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The Case of the Golden Idol (Switch) Review

by Willem Hilhorst - June 12, 2023, 9:00 am EDT
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Murder, Mystery and Mayhem in one fantastic package

Acting like a detective always feels a bit like cheating in video games. Rarely does a mystery game deliver on the premise of the player putting all the clues together, without it coming across as if there is a guiding hand shadowing over you. Just relying on your observational skills and putting all the little pieces together is absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences in games. Titles like Return of the Obra Dinn, A Hand with Many Fingers and last year's Immortality have a win-state so to speak, but the true victory is when the player arrives at the ‘Wait!? I GET IT’ moment of realization as to how the different pieces fit together. The Case of the Golden Idol is a truly phenomenal addition to this subset of detective games, spinning an intriguing narrative that makes you feel incredible for figuring out how it all comes together.

The Case of the Golden Idol follows the history of several English-inspired noblemen around the 1700s and the trail left behind by a small golden idol. You play as an omnipotent observer where you investigate what can only be described as tableaus. Each tableau depicts a moment in time that coincides with a death. The tableaus have little interactive sets, where you can click on people or objects and add words to your notebook. It is up to you to complete several objectives using the information you collect. This can vary from identifying all the individuals that are part of the tableau, where all of them were located during the time of the event happening, as well as their intertwining relationships with one another. Some of these are pretty straightforward, like servants and lords. But others can suddenly have entered the tableau for the first time, or be a random person caught up in the event. The tableau is completed when you can put together what specifically happened at that time and, usually, who passed away due to what reason.

The game is incredibly hands off. All the clues are numbered in a checklist at the bottom of the screen and you can access your thoughts at any time. You might perhaps start out with naming all the individuals that are seen on screen, or you can immediately try and put the story together. The navigation is really straightforward with the player dragging the clues or words to particular fields and entering them to complete the lines of thought. All of this is presented in a fantastic visual style that is somewhat reminiscent of LucasArts games from the ‘90s. I particularly loved the changing musical styles as you investigate different scenes within the tableau. When seeing a large map the music has a theme, but when you start looking into a cabin, a violin is added to speed up the tempo, turning dire when you come across the body and have to figure out what exactly happened. The only thing I’d knock against the soundtrack is that it does get a bit repetitive when you are stuck solving a puzzle. At times, I did throw on something else in the background when I was really trying to put together one particularly challenging scene.

All of this makes The Case of the Golden Idol a fantastic tale about revenge, absolute power, and the corruption that said power brings forth. The problem is that it is also a game I want to say as little as possible about, because the discovery and investigation is what makes the experience stand out quite a bit. If you love titles like the Ace Attorney series for their puzzlebox-like approach, The Case of the Golden Idol does similar things but makes the logical lines much less obvious. This caused me several times to scream with excitement when all I did was realize who was in what place and why. It really cannot be compared to a visual novel in that sense, giving the power over its narrative to you the player instead. The Return of the Obra Dinn is the closest analogy, but even when I think that, the way that The Case of the Golden Idol uses its world and characters is much more coherent to follow. The tableaus can be dizzying at first, full of moments where you absolutely have no clue what is going on. But figuring that stuff out, realizing why X is here and what that means for Y, or that someone is referring to a moment from a previous tableau made me excited in a way very few detective games have over the last few years.

And even if you do get stuck, the hint system is just a marvelous little bit of accessible design. If you get stuck, the game doesn’t fill in the right words for you. Instead you are presented with some general advice, like laying out all the clues you have, taking a break to think or even recontextualizing the words you’ve found so far. If you want a hint after that, you are still not given one, but rather have to fill out a small test of putting the right words underneath objects and characters you’ve already come across. Then you get to select from four general hints and that hint isn’t even spelling out the answer, but rather suggesting a way to think about the characters and their motivation. It is a truly beautiful system that still wants the player to come to the realization of what has happened, but does not ruin the game. I genuinely hope to see more games employ these kinds of hint systems, because it made using the hint system feel rewarding, rather than a moment of disappointment.

The Nintendo Switch version also just runs great. The variety of control options is fantastic. You can opt for using the traditional touch screen in handheld mode. In TV-mode you can use the joystick to move around a cursor freely and even increase the speed of the cursor movement with the triggers. And finally you can also manually browse through the game just using the directional-buttons or the right stick to snap to the nearest object. This setup is fantastic for controlling a point-and-click adventure game in a way that feels much more natural on console: a fantastic job by the developers for creating this.

As much as I want to keep on gushing about the ideas and stories in The Case of the Golden Idol, I really don’t want to take anything away from those who may be interested in playing it. There is an additional DLC chapter that has even more stories to discover and those are without a doubt some of the hardest puzzles in the game. Even if the idea of a point-and-click adventure game scares you off, The Case of the Golden Idol can be understood and enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in detective fiction. The stories can be gruesome and horrific at times, but that also makes them intriguing puzzleboxes to sit down and solve. At times while playing I looked up at the clock and realized I had been squinting at the screen and was lost in thought solving a puzzle for nearly an hour. The year of narrative bangers just keeps on rolling and if you are even remotely interested in solving a good mystery, The Case of the Golden Idol should be at the top of your list!


  • A detective game that truly leaves the detecting up to the player.
  • Fantastic little stories that all have a way of tying back together with the DLC being a highlight.
  • Some gorgeous visual style using pixel art that harkens back to older 90’s PC adventure games.
  • The hint system makes you feel smart for using it, instead of feeling like a punishment
  • The music can get slightly repetitive over time when stuck on the same scene.

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Game Profile

Genre Adventure

Worldwide Releases

na: The Case of the Golden Idol
Release May 25, 2023
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