Gamedec taps into the recent revitalization of the cyberpunk genre, Cyberpunk 2077 notwithstanding. When it was released almost a year ago on PC, it provided an interesting take on the genre – leaning into the noir aspects so prevalent in films like Blade Runner. It has finally landed on the Nintendo Switch, as almost everything does, and this is where it belongs.
Point and Click
Gamedec is a hybrid of RPG and point-and-click adventure, tasking the player with controlling a Game Detective – i.e. “Gamedec” – as a freelance troubleshooter, hired by the rich and poor alike to investigate rule breaking and virtual crimes in the “Virtualim”. That’s a collective noun for the virtual worlds that most of the citizens of this world escape to. Think Ready Player One, minus the licensed nostalgia bait of ‘80s pop culture. As a Gamedec, you are basically an uber hacker/programmer able to go into games and nose around as well as access underlying systems in order to fulfil your contract.
In a somewhat on-the-nose representation of the class struggles in this world, the “Realium” is stratified into Low, Middle. and High Cities – signifying exactly what you think. Your protagonist straddles the extremes, living in the Middle City and taking jobs from all strata of society while trying to maintain your own sense of justice.
That struggle plays out entirely through dialogue as there’s no active combat here. Think Bioware’s classic dialogue wheel system, but every sentence can unlock and close off certain dialogue paths and thus routes to solve your cases. In a nod to the RPG-lite elements of the game, choices will award you points that came be used to increase four attributes, that in turn unlock skills on a branching if simple skill tree covering sixteen “professions”.
These professions, or rather skills, will enable you to discover clues in each mission, vital to the game’s Deduction System. If you’ve played Frogwares Sherlock Holmes and the Devil’s Daughter, you will have a passing familiarity with this type of system. Each conversation has the potential to unlock a new clue, which will lead you to draw a conclusion that takes you a step closer to solving whatever mystery you are tasked with.
As an example, dialogue choices in the first mission can lead you to successfully discovering what happened to your client’s son and saving him, or you could solve the mystery but lose the boy. The pathway to full or partial success is never clear and that is where the challenge and delight in the dialogue puzzles lie.
The order in which you unlock professions adds replayability, as each may offer a new clue and potential pathway to success – tempting you to come back, again and again, and see how events could have played out.
Players looking for all-out action will be disappointed. Even when you are forced into battle, your choices to engage are determined by your attributes and boil down to dialogue- or action-based choices, instead of a hands-on battle. In a pistol duel in the farming world, my relative success or failure came down to my observation skills and whether I had invested in the right skills when attribute points were awarded to me.
As a result, while Gamedec may have an RPG skill tree system, it plays more like a ‘90s adventure game with complex puzzles. Your pathway to success is determined by your ability to combine some obtuse clues to solve the mysteries laid out before you.
Keeping things interesting is the fact each world you visit is wonderfully crafted to fit the virtual game. The sex world you visit in the first mission is suitably dark and seedy, reminding one of a Noir film set in 1980s New York, while the world of the farming game looks like a Hollywood version of the Wild West.
Perfect for Switch
Playing on the Switch, after a year of patches and port work, made for a much smoother gameplay experience than my first playthrough on PC. The bugs are ironed out and the inexplicable crashes are gone but, to be fair, the final retail PC release was far more stable than the review code I had at the time and also benefitted from post-launch patches.
On Nintendo’s console-that-could, the game suffers slightly from being so text-heavy. There were instances where I felt the was text too small for the screen and the amount was too large for comfortable reading. However, as a portable game, I think that this genre is a near-perfect fit – especially for those commuting during the work week and looking for a pleasant brain teaser to begin or end the day with. Graphically, the game looks just as good as it did on the PC. The scalability of the Unreal Engine is a marvel and ensures that the experience across platforms is as uniform and pleasing as possible. Even on the smaller screen, GameDec‘s visual style stands out and will have you marvelling at the skill of the art and development teams.
Wrapping up, Gamedec is a near-perfect fit for the Switch. Portability suits its laid-back pace while it remains a compelling piece of interactive fiction. Instead of sitting on the bus or train reading a book or watching YouTube on a tiny screen, you can give your brain a workout with the puzzles, all the while advancing an interesting commentary on the modern world.
A review code for Gamedec was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher.
Gamedec (Switch) ReviewGamedec (Switch) Review
Ease of Play9/10 Amazing
Graphics8/10 Very Good
Sound8/10 Very Good
Longevity8/10 Very Good
- Well-crafted mysteries
- Simple, yet consequential skill system
- A ton of replayability
- Choices have consequence
- Great for on-the-go sessions
- A certain lack of control in the fight sequences
- A lot of text for such a small screen