Duskwood is Cyber Punk Fun for Mystery Kids
No one truly wants to be stalked. Chased by a madman. Kidnapped. Terrorized. Call it a perverse bent of human nature, then, our passion for horrible things in our media and entertainment. The remove keeps it safe. Reading, watching, gaming immediately makes it separate, in that were these things truly happening, we wouldn’t press play or turn a page. Everbyte Studio’s latest offering, Duskwood removes those safety nets by setting all of its action within the world of your phone. The resulting game is stilted, intriguing and kind of addictive.
New Phone, Who Dis?
Hannah’s gone missing, and for some inexplicable reason, her last action was to text your phone number to her boyfriend. He adds you to a group chat, including several of her friends and her sister. They are a suspicious lot. A side conversation with an anonymous hacker suggests that everyone is not what they appear. Which, duh, but he grants you access to Hannah’s cloud, so you can begin to parse the pieces of her disappearance and the roles her various friends may have played in her kidnapping.
In the Parlor, with a Candlestick
The mystery of Duskwood is fun, but the most intriguing aspect by far is the game play. The action takes place exclusively through interactions that you could, in reality, have on your phone. Group chats, video calls, scrolling through photos…the verisimilitude is remarkable. This limits the action. Duskwood is built almost entirely around text and how you interact with it. The groupchat provides salient bits of information. After certain clues are delivered, you are able to send one of several pre-written responses. You select the response that you hope will elicit the most information.
Elementary, my Dear Hannah
Duskwood sets a tricky goal for itself. It wants to feel very real. It is, however, a narrative that needs the player to follow certain avenues. The form answers are pretty stilted. The language is either distractingly unnatural, or hilarious, depending on your disposition. Selecting an answer that will yield the greatest information is a fun challenge. There is a lot to explore. Thomas-Hannah’s boyfriend-has a playlist you can peruse, as well as the photos from Hannah’s cloud, and various social media tie-ins from each character. There are numerous, realistic touches that add to the atmosphere. It is not a particularly active game. There is no fighting or battling. But there is great cerebral fun in uncovering clues and working your way towards solving the mystery of Hannah’s disappearance. Armchair detectives won’t mind the wordy game play, but may lament the limited nature of their interjections and questions.
Duskwood is committed to providing an authentic, immersive mystery and overall manages that task with aplomb. The reality aspect of the game works and is it’s greatest strength. What’s more, the incredible detail of the world more than compensates for the awkward language and limited replay options. It exists in a world we know and is filled with authenticating details that make it linger in your head, well after you’ve stopped playing, blurring the comforting line between fiction and reality. It isn’t perfect, but Duskwood offers a genuine mystery that feels immediate and personal.
Duskwood uses its medium extremely well. Though at times frustrating in what it won’t allow a player to do, it is a fun and compelling new twist on the mystery genre.