Murder mystery fan James Law reviews the latest short and intriguing mystery from National Insecurities, 2000:1: A Space Felony
2000:1: A Space Felony or: How I Came To Value My Life And Murder Mercilessly, the second of National Insecurities’ murder mysteries was featured in the Indie Zone at Insomnia 62 gaming festival, with lead designer of National Insecurities, Gary Kings present to show it off.
I’m not going to sit here and spoil it, so if you have a bit of time, go grab it on itch.io (it’s real cheap) or go digging in your Humble Trove if you’re subscribed to Humble Bundle. You’ll probably finish it in one sitting and want another go like I did. Keep reading if you want to know why.
The player takes control of a detective penetrating the mystery of the USS Endowment and the ‘accidental’ deaths of its crew. There’s a shifty AI named MAL at the tip of the ship who will answer your questions regarding the evidence you find on and around the ship, and you’ll need to catch it in a lie by presenting the right evidence a la Ace Attorney. The game makes you feel smart, because you actually have to pay attention and make observations, while managing to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that other murder mystery games fall into. I’ve been replaying Ace Attorney recently, and although the stories and characters are quirky and compelling, the sometimes-arbitrary errors you can make (such as presenting evidence that is relevant, but at the slightly wrong time) too often leads to a game over, the punishment being having to replay the things you’ve already completed, which is kinda silly isn’t it? Playing the game is a punishment? Unless there is a specific narrative theme that is supposed to be unenjoyable, such as forcing the player to grind through Undertale’s genocide run to make them question whether it really worth was all the effort, playing the game should not be used as a penalty for failure.
2000:1: A Space Felony works through this danger by forgiving you for making mistakes. Why would you want the player forcibly removed from the narrative just because they missed a bit of evidence? Games that force the player into discomfort have their place, but in a story-based game, gameplay often gets in the way of the actual interesting bit: the story. This is a narrative-driven game that could only exist as a game. You have to put the clues together. It’s just you and MAL, in space, with all the time you need. In addition, I didn’t experience a part of the game where I felt like I was harshly treated. Errors I made were my own deductive miscalculations of situations, rather than being a frustrating lack of communication by the game.
I’ve said in the past that big-money, AAA game releases are often tiresome and too long for me. I don’t have the kind of time to be able to put hours on end into a game. Games like 2000:1: A Space Felony are the reason I love indies. It’s a wonderfully-crafted, cleverly written, aptly sound tracked, stylishly voice-acted, and devilishly pretty experience that the guests at Insomnia could literally finish it on the day. You could just go there, sit at the screen and solve the secret of the USS Endowment.
Kings’ first murder mystery, Disorient on the Murder Express, (covered in one of my first pieces) intrigued indie audiences with its simple, yet engaging narrative. 2000:1: A Space Felony followed suit. Kings was very happy to chat to us at insomnia too, and mentioned that he was sick of decent murder mystery games being few and far-between. So far, he’s made two really good short stories that perfectly suit the medium, with two more coming this year. As Disorient on the Murder Express is set to be revamped in the style of a silent movie too; there’s a heck of a lot to look forward to from National Securities, Gary Kings and Lead Developer Lauren Filby. Be sure to look out for their games at more conventions in the future, on Twitter and on itch.io. You’ll want to pay attention.