The Detail is all about intuition. Essentially, you guess things.
That's not to say it's a skill-less game; predicting the right moves for the right outcome is a skill of its own (ask any chess player), and in this case, it's the main one pushing the player forward. In Episode 1 - Where the Dead Lie, you had to guess what to say in order to get the right testimony or in order to collect some money owed to the Kuchka Brotherhood, a big-time gang in The Detail's crime ridden city. While finding a child molester, you had to guess what rooms to go in. But in the end, it didn't even matter. You can't lose in The Detail—at least not until the final episode is released—you can only do a little better each time. Regardless of your choices, Episode 1 ends the same.
You can expect all the same positives from Episode 1 to pop up in Episode 2. You can also expect all the same negatives. On one hand the game has effective music—dark and tense, fitting of the game's tone—a gritty and detailed comic book art style, and noir dialogue that, while a bit corny at times, keeps the characters relatable and the story interesting. On the other hand, the animation is a bit clunky (and slow. Watching your character walk from one side of the room to the other really halts the gameplay and doesn't do much for pacing.) and your choices don't seem to make much of an impact on the game's plot. There were moments where I would have rather been reading the same story as a graphic novel instead of as part of a video game, and that was especially true of Episode 2.
From The Ashes starts from Where the Dead Lie left off, with (SPOILER ALERT, obviously) a Kuchka gang member eating noodles in Joe's kitchen. Joe, or Joseph Miller as the government calls him, is a former Northside 13 gang member who went straight. The Kuchka wasn't just raiding Joe's kitchen, however, he also planned to interrogate Joe about his actions during the ending shoot-out in Episode 1. It's easy to talk your way out of it though, and it turns out Joe's wife and kids are fine, they just conveniently left the apartment a bit earlier. A bit of a lackluster beginning, especially compared to Episode 1's pedophile arrest and interrogation.
Luckily, that's followed by a puzzling crime scene investigation, one with more twists and turns than a pretzel. Detectives Reggie Moore (you) and Tyrone DeShawn investigate an apartment with bullet-holes in the walls, a fire started near the bathroom, a man with an AK lying dead in the bathtub, mountains of cocaine in the living room and a lot of suspects living close by. It certainly trumps the similar crime scene in Episode 1, in which you mostly just investigated a body and the aftermath of the killing. Episode 1's investigation was fine, but adding suspects to the investigation added a new layer of complexity to the formula.
[caption id="attachment_45391" align="aligncenter" width="479"] You get to choose whether you want to punch murder suspect One Shot in the face, slam him into the ground or give him a clean arrest. That is, assuming you made him angry enough to attack you.[/caption]
Reggie takes the victim's phone and looks at all the calls he made in the last month or so. This leads to a phone puzzle in which you have to compare the calls made by the victim to the dates marked off on the victim's calendar. By doing so, you'll narrow down who the victim (and his gang, the 4th Street Killaz) was selling coke to. It's not exactly an easy puzzle; you'll find some obvious patterns right off the bat, but when it turns out you're looking for something a bit more specific, you'll reassess your answer. The puzzle's also not so difficult that you'll be tearing your hair out for not getting it.
It's far less frustrating than a certain later part of the game, which is either a horrible puzzle or, more likely, just bad game design. As Joe, you have to look through your boss' drawer for your old cab license. This requires moving magazines, documents and other cab licenses out of the way, but they keep going back to their former position. In order to get your license, you have to move one item to a very specific position within the drawer, and if your mouse isn't right on point, the item goes back to where it was.
From The Ashes doesn't have any moments that are quite as tense or gripping as the beginning and ending of Where the Dead Lie. It does have a little suspense near the end, but not only was it not as tense as the shoot out in Episode 1, Episode 2's final scene isn't as shocking or intriguing as much as noodles man in Joe's kitchen at the end of the first episode. On the other hand, it felt like there were more consequences for poor investigation, adding at least more complexity to the primary gameplay mechanic, if not another level of difficulty.
The primary challenge of most point and click adventure games is critical thinking—determining what you can do to make progress and determining why a certain action may or may not work. While there are only a few moments in The Detail—both episodes 1 & 2—that have this element, the game fills that gap with a focus on social thinking and manipulation. While that's an interesting concept rarely implemented in video games, it doesn't make for the most thrilling gameplay. On top of this, it never feels like your character is really in danger, whether it be his life that's under threat or his case. It takes the tension right out of the game.
It should be noted that I didn't like The Detail as much as Episode 1 reviewer Micah Curtis did. The absence, or seeming absence, of a challenge prevented me from being immersed in the game on the level I should have been. And, as said earlier, there were times I'd rather have been reading a graphic novel instead of letting the gameplay get in the way of the story. This is especially true considering the game's primary gameplay mechanic distorts the personalities of the characters, though that's clearly a necessity.
My score for Episode 2 is significantly lower than Curtis' score for Episode 1, but had I reviewed Episode 1, I would have given it a significantly lower score than Curtis did.
The Detail Episode 2: From The Ashes can be bought on Steam and was reviewed for PC. The game was provided to TechRaptor by Rival Games.
The Detail Episode 2 - From The Ashes is a bit more challenging than its predecessor, but lacks some of the tensity and immersion of Episode 1. It's well written, well drawn, but poorly animated and not as suspenseful as its developers would like it to be. It's gameplay, while unique, is a little lackluster. It gets a few extra points for originality. It doesn't feel like anything else on the market, at least that I'm aware of.