More twists than a snake.

Title: The Shapeshifting Detective
Platform: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Wales Interactive and D’Avekki Studios Ltd
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release date: November 6, 2018
tl;dr: A multi-perspective FMV
Console: $13/£10
PC: $15/£11
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

The Shapeshifting Detective takes places in a city called August and tells the story of Sam, a detective in charge of solving a murder – young and promising cellist Dorota Shaw was found lifeless in her own bed by her mother. The initial report states that the young lady was found strangled to death, and it’s up to our protagonist to find the culprit. Coincidentally, her murder occurred while a trio of tarot readers were “told,” by the cards to go to the town of August and prevent (or cause?) the murder of the cello player. Sam does have one ace up his sleeve: he can shapeshift into anyone he meets. Will he successfully find the culprit in time or become the next victim?

Much like one of my latest reviews, 428 Shibuya Scramble, The Shapeshifting Detective is full Full Motion Video (FMV) experience and doesn’t feature any gameplay. The game is presented through over 1600 full screen videos where players, as Sam, play detective. You first start off in the guesthouse, where you’ll meet a handful of characters. As the game progresses, more characters will be introduced and additional locations unlocked. Going from room to room, you have a pre-determined set of questions you can ask the one you’re interrogating in order to solve the mystery. Asking the good questions will allow players to ask pertinent follow up questions, while asking more intrusive questions will result in frustration from the possible culprit, or players will be left with the option to leave the room.

What makes this game fun and unique is the fact that Sam can shapeshift into anyone he meets. Some characters might come across as apprehensive and unhelpful at first, but shapeshift into someone they feel more comfortable with, and they might end up being more open and upfront with Sam. The best example I can give, without spoiling anything, is at one point, Rayne, one the tarot readers, isn’t really keen on divulging details about the trio’s previous escapade. However, once Sam shapeshifts into Bronwyn, the leader of the tarot readers, you can “convince,” him that it’s okay to talk about it. Additionally, certain conversations will also give you hints as to who you should talk to next, either as Sam or one of the other characters.

If you get lost or confused, you can always hail a cab to see Chief Dupont and ask him “what we know,” and he’ll gladly recap everything that happened up to that point. Although, you can’t have everyone interact with everyone whenever you want. If some characters have no business talking to each other (or it’s just not the right time) and you show up in their location, they will be missing in action. But here comes the game’s major flaw: lack of multiple save slots. While I understand the “why,” behind it, having to replay the game all over again to change a single thing is frustrating. I ended up screwing myself over at the end, and while it’s a must to replay, I would’ve enjoyed being able to go back a few sequences earlier and change that single thing.

Now, on to the presentation. Visually speaking, considering it’s a FMV game, there’s really nothing to complain about, as it’s almost like watching a movie. All 1600+ videos were shot in full high definition for a truly immersive experience. The only quirk I have is the woman playing Violet has crooked eyebrows, and as with someone with OCD, this kind of bugged me. Otherwise, there’s not much that can be said for visuals. But how about the audio? It is actually pretty solid and all actors deliver, most of the time, a spot-on performance. While sometimes some scenes seems to call for an “over-reaction,” the acting is enjoyable, and you can either find some characters likable, and despise others, so in that light it’s a success. The only nuisance I found on the audio sound of things were the annoying radio broadcasts in between the chapters. I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason, but they felt forced, out of place, and useless at times. While deciding where to head off next, there’s an eerie, creepy score playing in the background, which adds to the uneasiness of the atmosphere.

So how do I feel about The Shapeshifting Detective? I love it. Ever since I reviewed Late Shift last year, I’ve found a new appreciation for the FMV genre. Wales Interactive’s newest venture is a unique and addictive experience. The game’s best feature is the shapeshifting mechanic, allowing players to play puppet master. While the lack of multiple save slots is a bit of a pain, fans of FMV games will be delighted with this new experience. One of my surprise gems of the year. Don’t miss out!

The Good

  • Great shapeshifting mechanic
  • Solid acting
  • Creepy score

The Bad

  • Violet’s uneven eyebrows
  • Grating radio reports in between chapters
  • Lack of multiple save slots

Family Focus

The Shapeshifting Detective is rated T for teen and PEGI 16 due to the presence of sexual themes and violence.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.