Developed by Nippon Ichi Software, Process of Elimination is part visual novel, part detective simulation game with puzzle elements woven into its gameplay. After originally releasing in Japan back in 2021, the localised version of the game is due to be released in Europe on April 14th, allowing a wider audience to enjoy it. The game will be available for both PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.
The Truth Is Deadly
Process of Elimination begins in a rather brutal manner as it introduces us to the game’s antagonist: The Quartering Duke, a violent serial killer who has reached notoriety through a killing spree that has resulted in the deaths of over 100 people. With each crime taking the lives of two victims, the government is left with no choice but to enlist the aid of an organisation known as the Detective Agency (DA), tasking them with uncovering the truth of the Duke’s identity and bringing him to justice.
To this end, fourteen detectives are sent to the Detective Agency’s HQ on the remote island of Morgue where they are expected to work together to solve the case. One such detective is our protagonist, Wato Hojo. Unlike the rest of the team, Wato is fairly unremarkable. Before his abrupt recruitment into the DA, he had been working part-time at a small detective agency, and his lack of experience and skill as a detective quickly earns him the rather unflattering title of Incompetent Detective.
When one of their own turns up dead, they are faced with the very real possibility that the Quartering Duke might be amongst them. With the seeds of doubt and mistrust sown in their minds, the detectives must work together to uncover the truth and stop the Duke before more deaths occur or he escapes to wreak further havoc.
Meet the Detectives
Process of Elimination is a game that relies heavily on the interaction between the band of detectives to move the story along, so compelling characters were an absolute must. Much like Wato, each detective has an alias in order to protect their civilian identities. These are based on their skills and personality traits, with characters such as Workaholic Detective and Techie Detective acting as the personification of their titles.
Despite having their personalities summed up by one alias, each character is well-rounded, and there is enough variety to keep things interesting. From the timid Doleful Detective to the deranged Renegade Detective, each detective brings something different to the table, and whilst most of the story is told through the eyes of Wato, I enjoyed being able to glimpse the relationships that exist between the rest of the detectives. The father and daughter relationship between Mystic and Bookworm and the strained rivalry between Renegade and Workaholic are just two examples of how the game allows all of its characters to share the spotlight.
Not all of the characters are likeable, and there are plenty of times when the detectives come into conflict with one another, but I found each of them engaging in their own way.
Unravel the Mystery Behind the Quartering Duke
Split into several chapters, the game makes use of an extended gameplay loop. First, there is the progression of the story itself, and I’ll admit that this part can be a little slow. The early chapters of the game are heavily focused on establishing the setting, the characters, and the mystery of the Quartering Duke, and as such, I found they dragged a little. I’m not saying I found them boring, because I didn’t, I just felt that there were times where the game felt a little unbalanced with much more reading than interactive elements. The pacing did, however, improve in later chapters.
After the plot has been progressed a substantial amount, something goes wrong and a murder is uncovered, which leads to the main interactive element of the game: the investigation simulation stage. In this stage, the detectives will spread out to conduct their investigations. They can either be left to their own devices or instructed by Wato if they are in an intervenable state. Each detective has their own statistics that you should exploit to solve the case within the set time frame, and there are five actions you can take – move, infer, analyse, assist and inspect – to gather evidence and piece together the truth behind each case.
All of this will be covered in the game’s opening chapter, so I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s important to know that you’ll be against the clock. If you don’t solve the case within a specified number of turns, it’s game over. There will also be times when you’ll have to avoid attacks and traps, so it’s important to pay attention to where all of the detectives are because if one of them gets killed, again, it’s game over.
Once the investigation simulation comes to a close, it’s time to summon your fellow detectives and announce your findings. From the evidence collected, you’ll have to choose the correct answers to convince the other detectives of your deduction. If you choose too many wrong answers, they’ll lose faith in you and that’s game over. If you choose the correct answers, their trust in you will increase and you’ll be given the opportunity to announce the culprit.
After that, the plot will continue, and the loop will repeat.
Supported by great visuals, ambient background music, a unique cast of characters, and emotive voice acting, Process of Elimination is a compelling detective story with an impressive amount of depth that only increases the more you unravel its countless mysteries. Full of twists, turns, and action, I was hooked from the very beginning, and by the final couple of chapters, I honestly didn’t want to put it down. My only real issue was that I’d have liked to see a more branching storyline where I could have followed different routes for a more replayable experience, but on the whole, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you’re a fan of visual novels or detective stories, it is definitely one to check out.
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 11th April 2023