Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View Review – Slow and Steady Loses this Race
Title: Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View
Developer: White Paper Games
Release Date: Nov 2nd, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sold Out
It’s an unfortunate reality that some things are just too good to be true. You could be living a content life in a quiet and peaceful community. Yet, it only takes one atrocity for your world to turn upside down. For Robert Conway, that’s exactly the case as his neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter, Charlotte May, is reported missing. As a retired detective, he had given up the life of being an investigator. Yet seeing the community in shock, he decides to take the matter into his own hands.
In Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, you aim to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of Charlotte May. In your mind, your initial instinct is that a member of Dahlia View could be behind this. So you take it upon yourself to investigate each of your neighbors. You spy on them from your window, break into their houses and uncover the dark secrets that lie within their lives.
Rightfully so, everyone is against your actions, especially your daughter Catherine. Catherine is the police officer of the area. She begs for you not to get involved, as your involvement could seriously hinder the progress of the case and embarrass her significantly. You try to resist your sleuthly urges, but to no avail, as you made a promise to find Charlotte May, no matter the costs.
The narrative isn’t completely original. The trope of a community not being as innocent as it seems is prevalent in many detective stories. The central standout between this mystery and others is you play as a man in a wheelchair, giving you a different perspective as a protagonist. It’s not often you get to play as someone with a physical disability, so this was a refreshing way to approach the story.
White Paper Games has done a fairly respectable job of navigating an environment as a character in a wheelchair, with some areas being harder to get to than others. Luckily, there are ramps, lifts, and elevators in reasonable locations, so much of the environmental setup is well-thought-out for Robert. Though from a technical standpoint, maneuvering around isn’t perfect. I’ve had plenty of moments where I was stuck behind objects or felt glued to a wall, so maneuverability can be stiff.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You go around spying on your neighbors, checking their houses for any incriminating evidence, interrogating them, and connecting the pieces together on your evidence board. As you explore the different houses, you must solve puzzles to find the clues you need. Though some puzzles are quite fun and engaging, most just require you to find a key, lock-pick, or code to move forward. In a sense, some interactions become repetitive, and any excitement dissipates quickly.
Despite that, Conway shines in its presentation, as there is an immense amount of detail put into the environments and characters. Everyone has their own distinct appearance, and the community of Dahlia View feels big for being so small. Each house or flat has a comprehensive feeling to it, showing that the devs didn’t take any shortcuts for layouts and spatial arrangement.
To add flair to the presentation is the theatrical cinematography woven into the game. Whether it’s a cut-scene or you making your way to another area, there are plenty of fixed camera angles guiding you through the narrative. Luckily, each area has numerous angles dependent on your exact location, so it is constantly changing. That being said, some perspectives are awkward, and you may have to shimmy yourself around to avoid being stuck behind something.
Despite the shine of the presentation, the narrative is strikingly dull. Much of how the story unfolds is predictable from beginning to end. The pacing is slow and drawn-out, especially since you expect what will happen next. A unique narrative isn’t required to make for a good story, but much of what plays out in Conway is like your typical “whodunit.”
Some of the actions and motivations for Robert just seemed a bit too forced as well. I understood he wanted to find the missing girl, but the lengths he went through seemed so odd to me. Pride continued to get the best of him, as ample opportunities existed for police support, but he kept thinking he could handle it alone. Other actions made me scratch my head. I couldn’t help but feel awkward and uncomfortable spying on an elderly woman from my window with a pair of binoculars. Many conveniences happen for the plot to move forward, making the progression of the story feel unnatural.
I’ll give props to the characters and their casting. There’s a range of personalities here, providing hints of flavor throughout the story. Each voice actor does a great job in portraying the emotions of fear, denial, and apathy. It’s a shame the dialogue isn’t as strong; otherwise, it would make for a more compelling story. Unfortunately, any positive qualities present within sound design stop with the voice acting.
This becomes my biggest gripe of the entire experience–it seems sound design was severely overlooked. The voice volume doesn’t seem to have been mixed well, as some lines are louder than others by a significant margin. Outside of voice, there’s not much I can say regarding music. Because there’s barely any music. If you’re creepily spying on your neighbors or breaking and entering their house, there’s no backdrop. You’ll have sound effects, but that’s it.
The lack of music really took me out of the experience. I would be exploring giant houses in search of evidence, all in silence. It didn’t take long for me to start falling asleep in these portions of the game. If I ever did hear music, it was mainly during critical moments of the narrative. If the pacing of the narrative is slow, having no ambiance adds to the detriment of the experience.
As you search for Charlotte May, you start to learn what kind of neighborhood Dahlia View really is. There are hidden truths lying everywhere in this community. Unfortunately, despite a proven premise, a pretty presentation, and a promising protagonist, there was no substance to fully immerse me in the narrative of Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View. The plot was predictable, the slow pacing was punishing, and the lack of music made it difficult to trudge through.
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