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Oniria Crimes review: playing pixel detective

By Paul Walker-Emig. Posted

The fiction that underpins Oniria Crimes is an appealing one given the year we’ve collectively endured. In this game, people are able to escape from the horrors they face in the real world and spend time living in an alternate dream reality. Unfortunately, this dream space isn’t free of the tensions and traumas of everyday life: there is political unrest, factional fighting, and a spree of murders. This is where you come in.

Every time a murder happens, you’re tasked with investigating the scene of the crime. These are pretty little puzzle rooms that require you to use nothing but what you can find within that small space to work out what happened. Objects in this dream world can be interrogated, literalising the idea that objects placed within a context can tell us a story, each offering you a little piece of testimony to help solve the case. As a concept, I love it. However, in an unfortunate case of fact mirroring fiction, the reality of how these investigations play out doesn’t match the fantasy.

Investigating a crime scene is far too reliant on pixel hunting. There were many instances where I found myself hitting a roadblock in an investigation, or even failing outright, because I failed to hover my mouse over the correct bit of the screen and find a key clue. Once you’ve collected enough clues, you end the investigation by marking suspects as innocent or guilty and highlighting two pieces of supporting evidence to back that verdict. There are problems here too. The way a piece of evidence should be read in relation to a verdict or version of events is often unclear.

Though the game has its failings, there is something satisfying about poking around in its diorama-like rooms.

This means that though you might have worked out what happened, you may find that you didn’t select the bits of evidence the developer wanted you to to support that interpretation, even if it follows a logic that seems to make sense to you. You then end up having to reload the case and try different combinations of evidence to brute-force your way to the correct solution. Needless to say, this is deeply unsatisfying. The deductive element that forms the core appeal of the detective genre is overwhelmed by the sense that all you’re really doing is trying to click on the right things.

Oniria Crimes has ideas that are rich in potential, like a narrative setup that deals with the intriguing territory of the relationship between reality and fantasy, or being able to have conversations with conscious objects, but that potential is never reached. There’s a clever puzzle here, a beautiful voxel scene there, but the positives the game offers are dulled by elements that work in opposition to them. Again, it has some great ideas, but it’s not the game we dreamed it could be.

Speaking to objects in a scene reveals suspects, their appearance, and provides you with clues that might attest to their guilt or innocence.

Highlight

There are a couple of great puzzles in the game that test your logic in a satisfying way, and make you feel like a clever and canny detective uncovering secrets with nothing but a sharp mind.

Verdict

_Frustrations that take the focus away from deductive elements undermine a great detective concept. _

57%

Genre: Adventure | Format: PC (tested) / XBO / PS4 / Switch / XB X/S / PS5 / Linux / Mac | Developer: cKolmos Game Studios | Publisher: BadLand Publishing | Price: £15.49 | Release: Out now

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