Review – The Case of the Golden Idol

There’s no feeling quite like solving a difficult puzzle in a mystery game. When things start to fall into place, when you manage to understand what the hell is going on around you, when you finally realize an incoming plot twist, and so on. That’s what makes real deduction games so appealing for a specific niche of players. I’m not talking about the more simplistic detective-styled games, like the Sherlock Holmes titles, as good as they are, either. I’m talking about the real “get your hands dirty with the case” titles like Return of the Obra Dinn. However, there’s also a fine line between “challenging” and “frustrating” that these games have to carefully walk on. The Case of the Golden Idol, in my opinion, is a case of a game which constantly dabbles between these two turfs.

The Case of the Golden Idol Gameplay

Look for clues, acquire labels, fill in the gaps, find out what happened. Repeat.

The Case of the Golden Idol is your classic point-and-click mystery deduction game. I really liked how its story was presented. Instead of being shoved with exposition, you experience the overarching plot one case at a time. By that, I mean one murder at a time, for that’s what you’re basically doing throughout the entire game: solving murders, understanding the reasoning behind them, and realizing they all center around a mysterious golden idol with otherworldly powers. It’s your classic “secret society” tale, all set in a lovely and ultraviolent 18th century England. The perfect place for you to pretend to be Sherlock’s ancestor and do some deductions.

The Case of the Golden Idol

Just another day in jolly old 18th Century London.

Each case/level in The Case of the Golden Idol goes as follows: you are shown a crime scene, with characters and items to unveil. They’re presented in an Amiga-esque art style, and a small paragraph with gaps to fill in, which details the crime, the reason behind it, and the modus operandi. Although the idea of unlocking labels and dragging them to gaps sounds simple, the game is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Finding the labels is easy. Putting them in the right order, in the right place, is what’s going to take a toll on your concentration and deduction skills. You need to look at clues, visual hints, small bits of dialogue, and piece everything together. When it works, it works. You want to shout “eureka” when you manage to figure everything out by yourself. Trial and error is possible, but the sheer amount of labels in each scene makes this act near impossible to work. So you will be stuck in a crime scene, listening to that incessantly repetitive soundtrack on loop, trying to put some sense into what you’re seeing it. But fret not, for there is a hint system.

The Case of the Golden Idol Hints

Every time you want to ask for a hint, you need to do this elementary school puzzle beforehands.

The Case of the Golden Idol doesn’t want you to use its hint system often. It reminds you so whenever you press the hint button. “Are you sure? Do you REALLY want to do this? We would like for you to put on some effort”, these are not the verbatim sentences the game throws at you whenever you decide to appeal for a tip, but it damn sure tries to scoff you in a somewhat condescending way. It also forces you to solve a small puzzle before being able to choose a hint.

You pick up a hint, and it’s exactly that, a hint. It’s not a solution for the case. It’s always a mere “suggestion”, what you should be paying attention at in order to solve whichever case you’re stuck at. In a way, I do respect the complete disregard for an easy solution, but there are times where the game abuses its wits and expects you to be as much of a savant as it is. If you need another hint, it’s the same process again. It almost feels like a small roadblock to demotivate you from asking for help. It was a bit frustrating in later mysteries, when the game ramps up its difficulty.

The Case of the Golden Idol Causes

Gee, I wonder why.

I will commend The Case of the Golden Idol for being an excruciatingly smart game with a neat method of developing its lore and world-building, but its mystery solving gameplay loop, while engaging for those into whodunits, features some flaws worth pointing out. Solving a case is really rewarding, but getting stuck in a particular puzzle feels punishing, with the game nearly starting to treat you in a condescending way if you start using its (tiresome) hint system too often. With that being said, if you’re into the genre, and want to tackle something else that resembles Return of the Obra Dinn in any way, shape or form, The Case of the Golden Idol is still a pretty decent pick.


Graphics: 7.0

Amiga-esque visuals that are equal parts absurdist and charming, even though they don’t exactly bring anything new to the table.

Gameplay: 7.5

A simple control scheme tied to an even simpler gameplay loop, equal parts “point-and-click” and “drag and drop”. My only issue lies in its hint system.

Sound: 5.5

Even though the soundtrack isn’t inherently bad, it’s really repetitive. The absence of voices or sound effects doesn’t help, either.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s an obnoxiously smart game, which will divide people. Solving its mysteries feels rewarding as hell, but getting stuck in any of them almost feels punitive, all thanks to its “helpful at first, irritating afterwards” hint system.

Final Verdict: 7.0

The Case of the Golden Idol is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of The Case of the Golden Idol was provided by the publisher.