There’s something undeniably amazing about Case #31, but it’s actually unfortunately a sub-par gaming experience, severely hampered by things like pace and grammar and competent controls. However, the hint of goodness–possibly even greatness–is there, but you have to travel around in a circle for a good while to even begin to see it. There’s a fluidity to this wee game that is striking, like a mix of Bastion‘s levels zooming up from nowhere and Puppeteer‘s puppet show aesthetic, with background and foreground elements plopping down and getting pulled away as if all on strings. It certainly plays within the jam’s theme of “a game on a single screen,” wherein the screen is, more or less, stationary, but the dressings change to alter its look.
First, the nitty gritty. Case #31 was developed for Ludum Dare 31 in 46 hours using Unity3D through a team of six people. It revolves around–see what I did there?–a murder mystery in a dark, seedy town, though it ultimately feels like an unexplained excuse to shoot some cops. Basically, you, as a detective, end up upon a dead body and ultimately become a leading suspect, resulting in no other choice but to shoot down cops and make a break for freedom. Possibly answers, too, but I never saw Case #31 to completion despite several restarts. I’m writing most of this post a few days after actually playing Case #31 so it doesn’t bode well for the narrative when I can’t really remember any vital details.
The controls are fairly limited. You can move left and right with the arrow keys, sliding along the screen as if being carried by a merry-go-round. You can also jump with up or duck with down, as well as shoot your shooty thing. That’s kind of it. Your goal is to push forward to the right without taking too many hits. Unfortunately, there are no checkpoints. Or perhaps they are spaced far, far apart and I never hit one. Either way, once you die, you start over from the very beginning, which means button-mashing your way past the grammatically poor dialogue to test your skills again at shooting men of the law while not taking any hits yourself. It’s disappointing and off-putting, which is why I closed my browser after buying the farm three or four times.
In the end, there isn’t much here in Case #31, but a single strong concept. That said, it came in fifth place for the overall jam. With better controls, varied gameplay, enhanced AI, and copy-edited text with a more engaging story, this could be something really cool. I’d love to see a game with this style on the Nintendo 3DS, as the moving, cardboard cutout background elements would look stellar with the 3D slider turned up a bit. Until then, I’ll just go round and round and round, and you can do so yourself by giving it a go.