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    Tangle Tower

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released Sep 19, 2019

    A point-and-click adventure game about a murder in a mysterious mansion, where the only apparent suspect is a painting.

    Indie Game of the Week 370: Tangle Tower

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    Mento

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    Edited By Mento  Moderator
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    Shocker of shockers, I'm not playing an explormer this week. I still have plenty of them on standby, don't doubt that for a moment, but even I have to admit that everything's better in moderation. Or maybe that's just my Moderator bias talking. Either way, I've switched tracks to another old favorite of mine—the classic point-and-click adventure game—with this week's Tangle Tower, originally from 2019. Tangle Tower is the sequel to Detective Grimoire, one of the earliest games I covered on this feature (IGotW #38), and like that game repurposes the usual format of the genre to make it more in-line with a whodunnit procedural where gathering clues, interrogating suspects, and taking what you'd learned and applying some abductive reasoning to solve each stage of the crime are the primary objectives. (I swear it's a total coincidence that I chose this game now given developers SFB Games are presently enjoying the limelight because of the buzz around their newest game, Crow Country: a Resident Evil-style polygonal survival horror throwback.)

    Tangle Tower has Detective Grimoire and his new sidekick Sally, the sarcastic gift shop proprietor from the previous game, reach the isolated titular manse to solve the murder of artist and free spirit Freya Fellow, who was slain inside a locked atelier with her mute aunt Flora as the only witness. The tower also houses several family members from various branches of the main family tree of the Remingtons, who once owned the tower but have since married into two external families, the Fellows and the Pointers, who now occupy the two tower-structures that poke out of what was originally a normal mansion overlooking a vast circular lake. You interview the other family members to understand what sort of relationship they had with the deceased and with each other, as well as corroborating their accounts on the evening the body was found, while searching around the mansion for many well-concealed clues. It turns out every family member is hiding something, though whether it bears any relevance to the crime you're there to solve is to be determined. The clue-gathering often involves solving Professor Layton-esque puzzles that sometimes require a little outside information (such as the meaning of certain symbols) to open up some locked container or other, the contents of which then get added to the list of topics that you can ask the suspects.

    In case you thought this puzzle was too slight we added an extra puzzle for you to do.
    In case you thought this puzzle was too slight we added an extra puzzle for you to do.

    As with the previous game, the central mystery and the way it has you put it together with the information and items you've acquired is a great slow-burn approach to solving a tough mystery by doing it step by step, one smaller line of inquiry at a time. It also shares its predecessor's sense of style, digging deep from the realms of whodunnit fiction and classic LucasFilm adventure games alike for its idiosyncratic cast and environments and sense of humor. The style reminded me of the cartoon Gravity Falls a bit: less so the character designs but more the high degree of surrealism throughout its many detailed backgrounds that nonetheless have a familiar, lived-in feel to it all. Three of the major characters, including the deceased, are impressionistic teenagers who despite their unusual upbringing are still fairly normal examples of (albeit troubled) kids; the adults, meanwhile, tend to be the type with plenty of skeletons in their closets, as befits the rogue's gallery of suspects in a murder mystery. You spend quite a bit of time talking to the game's eight main suspects so plenty of effort has been put into their voice acting, animation, designs, and personalities to put them a step above the usual NPCs of this genre, who usually only exist for the sake of one puzzle or maybe a red herring joke or two. The various rooms of the mansion have almost as much personality too, befitting the characters that dwell in them or offering some hidden layers as their involvement with the central crime becomes more clear. After What Remains of Edith Finch, I'll always be game for exploring an eccentric (and unnecessarily tall) homestead owned by rich, crazy people.

    Of particular note is the game's flow. You spend the first half of the game with almost full freedom of the mansion, with certain bedrooms closed off only until you've had the chance to talk to the people who sleep there; this way, you can have better context behind why their rooms may look a certain way and why the item you just found in a secret drawer or a locked cabinet might explain some things that you may have already picked up about them from your earlier conversation. After you've been everywhere and talked to everyone once, you can then go back to earlier characters and discuss everyone you've met and the items you've found since you last spoke with them. That's usually enough to trigger some suspicions Grimoire has about a certain suspect, which then leads into a guessing mini-game based on the evidence found to wrangle some truth from them. Doing this with every suspect then puts you on the endgame path, where there's a procession of clues and revelations that takes you all the way to the thrilling denouement. I appreciate that the second half the game is structured in a more railroaded fashion because at that point you've probably learned all there is to know—or at least have the means to learn them, since you've been picking up a bunch of items that don't have a clear purpose yet—and just need to piece it all together in a series of quickfire deductions.

    This deduction process goes step by step, making them easier to put together without necessarily talking down too much to the player who may have already solved it an hour ago. I think this approach is mostly to ameliorate that annoyance you sometimes get in games of this thematic genre (especially Ace Attorney) where the game wants some very specific information from you phrased in a very specific way that isn't immediately intuitive.
    This deduction process goes step by step, making them easier to put together without necessarily talking down too much to the player who may have already solved it an hour ago. I think this approach is mostly to ameliorate that annoyance you sometimes get in games of this thematic genre (especially Ace Attorney) where the game wants some very specific information from you phrased in a very specific way that isn't immediately intuitive.

    I really enjoyed this game. It's short and sweet without a whole lot of content, but it still has a few challenges to sink your teeth into between the Layton puzzles and the way the game uses a set of rotating slots to input your deductions which requires a bit of subtextual comprehension (and if you're off by a single "slot" the protagonist mentions it, so you're not left floundering for long if you're most of the way there), the characters were distinctive and fun to talk to if not always helpful, the usual adventure game observations from checking random background hotspots had a lot of good jokes to discover, and that central mystery had me deducing half of it right away and the other half I was left guessing about right up to the point where the game expected me to have it all figured out, so I didn't feel too dumb or too smart which is always a tricky balancing act. The developers might've moved onto a different avenue entirely if Crow Country is any indication of their future output, but I hope to meet Detective Grimoire and his goofy hair again sometime in the future.

    Rating: 4 out of 5.

    < Back to 369: Supraland: Six Inches Under001-100101-200201-300> Forward to 371: Carrion
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    Manburger

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    I never actually played the original, but I was quite charmed by this one. And hey, good news: you can already get a peek at a fresh dollop of goofy hair & jovial murder!

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    Mento

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    #2 Mento  Moderator

    @manburger: Awesome. Wishlisted immediately. I gotta do my due diligence more often when writing these, huh. Especially if I intend to do more detectiving.

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