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About the Story
Death. Conception. Genesis. Mystery.
You are Osiris, the recently deceased king of Egypt. And it's time to investigate your own murder.
Question the gods! Interrogate the Egyptian pantheon, to piece together the details of your death.
Search ancient streets for clues! From Waset to Sepermeru, travel through primordial cities to find evidence.
Basic puzzles! As you hunt down your killer to make them face judgement, you'll be free to complete your investigation in any order, unlocking new conversation options with characters as you go. Use your observational skills and complete light riddles will help you catch the killer.
From the bank of the River Nile, to the heavens above, DETECTIVE OSIRIS is an explorable re-imagining of Ancient Egyptian mythology, with a light noir twist. Featuring art by Kama Mielczarek, and music by Mycelium Music. Playtested by Ben Joy and Taya Beleanina.
Content warning: Injury detail, sex references, drug references, alcohol references
30th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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A murdered god wanders Ancient Egypt to inquire of gods and royals the mystery of his death. Sound intense? Detective Osiris does gesture towards its stentorian drama, like when sky goddess Nut muses on the strained symbiosis between humanity’s voraciousness and the gods’ creativities: “When we first created the world, it was tiny. It was so small, but it had everything we thought that people needed. / And, try as we might to provide everything, the mortals just kept expanding their efforts. They wanted more. More land for farming, more troves of natural resources, more things to discover, more knowledge of the world around them, and its limits. / So we kept making it bigger. We added more forests, then deserts, mountains, the ocean. Before long the people began to divide into countries. Sumer first, then Elam, and here in Egypt. / Shai tells me that one day, many summers and winters from now, humankind will set their sights on the sky itself. By then, they’ll scarcely even believe in us, only in themselves. So they’ll seek to conquer the sky with elaborate machinery, forged of metal. When that day comes, we’ll have to move even further away, and build more, for them to explore.” As an apotheosized mortal yet to develop an aspect, this polytheistic cosubstantiation through ideal and iteration offers a dizzy array of thematic jewels to inlay in Osiris’ reckoning with the divide between earth and sky.
An array that quickly proves too dizzying, as Detective Osiris retreats from its scope, modulating down into chatty ditziness that builds color through silliness rather than through a sustained tone. So we’re assured that Anubis is “a very good boy” and that Geb, an earth god, is “laying on the surface of the sky, face down, ensconced in a cloud of smoke. I recognise the scent: Cannabis.” Any heightened urgency posed by the setting melts in conversations like when we ask Maat, goddess of law and justice, about our murder: "Osiris, you too are now a god. There’s no need to bow, silly … I cant do anything about it other than be annoyed and wait for the guilty party to die. Or I have to go begging one of the more powerful gods to intervene and, y’know, do a plague or something. In normal circumstances. But, your wife did some magic, bingo bango, you’re back as a god.” Despite this weightless levity, the game also never really settles into comedy either, unable to transmute cheeriness into humor. The few times it does go for a joke, the results aren’t exactly electric: “Geb rolls his eyes. “At night, I could be watching sex. So that’s what I was doing. When you were killed, I wasn’t looking in the right direction.” / I’m beginning to see some of the attraction in watching the mortals. For the first time in the afterlife, I truly grin.”
Despite its many tonal jumps, Detective Osiris never truly surrenders its ambition, particularly in a few passages of lyrical descriptions that flourish a lovely dazzle: “The crystalline surface of the sky is hard underfoot, and the air is thin. The sprawling country of Egypt is visible through the floor below. Ra gently guides his solar barque, carrying the sun, on an adjacent pellucid river. The celestial light douses the world below in light and warmth, but the temperature here is fresh, and the baked glass mezzanine sky smells like hot stone roads cooling in the night air.” Rather, the game is just kind of jittery and unsettled. Take its historicity as an example: there are some solid hits, like a shoutout to the much underrated Elamites or how Egyptians counted on their hands, and then there are some glaring errors, like mixing in Ptolemaic Alexandria with the clear Old Kingdom stylings. Sometimes these errors are so obvious that they likely are an intentional part of the silliness, such as the Sphinx’s joke about H always being in the middle of “akhet”, which is the transliteration of a hieroglyph. The result is an unevenness that never seems to settle into itself.
Whatever plays upon the surface, however, the underlying gearbox has no hesitations. The gameplay structure manages a clever magic trick of gently guiding you through an ever expanding playspace, keeping a firm control on the pacing of your journey without making you feel railroaded. No moment drags on too long, and the twist ending starkly reinterprets several of the characters you’ve met along the way. In this consummate craftsmanship, Detective Osiris manages a grounding that its narrative never quite achieves.
In this choice-based game written in Ink, you play as Osiris, the recently deceased king (pharaoh?) of Egypt. A post-mortem ritual by your wife and demi-god, Isis, ensures your ascension to godhood. But as a newly christened god, you don't have any assigned duties yet. And all the gods are pretty sure you were murdered, so why not figure out whodunit first, and then you can get on with the whole being-a-god thing.
This is one of those choice-based games that plays a lot like a "parser-on-rails" as I call them. You can move back and forth between different locations, but there aren't really objects to pick up or examine, rather you have a limited number of options in each location (though the number of options may expand with continued exploration), and then it is time to move on. With this game being a murder mystery, your primary actions are to interview a number of different characters who may have either had a part in your death, or have some clue as to who the culprit is. You can visit every location and ask every NPC every question available to you, but then you will need to back track as new knowledge opens up new dialogue with characters you've already talked to.
All my criticisms will need to hide behind a spoiler tag below. But before we get to them, the praises. This game was well-written, with engaging dialogue in most of the scenes and a fairly robust dialogue tree for each NPC. I have a lot of respect for the coding that was required to open up new lines of dialogue with old NPCs only after certain facts were discovered. Also, I appreciated the limited graphics that went along with the text. Many of the names were unfamiliar to me, so having the graphical representation of the character pop up on the side of the screen when you were interacting with them was a nice touch and helpful to keep everyone straight. The credits mentioned music, but while I had my computer’s volume up, I never heard it. Perhaps I didn’t turn it up high enough.
So, I think a problem I had with the game is (Spoiler - click to show)that it was mislabeled as to the time it takes to play. The IFComp 2023 games listing has it at “One hour”, but I found that I was much closer to two hours and after “completing” the game found that I had probably missed out on a good chunk of the content. That’s because, having gone back and forth over the geography several times I started to see an option pop up in the dialogue tree to accuse someone of my murder and bring him before the gods for judgment. Given that I was way over the estimated time frame for playing the game I assumed that I had discovered enough clues to accuse this character (who was the obvious candidate from the beginning), and so I did, but I was wrong. I didn’t quite have it in me to play through again to see what I missed, so I just went with it. But I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t figured it out on my own, even though it had seemed at that point that I had exhausted all my dialogue tree options (pretty sure that was just laziness on my part). However, I did appreciate that the game didn’t just give me a fail-state, but rather revealed the mystery to me and allowed me a satisfactory ending.
Overall, a pretty solid effort, enjoyable for the time it took, but probably not a game I will be coming back to. Still, the author has talent, and I hope to see more from him in the future.
This is a longish Ink game where you are Osiris, recently deceased pharaoh and newly resurrected God.
Most of the game consists of travelling to different locations and interrogating different Gods. There is some freedom (in which Gods to visit first) and some saving of state (some topics only come up after you talk to others elsewhere).
There was one math puzzle which I both overthought (by getting tripped up by the mention of Base 12 beforehand, which turned out not to be important) and underthought (by just not getting it).
The characters were very diverse and interesting. Some gods were nice; Geb was a big loser who smoked weed and acted like a peeping tom.
I classified murder mysteries in an earlier post. This one was the kind (as far as I could tell) where you complete puzzles and the mystery solves itself in the process.
Overall, the setting and characters were the biggest strength to me. I didn’t derive enjoyment from the sex scenes. I did like the reimagination of the Egyptian mythological world, and thought the styling looked good.
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