Fancy solving a mystery? Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, out now on Nintendo Switch, is a dark fantasy detective action game from devs Spike ChunSoft. With a mixture of humour, drama and surrealism, are you ready to unravel this single-player 3D anime story?
This is my truth!
While I love a good mystery, I have never really played any recent anime games. I was intrigued to see what I had been missing all these years. With fresh, but older eyes, what would I make of Master Detective Archives: Rain Code?
Beginning with a cutscene, your character Yuma Kokohead races to board a train that is travelling to a city known as Kanai Ward. Making it just in time you discover that you have amnesia and do not remember exactly who you are or what you are doing. You meet a bunch of characters who introduce themselves as Master Detectives.
Without spoiling the story, a mystery begins while onboard the train and it is down to you to solve it. A voice that begins in your head, and then materialises as this purple slimer-looking being, becomes your guide and you discover that you have a Shinigami (god of death) assisting you as you piece together what has happened.
I spy with my little eye
Navigating Yuma on the left stick, the right stick allows you to control the camera. Items that can be inspected are easily identified by a yellow circle and you collect Detective Points for each object that you interrogate. When your detective rank increases you can choose to spend the acquired skill points on abilities to give you an advantage later on.
Characters can be spoken to and dialogue can be selected from those available to direct the conversation.
While the game starts off as fact collecting while you get used to your surroundings, the Shinigami soon turns into a floating female form, wearing a short dress. With many statements directing you to their breasts, the Shinigami takes delight in cutting your throat open when using her powers to reveal further information.
I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret
Each time you successfully figure out a part of the puzzle, it is registered as a Solution Key. While this seems all very well and good, I was not quite ready for the Mystery Labyrinth.
Almost something out of a nightmare. You simply walk Yuma down a bizarre and ever-changing corridor for what seems like forever. Along the way, you may have a conversation with the Shinigami about what has been happening but other than that there is nothing to do. That is until a large ghostly monster appears in front of you and challenges you to a Reasoning Death Match.
It’s show time!
An arena bursts onto the screen in a TV game show style while a neon ghostly monster throws contradictions at you. Using the correctly selected Solution Key, you must slash them with your Sword of Truth and fight back.
Should you use the incorrect Solution Key then you lose a tiny bit of life and the Shinigami offers you some advice. I found the timing very hard to get right as to when to fire your sword at the words that are coming at you.
Once you have eliminated the apparition, you continue back on your quest, piecing more of the mystery together.
The Shinigami Puzzle is another event that springs up and just seems very out of context with the gameplay you have been experiencing so far. Here the Shinigami, wearing a bikini/baby doll outfit, stands in a revolving barrel on a tropical island. Seriously I am not making this up I promise. A question is posed and you need to fill in the missing word. To do this you need to throw your sword at letters that are on the barrel. Once identified, the Shinigami bursts out of the barrel like Pop-a-pirate and then suggestively poses for you as the word completes the sentence.
What I found strange was just how off the wall some of the gameplay was becoming. Having begun with a cutscene and then the graphics carrying on to match, the Mystery Labyrinth, Reasoning Death Match and Shinigami Puzzle felt so far from how it all started. I just did not know what was going to happen next. It felt as if everybody involved in the making of the game each had their own idea and just threw it in the pot.
While I get that anime does tend to be a little odd at times, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code’s puzzle-solving ideas and boss battles do get stranger and stranger featuring a lot more button-mashing action as well as bikini-clad Shinigami.
You can’t handle the truth
Once you have reached “The Truth” and conquered it, you then need to place all the solution keys into a sticker album in the correct order to fill in the blanks. While this felt as if I was achieving something, I then was forced to watch a long unskippable cutscene where all of the events were gone through yet again!
Your results are next shown to you with elements such as your deduction skills, judgment and stamina are graded and points awarded.
With the epilogue concluded you almost feel as if that was the end of the game, however, it is just the start as the open-world adventure really begins in Kanai Ward via your new acquaintance Yakou Furio, director of the Nocturnal Detective Agency. Here you take to the rainy neon streets to solve further mysteries and find out the true intentions of the sinister Amaterasu Corporation.
Graphics & Audio
The anime style reminded me of Professor Layton while onboard the train and I felt engrossed in the mystery. This is in contrast to the neon wackiness of the puzzles and ongoing straight corridors that felt a little out of place. The cutscenes were beautifully illustrated as were the main parts of the 3D world.
Most of the dialogue was fully voiced with only a few moments where you needed to read for yourself. The music was a mixture of electronic and rocky beats that in fairness matched the graphics and situation.
While the gameplay did have me on my toes at times, unsure of what was going to happen next, having played for hours, the epilogue felt as if it took forever to play through. There was constant padding out of the story which started to grate on me.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code has around 30 hours of game time but for me, I could only manage an hour or two per gaming session due to the repetitiveness of regurgitating the facts. While at times it was handy if you did not entirely understand how you arrived at the statement, there were other moments where I did not need the cartoon graphics to explain things and felt bored.
With 3 already-planned DLC drops for the remainder of this year, and a 4th already included with the main game, there is a lot more gaming time to be had once the main story is complete.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is certainly an interesting game. While I enjoyed the questioning and puzzle solving of who, what, why, and how? I did not fully get the bizarre death matches and surreal mundane mystery labyrinths. I guess you could argue it was a battle of the subconscious as to find a definitive solution in order to find the truth.
The constant repetition of the facts and story so far got on my nerves and I felt a little patronised at times. If you were to keep putting the game down and pick it up the next day then I could understand the helpfulness.
That said, the character-building and storyline was intriguing. With so much to investigate post-epilogue, you almost can’t resist picking it up again to play.
For me, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code scores a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.