Unheard: Voices of Crime Edition by devs NExT Studios and published by 505 Games is an interesting game that mainly uses sound as its primary game mechanic.
Available on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, I was fortunate enough to put my ears to the test on the Switch version. Being the first time on console, as it has been out on PC since 2019, I felt that this could be a good handheld game to get stuck into.
Stop, Look, and Listen.
Playing as an acoustic detective. Do you have what it takes to solve the mysteries that are about to be presented to you?
Unheard: Voices of Crime is a 2D top-down game that presents itself on a single screen. In a nutshell, you play a detective that needs to revisit crime scenes and answer questions about what has happened.
It is explained to you that you can listen in to past crime scenes via an aural device.
Each of the chapters presents itself as a plan view of the building or area in question. Rooms are outlined with walls, doors and furniture. Characters appear on the screen as small white rings while you control a small avatar that is invisible to everybody else.
Along the bottom of the screen is a timeline that indicates how long the scene lasts, while at the top right is a list of names. When you press play, the screen bursts into life, and it’s down to you to figure out who everybody is. By following each character and their conversations, you quickly gather who is who. You can then press a button on your controller and designate a name from the list. This helps to identify them later on.
Unheard: Voices of Crime requires you to be on the ball throughout. On my first playthrough, I tried to be everywhere and it didn’t work. By following one conversation and then walking off to another you end up missing all sorts of clues. It could be anything from a monologue to a phone call. The best way, I found, was to simply follow one character at a time from the start to the end of the timeline.
Backwards and then forwards, forwards and then backwards
The timeline mechanic is fun to play with, allowing you to replay the scene and rewind and fast forward as much as you like. There is no penalty for the number of times you replay it.
Piece by piece, things begin to drop into place. Be careful though, there are plenty of red herrings out there for you to get snagged on!
When it comes to solving the crime, you can fill out your answers at any time you wish. By submitting them as your final answers you are then told whether you are right or wrong. If there are multiple answers that you need to provide, then you are told how many you have correct. But not which ones.
Once more you are not penalised and simply keep replaying the scene until you have heard enough to be able to change your answer(s) accordingly.
The only thing that I found I could do with was a notepad to write my findings. So many times I forgot who was talking to who and the significance once I had then replayed and followed a different conversation!
Graphics & Audio
Unheard: Voices of Crime uses a mix of hand-drawn style graphics for the cutscenes and then technical line drawings for the schematic plans during the scene. The simplistic nature during a chapter aids the player in picking out the conversations between characters. For example, the white ring of a person ripples like a waveform while talking or interacting with a phone.
Another good touch was when your avatar enters a room, the spotlight moves onto that area and helps you to focus on that particular event. Helpful when there are 12 people mooching around and nattering.
Once you solve a crime I did like the way that the cutscene plays out, highlighting the key parts of the scene that helped you answer the questions. It was almost like the ending of The Usual Suspects as everything falls into place.
When it comes to the audio, well this is key! The voice acting comes across as similar to a radio play. While there is some chemistry between characters, you could imagine each of them reading lines while sitting on stools in front of a microphone.
Each of the characters speaks very clearly and they are easy to understand. Always a bonus!
There are around 5 hours of gameplay as you go through the various chapters. Some chapters take longer than others depending on whether you have been standing in the right places to gather clues! The timelines are also varied with some chapters playing a longer scene than others.
Once Unheard: Voices of Crime has been completed then there is very little else to do apart from the satisfaction of solving the mysteries.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Unheard: Voices of Crime. The game mechanics were simple to understand and the way that each scene played out really gave you that “fly on the wall” vibe.
Overhearing all of the conversations, revelations, and double-crosses, was simply thrilling. A bit like the movie GO, everyone has a role to play, and the way that the characters overlap one another’s paths can so quickly change your theory.
Unheard: Voices of Crime Edition scores a solid Thumb Culture Platinum Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.