Ludum Dare 45: The Firebrand

“The Firebrand” by DWaM & Annie Stewart.

“An interrogation room. […] Who is the woman? Why is she here? What has she done? The only way to find out is to talk. Every conversation topic giving new leads to chase down. Some worthwhile. Others not so much. Follow the rabbit hole until you reach the truth.”

If there is one profession that is the perfect match for the forty-fifth Ludum Dare’s theme “Start with nothing”, it is probably the one of crime investigators. They have to figure out each detail of the event, they must find witnesses as well as potential suspects and of course they have to discover their motive for doing it. So it seems natural that some people had to create a detective game for the jam, and “The Firebrand” is the most intriguing one of them in my mind.

You play as a detective who interrogates a woman named Helena Osgood. The whole gameplay concept revolves around a neat little notebook mechanic: Automatically, new hints and thereby new conversation branches appear in it while you talk with Helena. Whenever a fragment of the conversation ends, you can decide if you would like to go further into the subject by clicking one of the new hints or you can choose to continue diving into an older branch. However, not all hints are just as useful as others and each question consumes some time, so you will have to figure out if your new associations will really unearth the truth in the end.

What I found wonderful about this jam entry are two things in particular. For one, I am a huge fan of such minimalistic, moody color palettes. The new talking points get marked in the orange shade, just like the hair of the characters or the soft light rays, that shine in through the roller blinds into the dark room. The other thing is the setting of the whole story: “The Firebrand” is not a crime-solving game about some cliché arsonist, who kills off innocent people and belongs behind bars. Instead, some narrational elements of the mystery and dystopia genre help to reach it a certain depth. People with unwanted (super) powers, a regime who wants to isolate those persons from society in every possible way, abuse of power and violence of the police, resistance, blending in, empathy – these are some of the themes that I can tell you about without spoiling the experience. [PLAY]