Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders

Publisher: Nupixo, WhisperGames
Developer: Nupixo
Year: 2019
Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Switch, Xbox One, XBox Series

Rating: 3

Di Renjie was a chancellor during the Tang and Zhou dynasties and has been portrayed in modern media of being the Chinese Sherlock Holmes. Minh Ta, the founder of Nupixo, developed a murder mystery game to honor and continue that reputation. While the overall story is a good one and it was interesting to learn some Chinese history and lore, this is ultimately a fairly weak gaming experience.

The game begins as Di has been promoted to be the magistrate for Emperor Gaozong with instructions to investigate the murder of an ambassador; the stakes are high, as if the murder is found to be politically motivated, it could send the entire region into war. Your goal as Di is to interview everyone, look for clues, and draw conclusions. After Di successfully exonerates the empire, we fast forward to the time where Gaozong has handed the reins over to Emperess Wu Zetian. She too enlists the services of Di to investigate a murder that she believes to be part of a rebel uprising.

While the stakes are high, the gameplay is not. Standard adventure game puzzling awaits, and while some are integrated into the plot and use Chinese history as its basis–my favorite example being a game of weiqi (commonly known as Go)–too many are emblematic of the worst of adventure game puzzles. There are fetch quests (including solving riddles!), most of which are so contrived that without Di’s incredible luck, nothing would ever be solved. Possibly the dumbest example is when a street vendor refuses to talk to you until you rescue her cat from an awning; the solution, while not difficult, is so silly that it pulls you right out of the mystery. There were also a couple of times where I had to look up a walkthrough because I just couldn’t find the right pixels.

The text-only dialogue also severely hampers immersion. Admittedly I have no knowledge of how the ancient Chinese talked to each other. But I do know that they wouldn’t use cheeky turns of phrase from the 20th century. Mostly, though, every single character sounds the same to me. If I was presented with all of the text of the game, I wouldn’t be able to tell you who said what unless there was a name attached to it. In other words, I couldn’t feel anyone’s personality.

My biggest disappointment was with solving each mystery. No inductive reasoning is required on the player’s part, as once all the clues are found, Di will do all the reasoning for you. While you are required to help him finish his sentences during his crime reenactments, wrong answers are not punished. What happens then is that the character you’re controlling often figures things out before you do, which should pretty much never happen in a mystery where you have full control over the detective.

It’s a shame, too, as the plot is well-conceived, and each case is linked to one another in a well-paced manner. I also give the atmosphere a passing grade. The music and graphics evoke a time and place, or at least they would if not for the modern dialogue and indistinctive characters.

Detective Di is generally well liked, and if you’re into period pieces that require only light adventuring, this may be up your alley. However, if you’re looking to do actual detective work, then you’d best pass this one by.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s