Watching the Detectives

Visual novels are one the odder genres of games. True to their name, they have long (very long) passages of text where the story is laid out without interaction from the player until it comes to a point where a decision can be made. This choice might cause the story to branch (very popular in dating VNs) or bring the game to an end if you make the wrong choices too many times.

Process of Elimination is one of these games. It’s a murder mystery that takes place on the island headquarters of a cadre of super-detectives who are being picked off by a sadistic criminal mastermind. You, as a rookie detective whom nobody trusts, must help the investigation, uncover moles within the group, and figure out how seemingly impossible deaths have happened.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now—the plot of this story is absolutely bonkers. Each of the detectives has a code name based on their personality, which can be, shall we say, extreme. One detective is a super-smart kid in a robotic wheelchair. Another is, himself, a serial killer who’s been dragooned into working with the law. Another wears a suit of medieval armor constantly. And then there’s the one detective who truly believes in you. She’s dead and is a ghost only you can see.

You wander around the mansion headquarters of this motley group—which is somehow filled with ridiculous death traps and hidden passages—leading to an even more bizarre plot about secret experiments on children and killer robot sentinels.

I loved it.

Because it’s a VN, there’s no need for you, the player, to try and understand this world, because it plays out in front of you and you just have to click “next.” There are decision points where you need to show off your detective skills (like who’s betraying the group). If you mess that up too many times, the game ends, but you can restart from a save point.

The other method of interaction is a turn-based strategy mini-game. In it, you’re presented with a grid map where you can move the detectives around to explore and uncover clues that will lead you to breakthroughs in your investigation.

In the mini-game, you’ll start with limited control of all the available detectives, but as you solve the initial points, you’ll gain the ability to direct others. Each one has different strengths, and by supporting each other they can solve high-level problems. But the mini-game has a turn limit! Fail to get all the answers before you run out of turns, and it’s back to the save file.

Process of Elimination is a fun game in the visual novel genre that requires the patience to sit through long stretches of text and a nonsensical world. If you’re looking for any sense of reality or interactivity, stay away. But, if you want a singular experience in a world you won’t find anywhere else, here it is.