First released back in 2021 for the PC, Gamedec has made the jump to Nintendo Switch in 2022. Toted as a non-combat cyberpunk RPG, it stars a futuristic private detective who investigates crimes inside virtual worlds. This rather meta concept is based on the series of short stories by Polish author Marcin Przybyłek. He also took on various roles such as consultant and scriptwriter during development. With that being said, take one last drag of your cyber cigarette and climb into your virtual couch to solve some crimes.
Gamedec – Neon Non-violence.
Life is tough in Warsaw at the end of the 22nd century. The natural environment outside has mutated and become extremely hostile to humanity. Trapped inside vast fortified cities for their own protection, many inhabitants escape into Virtual, a network of VR games. Every day is a constant battle for resources. So what better way to indulge in the twisted fantasies someone has, and forget the horrors outside? Only sometimes, things go too far…
And this is where Game Detectives or ‘Gamedecs’ come in. When a loved one’s consciousness is stuck inside a digital construct after a cyberattack, these are the people to call. After making a character from a fairly straightforward menu, including which pronouns to use (a nice touch), the game starts proper. Not many of the other choices are initially explained, which is annoying. I can choose my origin and values but how does that impact my character? Turns out, my origin can open up specific dialogue options later on. My values are essentially points I can use to upgrade myself.
As previously mentioned, this is a non-combat game. While there is some gunplay peppered throughout this is only ever initiated through dialogue. Instead of gun battles, the player engages in conversations. By using the power of logic and deduction, the game is played like a tabletop RPG. A large focus is on choice-dependent character building. I was making choices that developed my character and story almost immediately. Within the first half hour, I had already locked myself out of a computer due to my choice in skills. My first client was also majorly pissed off at me very quickly. Guess he didn’t like me trying to hack into that computer I was locked out of.
This free-flowing system of finding clues and making deductions is a very strong part of Gamedec. Ultimately though, it does end up being a bit chaotic and confusing. I apparently had notifications in my codex, but couldn’t seem to find the nugget of information that it was tied to. It is also very possible to make the wrong deduction and send the investigation down the wrong path. The game is structured so that the cases do get solved eventually, just maybe not in a way the player may expect.
Sadly, there is a large amount of bad translation and spelling errors that tarnish the experience. I completely understand that the original works aren’t in English, but when a game relies heavily on written text, this is a problem. This doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it can be difficult to read. Some dialogue is very stilted, and when combined with the words and phrases from the Gamedec lexicon, it can hurt the brain trying to decipher what the game is trying to say.
Graphics & Audio
The UI and character portraits are nicely detailed and very crisp. I particularly like the art style of the portraits. Plenty of dyed hair and cyber gear. This crispness is in big contrast to the actual isometric environment. Blurry and jittery with a good side helping of objects seemingly shifting and glitching in and out of existence. Never actually seen this before. It’s most noticeable when standing speaking to someone, whilst playing docked mode. Maybe play handheld for this one! Part of me wonders if this was actually meant to be coded in as part of the digital experience, but it happened even when outside of those virtual worlds. I also managed to get myself stuck on some geometry but couldn’t see as my character was hidden by the limited isometric view. Reloading the game helped to get moving again.
Looking past these technical issues, the areas themselves are pretty varied, as well as pleasant to look at and explore. The ‘real world’ is expectedly full of neon and futuristic machines with a hint of depression and grime. Many of the in-universe games are also explorable, anything from a dingy red-light district themed around fetishes, all the way through to a wild west free-to-play farming game. It’s a good bit of Inception-style world-building, a sort of game within a game type of thing.
There isn’t much in the way of voice acting. A small number of lines are spoken sporadically, usually when characters are introduced. All the voice acting seems competent enough. The same can be said for the music. Nothing really stands out, but the soundtrack is easy to listen to. Nothing to add to my game soundtrack playlist.
Gamedec takes around 10-15 hours to complete, which I don’t think is too bad for an indie title. Thanks to the fluid conversation-based system that has plenty of branching paths, this game has a heap of replay value. Going back around again to see what a certain bit of dialogue can unlock is always interesting to do. Choosing a different origin and values at the start also adds replayability. Having suffered through the pacing issues, bugs and glitches, and difficult dialogue, it does depend on how masochistic a player you are to want to dive back in.
There’s also some deep lore to unpack whilst playing, as is expected when a richly established universe is adapted. For those of you who enjoy exploring some text-heavy games, this could be the next game you spend hours of your life reading through.
Sadly, this is a game that doesn’t quite stick the landing, despite having a stellar concept. There’s plenty of ambition on display here, and I commend that fact. Decisions are poignant and permanent, and seeing all the different places available to go is a treat. Seeing some of the tropes of other game genres mixed in was also a nice touch. One of the highlights was picking produce from my garden in that wild west farming game. Pop culture commentary. Gets me every time. However, the numerous negatives I’ve highlighted throughout this review does make for a tough recommendation.
There is some success here. It has made me interested in learning more about the Gamedec franchise as a whole. Hidden beneath the technical failings and roughly translated lines, is a rich world that hasn’t quite been transitioned over to video game form properly. With multiple collections of short stories and even a board game, the Gamedec universe isn’t going anywhere. If this game introduces more people to that universe, despite being rough around the ages, then that’s alright in my book. Overall I give Gamedec a Thumb Culture Bronze Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.