Contradiction – The Interactive Murder Mystery

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A few months back I interviewed John Guilor – voice of the First Doctor and many others. I asked him about this video game ‘Contradiction‘ and I finally got around to making it work on my computer.

The game is set up as a sort of interactive movie where you advance the plot in any direction you chose and must piece together the story from threads both loose and tangled. You play the role of Inspector Jenks, a detective investigating the death of a young woman named Kate Vine, but soon you are pulled into a world of strange cultish behaviour, business courses, and a man who looks a bit like Matt Smith.

Paul Darrow
Paul Darrow as Paul Rand

I had expected a point and click puzzle game when I first heard about it and I imagined something not unlike the cult classic Toonstruck (which I played to death many years ago). However, it is not really like that. Indeed, I’ve never played anything like it before. Granted, I’m not much of a game connoisseur, so the mechanics of Contradiction took me quite a while to get the hang of. I found myself doing a lot of back-and-forth, going in and out of buildings accidentally and getting a bit lost.

That being said, once I got the hang of it, playing through became a very intense experience. There is a time limit (though I wasn’t entirely sure why, other than for narrative and game tension) and as the case grew it became difficult to see how one could nail all the plot threads down before dawn.

The way the game moves between player operations and cut scenes slowly started to feel seamless and unlike many video games’ cut scenes, these were essential viewing. You have to pay attention not only to the words, but the body language of the actors and try and establish who is and isn’t telling the truth. Each character is hiding something, and it’s your job to spot the contradictions in their statements (hence the title). This can take some time as you have to ask the characters about pretty much everything you’ve investigated and then go back through their statements and pick out the parts that don’t jive.

The story is very much player driven and I couldn’t help feeling that perhaps there were multiple alternate endings and paths you could go down. Either that, or many of the plot threads are being saved for the sequel.

Jenks
Rupert Booth as DI Jenks

The actors range from the superb to the slightly cartoony. It took me a while to warm to Jenks and I wasn’t always convinced he was a good police officer. Indeed, some of the characters even point out that he doesn’t follow procedure very well (not putting evidence in the proper bags for instance). He certainly has a distinctive look and is played with a sort of Tenth-Doctor like charm by Rupert Booth, sometimes coming across a little silly but still managing to keep your complete attention.

Paul Darrow is certainly the highlight of the game. The actor famous for his role as Kerr Avon in the Sci-Fi classic Blake’s 7 gives a truly bone-chilling performance as Paul Rand. His character oozes sinister intellect and danger and you constantly fear what he might do if you turn your back. There’s a lot of buildup for his  character and I was worried it wouldn’t pay off but it does, big time.

John Guilor is playing Ryan Rand, son of Paul Rand and seems to have been studying Darrow, adopting some mannerisms that reminded me distinctly of Avon, especially in his facial expressions. Melanie Gray is another talent I think people should be on the lookout for in the future – she plays her character, Rebecca Rand, with

John Guilor and Paul Darrow
John Guilor and Paul Darrow

such icy preciseness that you just know she’ll be snapped up for some villainous or powerful roles at some point. She plays her character as one you can imagine pulling all the strings of the whole village, and yet is far too clever to let anyone know it.

I won’t give too much away about the mystery and how it develops. Suffice to say that it follows one of my favourite tropes – lovely English village turns out to be hub of unspeakable evil.

I’d give it Five Stars. Out of how many? Well, that’s just another mystery!

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Joel Cornah
Joel Cornah is an author, journalist, and blogger. He is the author of a number of novels and novellas including; The Sea-Stone Sword, The Spire of Frozen Fire and The Silent Helm, with the upcoming novel The Sky Slayer, expected some time in 2016. He is an editor for The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Network, head of the Doctor Who department, and member of the Tolkien Society. He is a frequent blogger for the Pack of Aces blog, focussing on issues of Asexuality in media, specialising in sci-fi and fantasy.