Murderous masterpieces

If you enjoy a good whodunnit, and can tell the bushy end of a foxer from the beady end, THC regular Nutfield has a couple of recommendations for you.

“Buongiorno fellow Tally Ho’ers (Is that what we call ourselves?), after Tim gave us free rein to write our own content for October, I’ve decided to recommend you all a couple of games. Are they war games? Nope… Are they simulations games? Nope… ‘Then Nutfield, you loon, why are you recommending them here?’ I hear you call…

Because I’m seen mostly around here in the Foxer on a friday afternoon and I wanted to recommend some games for my fellow de-Foxers.

The Return of the Obra Dinn

If you were to pop on Steam and look at the Return of the Obra Dinn page, you’d instantly notice two things… Firstly, it has a User score of 96% and secondly, the gameplay video makes it look like the game was made in the 1980’s on a Commodore 64, these things initially seem like a contradiction and for the first 5 minutes after you boot the game, it’s difficult to work out what the fuss is all about.

(Beware Minor Spoilers ahead!)

You are dropped onto the Obra Dinn, an abandoned ship with the task of finding out the fate of all those who disappeared. Presented with weird graphics and no idea what you are supposed to do, you womble around aimlessly for a couple of minutes until you are called back to retrieve the items from your chest… a ship’s log containing the manifest and a sketch of all of those on board, and a pocket watch.

After looking at the blank pages you are still none the wiser and return to the ship, soon stumbling on a rotting corpse on the ground, the pocket watch starts vibrating and off you go.

I won’t go into any more details of the story, but from here on in, the game is a cross between Cluedo, Guess Who, an Agatha Christie novel and the Foxer. Your magical pocket watch lets you teleport through time to see the moment of death of any corpse you find, and in those scenes you uncover more corpses and reach more scenes and slowly find the fate of all those on board.

To do this, you must fill in the details of everyone you find, but you’ll only succeed when you know their name and their fate, often needing to know not only how they died, but who was the murderer. The game also introduces a smart system for only accepting 3 completely correct answers at a time, so randomly guessing each possible combination of the 60 people on board isn’t viable.

What the developer, Lucas Pope, does especially well however, is subtly hint at the various character’s identities through the character’s visuals in the scene, short very well acted audio before each scene is revealed and other more minor elements. You’ll find yourself listening to accents, looking at tattoos or even the numbers on bunk beds to try and work out who the body with the missing head is.

So therefore the core game mechanics are engaging, but Mr Pope doesn’t stop here… The Music is fantastic, both slightly maddening and quite catchy, helping to gradually draw the player into the terrible events that occurred on the Obra Dinn. As mentioned, the acting is great, the foley awesome, every death sounding pretty gruesome, and the setting and story that is revealed is also great.

The difficulty also is finely balanced, myself and Mrs Nutfield didn’t require any hints, although did get stuck for a short while on our 8h exploration, but I’ve never played a game that made me feel smarter!

The last thing to bring up, which doesn’t actually affect the enjoyment of the game itself, is the mind-blowing fact that Lucas Pope made the whole game on his own. Personally being a game dev of 27+ years on some very well regarded titles, having all the skills to make a full game is seriously impressive, and when that game is my personal favourite game experience of the last 10 years or so, I doff my proverbial cap!

If you love murder mysteries or just want to try something entirely unique, give the half-price-at-present Obra Dinn a go, you won’t be disappointed.

The Case of the Golden Idol

My second recommendation is primarily for those people who have played Obra Dinn and want more of the same. Firstly, you will be disappointed, this genre is seriously under-represented, but last year a new game appeared to challenge the might of Obra Dinn.

Some might say it succeeded, with a barely believable 98% Positive reviews on Steam, but the number of users is much lower, so I’d expect it would end up with a similar score as Obra Dinn when the number of reviews matches it.

Compared to Obra Dinn’s monochromatic Commodore 64 visuals, The Golden Idol brings us forward to the world of the Commodore Amiga, reminiscent of a SCUMM game such as Monkey Island. The game itself is less innovative than Obra Dinn in my opinion, but scratches the same itch.

Set in a similar time period or Obra Dinn, this time the Player follows the story of a seemingly magical Golden Idol through a number of various owners, where those around them meet rather untimely ends. The Player is once again given scenes of murders and deaths and must work out who all the characters are, and how they met their demise, but the interactions are more simple than Obra Dinn.

Search the scenes for keywords, and then go to the investigation scene to fill in all the information. This will have the Player working out strange cult hierarchies, laws for political parties, and deciphering ancient runes and almost stolen from Obra Dinn is the ‘Get enough elements right and we’ll tell you’ gameplay.

This doesn’t work quite as well, as the game tells you if you are close (Less than 2 mistakes!) it helpfully announces, but that does mean with a process of elimination you can kind of cheat your way through, something Mrs Nutfield and I do admit to doing a couple of times. That said, there are many sections where you need to enter 10+ elements, so getting 2 wrong from a selection of 30 plus options is relatively close to the correct answer!

Yet again, the difficulty was about right, if some sections were a little obscure, we didn’t need a cheat sheet beyond the hack above. The setting and stories were generally amusing with the same characters popping up in multiple scenes and your opinions of characters changing through the story as you understood their hidden motives. There were also some great twists, and within the 2 DLC’s which are both prequels of the main game, you find out more of the history of the Golden Idol (I’d still recommend playing the main game first).

Ultimately this was another 8 hours of high quality entertainment, and the success of the game gives me hope that more games in this genre will be forthcoming.

For anyone who has read this far, my question for you is this, do you have any recommendations yourself for similar games, as i’ve tried to find more but the following for example, didn’t scratch the itch:

I hope you enjoyed these recommendations and give the games a go, now back to Tim!”


  1. Thank you. I need to get back onboard the Obra Dinn at some point.

    If you’re into sci-fi at all I would keep an eye on Between Horizons. I tried the Steam Next Fest demo and while very short it did seem promising in the sleuthing department. Though it does the “you can get it wrong and the story will continue” thing which may result in less complex solutions.

    Going all the way back to the 90s The Last Express may be your kind of game (available on Steam). Personally I find it a bit too stressful to have time continuously advancing, but it is a fascinating experience.

    • Thanks, I’ll have a look at the Between Horizons demo. I’ve never been too keen with spending my time clicking conversation trees and interviewing people, I much prefer the looking at the clues and having to work out the solution. Hopefully it is more of the latter!

      Obviously Disco Elysium for example is a very well written Detective RPG, but you spend most of the time walking around and clicking through dialogue trees, not actually solving crimes.

  2. The Case of the Golden Idol has a demo that’d be worth trying out if you’re interested. There was also a website through which you could play it, if the idea of downloading something seems too noughties.

    As far as playing Golden Idol goes, you need a brain (or I suppose pen & piece of paper) that remembers where bits of info come from. Because when it comes to entering the solution adjectives can sometimes become important – and then you find yourself clicking through absolutely everything twice trying to locate that damned adjective.

    • We didn’t find it too bad, the games are great as co-op though i guess as you bounce ideas around and one you tends to remember where the clue was!

  3. I doubt they’d scratch the itch, but might make an evening’s diversion for you and Mrs Nutfield: the demos for the Quantic Dream (?) games Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human.
    They’re poorly-optimised console ports, 3D and third-person IIRC, so you need a proper mid-range PC.

    Get Heavy Rain out of the way first (or skip it if you don’t like QTEs). I expect you might also find it slow.

    Take turns playing Detroit: Become Human demo as you may get different outcomes.

    Finish off with Lord Winklebottom Investigates demo as a nightcap.

    • I’ve added Lord Winklebottom to keep track of, but it does look like point & click investigation & conversation rather than deduction, so less my bag.

  4. Thanks for that – definitely my kind of thing, even if I don’t currently have time for anything so involved.
    Has anyone played any of Tim Sheinman’s games? Engaging detective/puzzle games, often involving music. On a smaller scale than Obra Dinn, but there’s certainly some similar thinking (and they come recommended by Lucas Pope!)

    • Also, yes, i have played two of the Tim Sheinman music games and they do have similar elements. Personally, I found the subject matter a little bland having been subjected to a lot of uninteresting Indie music in the mid 90’s while at university, maybe they would gel better with someone who is a fan.

  5. These two games are both great – Obra Dinn more so as its mechanics are brilliant whereas Golden Idol is not quite as good at hiding the fact it’s basically one of those logic puzzles (like those that can be found at Murdle)

    As for the others you mentioned, I agree on Heaven’s Vault – this was praised to the heavens (sic) but was very slow and repetitive with parts that looked as if it was 3 games bolted together (the travel between areas in that system of winds was infuriating).

    Hard disagree on Outer Wilds – one of my favourite ever games. The flying of the spaceship and landing on planets takes a bit of getting used to but its universe is exactly the right size for you to stumble upon new and interesting things and advance the story and the mechanics of the worlds changing during the duration of the cycle is genius – some puzzles are simply solved by either getting there in time or just waiting until it can be solved.

    Whilst Immortality isn’t really a puzzle game in the same vein as the others I found it a really moving experience – the world building is amazing and I found a real connection with the characters – it’s a really unique experience.

    I have Unheard in my Steam Pile of Shame so will drop that one to the back of the queue and thanks for the reminder on Family – saw that a couple of years ago and forgot about it.

    • Maybe I need to have another go at Outer Wilds again. I hated the time loop mechanic.

      I flew off my first time, found a planet, wandered around a bit and got whisked home.

      No part of me thought ‘oh, i want to take off and land on a planet (That in itself was very dull) start exploring and then be teleported home again.’

      Remove the time limit and i’d quite like it perhaps.

  6. Ironically given the near-universal acclaim heaped upon it, I actually rather despised Her Story. I found it slow, confusing, and dull, and when i finished it I had zero understanding of what was supposed to have happened during it.

  7. For mystery games, I heard of Shards of God (available on and Pentiment (available on steam). There is also Chants of Sennaar (available on Steam), which is more about decipher ancient languages.

    • Pentiment I played a chunk of, but it was more of an adventure game than a deduction game, is Shards of God like that too?

      I have seen a section of Chants of Senaar played by a youtuber, it seemed more of a puzzle game, but the language was interesting.

      • I must say that I never any of those games before. So it is hard for me to say if Pentiment and Shards of God are similar or not.

        I’ve just finish Shards of God. It is a short point and click about a murder. To progress, you collect things, information and use them to unlock the next step of the story. Overall, I found it clever, but it is not a difficult game either. It was created for the Adventure Game Jam 2023, so I think you could describe it as an adventure game.

        Since I have The Return of the Obra Dinn in my wishlist for a long time now, I guess it is time to buy it, so I can compare.

  8. I adored Obra Finn, and just finished Golden Idol last night (today I start the dlc). The latter really has a great reveal too.

    I really liked Outer Wilds but the first hour or so is really tedious. Still, I recommend folks try to get past that because it really delivers.

    Some other recommendations in a similar vein.

    The Witness is my favorite game of all time, mostly because of the aha! moment (no spoilers, you’ll know it when you see it). If puzzles are a huge turn off it’s not for you, but I’ve found so many people who didn’t expect to like it really enjoyed it.

    Sethian is a game about decoding an alien language. You’re faced with a control panel and over time you learn how to translate these various buttons with symbols into a syntax and grammar.

    Orwell casts you as the secret police combing through social media, sending out-of-context snippets to your superiors as you try to stop a wave of terrorist attacks.

    Hypnospace Outlaw has you exploring the websites and BBSs of the 90s trying to track down hackers and dissidents.

    Tacoma is a space murder mystery that’s quite good.

    • I shall investigate those…

      Orwell i finished, it was ‘ok’ and Hypnospace Outlaw was a bit better, but i do remember getting stuck somewhere in it.

      I do remember being interested in the Witness and then completely forgot about it.

    • I enjoyed the Witness a lot but I remember lots of ‘aha’ moments along the way rather than a particular big one. Hmm.

      If you liked that, I’d recommend Taiji. It’s basically a 2D pixellated tribute to The Witness, with multiple layers of puzzles. Rather beautiful, and like The Witness I don’t want to say too much about it .

  9. In the point and click murder/mystery vein, I recommend Lamplight City. Mostly dialogue based (there’s no inventory), you question witnesses/suspects, investigate clues, solve puzzles and punch a racist cop. Each case has multiple suspects, so you can get the ‘wrong’ answer, or you can even declare the case unsolvable. Push your luck too far and the person you’re talking to will refuse to cooperate any more. Plus there are multiple endings depending on how well you do.

  10. Well this and the sale made me finally buy Obra din.

    In my head I’ve always crossed this with mad Carew and Gunga Din, so given it takes place in Falmouth let’s see what it has in store.

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