Hi everyone! For this week’s critical play, I played The Wild Case by Specialbit Studios (the App Store listed Dmytro Cheglakov as the seller). The game was released by indie studio from Ukraine in June 2021 (Source: https://appadvice.com/app/the-wild-case/1553740403). I played the game on my iPad, however it is available through the App, Google Play, Amazon, Steam, and Windows stores (Source: https://specialbit.com/en/games/wild-case). The App Store has this game rated for players ages 12+.
You begin the game in a train where you are trying to travel to a mining village deep in the woods who are currently being terrorized by boars, bears, and other animals with red glowing eyes before- BOOM your train is attacked by one of these boars. From here, the game provides you with various objectives for you to solve by navigating your surroundings, interacting with, and carrying out secondary objectives assigned to you by the NPCs that you meet.
You navigate through this 2-dimensional game in a first-person perspective as you tap parts of your surroundings to pick up and store items in your inventory, and to communicate with the locals. The game has a variety of chapters which progress the narrative of the story starting from you escaping the crashed train compartment to traveling to the village. A formal element of game design that I thought was used really effectively were the objectives. These objectives were an interesting aspect of the game to me, in the fact that I thought it was very effective how they were introduced to the player. Initially, we are given the most immediate objectives (eg. get out of the train compartment), however as we eventually escape the train and explore the environment, we get a number of new sub-objectives which allow us to make process and achieve the greater objectives of getting to the village and solving the mystery of the red-eyed animals.
Narrative was woven in incredibly well to the mystery of this game as we are provided with very basic information, then are simply thrown into an unknown environment. It becomes clear that we are somewhere in Eastern Europe from the words written in a different language around the train station, in posters, and from the NPC’s names. However, it becomes clear that we are an outsider 1. From the initial narration that we received a letter from this village in the middle of the woods and are therefore traveling to the village and 2 from the fact that the NPCs often refer to us as “city boy”. Beyond this, we have the greater mystery at play here about why the animals have red eyes and why they are terrorizing the village. I feel that the mechanics of the objectives I shared earlier effectively support the narrative and help it become unraveled as they prompt the player to always remember what they are trying to do as well as revealing bits of the narrative based on the NPC we talk to at different times. For example, if the player attempts to speak to an NPC when they are not required for one of their objectives, the NPC will reply with very cold responses to the player, often telling the player to go away. It is only when the player is ready to/ needs to talk to that NPC that the NPC will open up and be friendly.
Overall, I had a really great time playing The Wild Case, I never knew what to expect which helped create a mysterious feeling as I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what would come next! I’ve played games with similar vibes to this (most notably the “Escape ____” games on HoodaMath), however this game was more effective as there was a very clear narrative, while I also felt like there was a strong cultural message that Specialbit Studios were trying to share which The Wild Case better. I think the only thing that could make this game better may be slight hints because there was a time at the start of the game (the second I got out of the train compartment) where I had absolutely no idea where to go and had to go online and look at a walkthrough to get a hint about where to go to continue my story. Overall I had fun and really enjoyed this game and highly recommend it to you all!