’ll definitely want to check it out and see just how far he’s come over the years. If you’re a fan of visual novels I’d probably recommend familiarizing yourself with his body of work before diving in.
The Silver Case was reviewed on PC using a digital copy provided by Playism. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 7
- Great atmosphere and tone
- Refreshing characters
- Weird and unsettling story
- Terrible pacing
- Overflow of information
- Placebo is only really good as supplemental material