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Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Don't be fooled by the live actors, Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure is a compelling adventure game with a credible cast and twisted story. Developer/director Tim Foltin has created an experience so seamless that it makes a strong argument for the value of full-motion video. Rating: 78%
Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure
Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure
  • Review Score:

  • B+
When Sega and NEC wanted to sell gamers on CD technology, they both turned to the same 19th century sleuth -- Sherlock Holmes. Using the expanded storage to present full-motion videos, The Consulting Detective was a pack-in game intended to wow console owners used to side-scrolling platformers using tiny pixels. But gamers weren't impressed with Sherlock Holmes' grainy visuals, out-of-sync audio and unacceptable load times. This game, along with dozens of other ill-conceived offerings from Digital Pictures, soured an entire generation on full-motion video games.

Here we are a quarter century later and it finally feels like this unfairly-maligned visual technique is beginning to make a comeback. We see it popping up in the upcoming Need for Speed and Guitar Hero reboots, as well as the critically-acclaimed indie, Her Story. And after playing through Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure, I'm convinced that if this game had shipped with the Sega CD instead of Sherlock Holmes, we would have spent the last two decades celebrating full-motion video.

You play Inspector Jenks, a good-natured detective investigating the death of a young student in the peaceful village of Edenton. This tiny community barely has more than one street, and the only two options for entertainment are the neighborhood pub and the working phone booth. There's also the massive Atlas campus, which is either a reputable training facility or a demonic cult.

The town is littered with potential suspects, each with their own reasons to lie. We're introduced to Simon and Emma, two lovers with separate histories dealing with Atlas. Rebecca runs the local pub and seems to know a thing or two about illicit drugs. Speaking of which, James has a green thumb that could get him into legal trouble if he's not careful. And we can't forget about Paul and Ryan Rand, the millionaire father-son team behind Atlas.

Like any good murder mystery, Jenks will need to interrogate all of the key players and collect evidence. This means scouring every inch of Edenton and interviewing the suspects over and over and over. Contradiction is the kind of game where one new piece of information will send you scrambling to talk to everybody in town.

To the game's credit, there's more going on than I'm letting on. A big part of Contradiction is catching somebody in a lie. The game makes it easy by keeping notes for you, allowing the player to pick two statements that contradict each other. This is easy enough at the beginning, but soon you will have amassed a mountain of notes from dozens of conversations. And just for added pressure, Jenks only has a few hours to crack this case.

Contradiction (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Believe it or not, this is one of the things that sucked me into Contradiction. I'm a sucker for games that take place over the course of a single harrowing night, and director Tim Foltin gets it right. We see the townspeople get increasingly frustrated with the questions as they do their best to enjoy their evening. Jenks goes on an emotional roller coaster ride as he sails through every murder mystery cliche without missing a beat.

As the full title suggests, Contradiction uses nothing but full-motion video to tell its twisted tale. I'm one of those people who bought a Sega CD at launch, so I went into this mystery especially dubious that the cast could pull it off. And wouldn't you know it, this game impressed me from the very first frame. This isn't slow and cumbersome, but rather a fast and seamless experience that is the polar opposite of Sherlock Holmes: The Consulting Detective.

The developers were smart about the user interface, and Contradiction is easily the most intuitive full-motion video game I've ever played. All movement is mapped to the keyboard's arrow keys, which means there are only four directions you can go at any one time. The directions will pop up seconds before the new screen loads in, allowing speedy players to effortlessly zip through familiar terrain. And since everything takes place in a relatively small area, it won't take long to memorize the directions you'll need to press.

Tim Foltin has done an incredible job linking the different locations with cinematic transitions. You don't just see the next screen pop up; Jenks walks into frame selling the illusion. It's all in the small touches, like seeing the same houses and buildings from different perspectives depending on the direction he's walking. The footage also changes as the sun begins to set and Jenks fights against the clock.

Contradiction (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Part of the reason it works so well is because the cast really sells their performances. Inspector Jenks is always expressive, and I clapped my hands in glee every time he retorted with a skeptical "oooooooooh really?" The supporting players are also great, especially when it comes to their subtle tells. Even when the villains chew the scenery, it never falls into hammy territory. Everybody is giving it their all, and there came a point where I completely forgot I was playing a video game and was convinced that this was BBC's newest cop procedural.

Despite all the best efforts to bring this style of adventure game into the 21st century, Contradiction does suffer from a few familiar problems. As much as they've done to improve getting around, it can still be a pain walking from the Atlas campus back into town. This is especially frustrating with only one working telephone. It's baffling that Jenks doesn't come with his own cell phone.

Some of the puzzles and contradictions can be a bit obtuse at times. There are certainly enough puzzles to make you feel like a crime-fighting superstar, but some of the solutions are too vague for their own good. Thankfully the game gives players a number of ways to get help, including calling the police chief and straight up cheating to unlock the answer. The game does a good job of getting players unstuck, but not all of the graphic adventure logic holds up to scrutiny.

Contradiction (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The story itself is gripping and full of twists, but I wish it would have gone a little further. I was set to reserve a space on my Game of the Year list after playing the first half, only to realize that the pace tapers off a bit in the second half. It's also frustrating how many breaks come from pure luck. If it wasn't for several people clumsily dropping vital evidence, Jenks would never be able to solve the case.

Aside from a few minor gripes, I was shocked by the quality of Contradiction: The All-Video Murder Mystery Adventure. The acting is credible, the characters are memorable and the mystery is worth solving. Best of all, it makes a strong argument for the value of full-motion video.
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