Welcome to the murder mystery show
I’ve been okay with detective games. They tend to be somewhat formulaic, as they usually focus on step by step procedures (like Ace Attorney) even when they have humor (Harvey Birdman). Once you solve the first case, the rest seem to fall in line. There may be a few minigames or light variety here and there, but they’re mostly focusing on the writing to keep you engaged. Tangle Tower takes that focus on writing and adds it to a point-and-click style adventure game, leaving us with a charming little experience full of character, and characters.
My best description for Tangle Tower is “Clue” meets “The Room” with a great 2D hand drawn art style. It’s a whodunnit featuring an investigation linked together by little puzzles, often short and usually enjoyable. It all takes place in Tangle Tower, as novice(?) detectives Grimoire and Sally work to find out how one of its tenants has been murdered. I’ve found traversing the tower to be fairly simple: it’s presented as a big map, with each room themed to an occupant or profession. It’s within these rooms that all the action takes place, but I’d use that word lightly at best. The majority of the interaction is done by tapping or dragging around the static screen, picking up clues or items, or chatting with people within. It does offer joystick and button controls as well, but these are hardly optimal as sliding a pointer around the screen is more of a hindrance than an opportunity. Stick to touch.
The rooms themselves are filled to the top with items, and virtually everything has a story behind it. A credit to the great writing, it feels like everything has some sort of purpose. A pot might lead to a little diatribe about houseplants, or a set of paints on the floor might turn into a banter-filled dissection between Sally & Grimoire. This style of hidden-object exploration builds the world around the characters and the overarching narrative, letting us much more get into the heads of the people we meet. Many of these interactions become necessary clues or items that we can store for use later, and some even turn into minigame-like puzzles. There’s a ton of variety in the puzzles, from matching gems to open a gem-encrusted egg, to stringing absurd sentences together during conversations based on the words we’ve picked up. I will say that it does feel a little odd to be manipulating a challenging puzzle in a room while one of its residents is standing in the corner silently and statically watching us.
Our inventories fill up pretty quickly, too, and force us to start moving around the tower, backtracking, and trying new combinations to unlock another path forward. The tower isn’t big, but the Metroidvania aspect has us moving around enough to where we’re always chasing the next lead. It’s definitely a way to prolong the game’s length without keeping us stuck in a room for too long. But, once we’ve figured out the puzzles, they don’t bring the same challenge on subsequent play sessions.
The banter between the detectives helps break things up as well. Grimoire tends to be more naive, and Sally more sarcastic, so their conversations sound like a brother and sister squabbling over who has the next turn at driving the family car for the weekend. While I was entertained by the discussions, there feels like just a hair too many of them, and they tend to last just longer than I have patience for. The game only lets us skip sections of the conversations, so we have to tap a lot if we don’t feel like (or have the time for) reading a lot of text.
But thankfully, these convos are sandwiched between a generous autosave, so that if we decide to quit at a moment’s notice the game won’t penalize us. This lets us hop into and out of the game whenever we want, providing gameplay (and text reading) sessions of whatever length we’re comfortable with.
So maybe Tangle Tower is Clue meets The Room, with some hidden-object and visual novel flavorings thrown into it for even more spice. It’s not very long, and once the game is solved there isn’t a whole lot or puzzle-to bring us back for more. But, the charm of that initial experience is potentially worthwhile for those looking to hear a great story and solve some small, fun puzzles along the way.
This review is based on an eShop code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher