“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
Karisvale is a narrative-focused, top-down detective game by solo developer Brendan Tighe. Players must explore the titular town as they take on the role of Shaymus O’Malley, an experienced private investigator who has been hired by Karisvale’s mayor to find a missing person.
Developer: Brendan Tighe
Released: 1st April 2022
Price: Free/Name your own price
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Karisvale sees players exploring the town and talking to locals in order to discover what happened to the missing person. There is a good mix of environments given the length of the game, ranging from sunny outdoor settings to the mayor’s manor and even a maze. Within each different area, there are also a set number of roses to be collected, each one providing a little information about Karisvale. A small selection of puzzles such as a timed maze task and a short quiz provide an extra layer to the gameplay and a slight element of challenge.
The gameplay primarily requires keyboard input and generally speaking is pretty laid back, despite the increasing intensity of the narrative. This results in an engaging but stress-free experience that has a lot to offer in a short amount of time. It has no save functions and is designed d to be played in one sitting in around 45 minutes.
On a new assignment, the protagonist detective Shaymus O’Malley has been invited to the town of Karisvale in search of a missing person. However, it soon becomes clear there is something strange and maybe even a little sinister about the town. The only option is to delve deeper into the mystery in order to solve it.
The game’s narrative is its key feature, building intrigue and tension to an unexpected and slightly meta twist ending. The story is an absolute highlight although difficult to discuss without spoilers it is bound to both surprise and interest players. Perhaps what makes the narrative most unique is the way in which the gameplay and styling evolve alongside it.
NPCs are varied and include an old wanderer, a young girl obsessed with the mayor and a ‘dozey bumpkin’. to name a few. They each have distinct personalities, the dialogue is well written and conversations move at a nice pace. Overall, there is a good level of characterisation for such relatively brief encounters.
Karisvale’s aesthetic has a very retro vibe with its charming pixel art and somewhat square aspect ratios reminiscent of an old CRT monitor. The pixel art is very well done and makes up the bulk of the game with more detailed cartoon-like drawings representing the various characters during any dialogue. Colour palettes range from fresh and vibrant to more dark and moody which, along with the atmospheric lighting helps connect the player to the scenes emotionally.
The music is similarly retro with a kind of chiptune feel to it. Tracks are varied, despite the game’s short length and range from relaxing, twinkly keyboard notes to much more eerie and mysterious numbers with an air of melancholy.
Karisvale can be completed, with achievements, in about an hour or so. It is an intriguing and well-made mystery game that boasts excellent retro styling in terms of both audio and visual aspects, eclectic and distinct characters and gripping narrative design with a story that is clever and surprising. The only negative thing I have to say about this game is that I would have liked more of it! It is hard to believe this game is free and I would highly recommend it even if a cost were attached.
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