Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic thriller film Rear Window follows an injured photojournalist stuck in a wheelchair as he spies on his neighbors and uncovers a murder mystery. Famously, this film has gone on to influence a plethora of other thriller movies and now, with the release of Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, a video game. Conway boldly explores the question “What would Rear Window be like if James Stewart’s character was an utter moron with luck on his side?”
The plot of Conway follows the kidnapping of a young girl, Charlotte May, from the inside of a gated community. Protagonist Robert Conway is an ex-private investigator who agrees to help her tearful father locate the girl and bring the kidnapper to justice. Like Stewart’s character, he is wheelchair bound and spends most of his days sitting at his window, taking pictures of his neighbors. If you think this sounds creepy and voyeuristic, that’s because it is.
Taking it in turns to investigate each of his neighbors that he suspects, Conway visits their residences and speaks to each of them, taking time to snoop along the way. The other major plot thread is the involvement of his daughter, Catherine, who is a police detective and repeatedly, rightfully tries to deter her aging and elderly father from running up against a violent criminal or his not entirely stable neighbors.
Like the film, the basic premise of Conway is a good one. Solving a contained mystery with a handicapped protagonist and creatively using the resources at your disposal is a great start to an adventure game, with the kidnapping of a small child tugging just enough on the heartstrings to pull the player onward. Unfortunately, unlike Rear Window, the rest of Conway is terrible.
Conway himself does not seem to have an ounce of logic at his disposal, and frankly, how he ever made a living as a private investigator is completely beyond me. He misses obvious clues, makes spectacular leaps of illogic, ignores common sense after he is repeatedly physically attacked, and never puts anything back from where he’s taken it, leaving a trail of destruction a mile wide. Unlike famously irritating geniuses like Sherlock Holmes, Conway goes around asking rude questions with no tact or brilliance and, to quote his landlord, “rubs people up the wrong way.” He doesn’t keep possibilities open as he investigates, and once he’s decided on something, he’s certain that’s it. He’s hellbent on finding Charlotte May, which is admirable, but cannot conceive the possibility that his neighbors might be involved in something untoward that isn’t related to her.
The rest of the cast is nothing especially pleasant either, as each of his neighbors are rude, curt, and nasty, but if I had to deal with someone like Conway nosing around in my personal business, I probably would be too. There’s Tony Morgan, the distraught father, Harold Levy the rude landlord, the mysterious McKees, Lady Doerr the rich widow, and Shirley Downes the pub landlady. Each have their own problems and secrets to deal with, and by the time you’re done, you’ve uncovered many unsavory things that you in no way needed to know. Unfortunately, none of these characters are seen as anything more than suspects and are barely two dimensional at best.
Gameplay consists of a short segment watching the targeted neighbor out of the window and taking pictures, sneaking over to their home or place of business to investigate them, speaking with them for a brief interrogation and then returning to Conway’s apartment to connect “evidence” on the evidence board he has set up. Rinse and repeat for all characters except Tony Morgan and you’ve got a repetitive 12 hour game on your hands with lengthy cutscenes there is no way to skip. The investigations themselves are riddled by the difficulty of maneuvering his wheelchair around and the bizarre fixed camera angles that appear to be an homage to Hitchcock but really just make it extremely difficult to see areas you’re trying to investigate.
Minigames and smaller puzzles include the worst lockpicking puzzle I’ve ever played in my life, where you click around a black circle until you find what you’re looking for, and the wonderful “bang your wheelchair into objects enough times that something you need falls from a higher elevation.” None of these games or puzzles have directions either, so good luck figuring out how to use that pool cue with the apparent strength of a daffodil. Environment-based puzzles are equally ridiculous and there are several times that it is not immediately apparent where you need to go next, leading me to find a pigeon in the gents’ toilets, name him Malcolm, and talk to him for several minutes out of sheer frustration.
Figuring out the evidence board puzzles are also atrocious, with connecting the evidence not actually explained adequately and with many spectacular conclusions jumped to, out of flimsy evidence. Heaven forbid salt get on a meat grinder from actual salted meat and not be residue from bleach used to clean a dead body – perish the thought! Means, motive, and alibi are also all completely thrown three sheets to the wind, as all suspects were in Dahlia View itself that night so that will have to suffice for, well, all of it.
The game is also riddled with technical difficulties and bugs, from extreme close-up views of characters going fuzzy and looking like they’ve been caught on the wrong end of an Instagram filter to my being trapped in a bathroom for quite some time. An autosave system is used, which would be good, if it ever told you when it saved the game. Afraid not, you’ll just have to guess and hope you don’t lose too much progress. And speaking of loss, I hope you don’t like your key rebindings, because those get wiped every time the game starts up.
Voice acting is the game’s one bright spot, with good performances from the entire cast, particularly Nathaniel-Jorden Apostol as Robert Conway himself.
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View Review | Final Thoughts
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is one mystery I wish I hadn’t solved. Poorly written with annoying characters and bad mechanics, there’s really not much to salvage from this experience. What should be an homage to Hitchcock’s famous Rear Window instead is just a reminder of why that movie worked so well. Personally, if I’m ever kidnapped, don’t send Robert Conway to come find me, a drunk Ace Ventura would do a much better job.
TechRaptor's Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View review was conducted on PC with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and 5.
- You Can Find a Pigeon And Name Him Malcolm
- Good Voice Acting
- Repetitive Gameplay With Numerous Bugs
- Poorly Written Mystery With Awful Characters
- Camera Angles Get In The Way of Gameplay