First things first.
The opening screen says that whilst a work of fiction, the game is
based on historical characters. Some googling identified that Di Renjie
(the Di in the title) was an official holding various offices during the
Tang and Zhu dynasties, the latter of which was established by empress
dowager Wu Zetian, a key protagonist in this offering. There may be
others but I stopped and got on with things, but I always like when
"real" people underpin adventures, even if the adventures
themselves are imaginary.
The Tang dynasty, in which the game starts, spanned the 7th to 10th
centuries in China, interrupted briefly by the short lived Zhou period
(more googling after the event). Detective Di is in Panglai to
investigate the murder of a Korean diplomat. While it serves as a
prologue to the events that unfold about a year later, it establishes
Di's credentials as an honourable and skilled investigator. It is on the
back of that success that he is appointed chief magistrate and is
summoned before the new Empress. Murder most grisly, perhaps politically
driven, is afoot, and the Empress is keen to uncover any possible
undermining of her rule. Di soon finds himself on the trail of a serial
killer, and the breadcrumbs keep coming.
There is a minimalism to much of the game, which all comes together
to produce a very satisfying whole. Visually it's at the more pixelly
end of this retro-style of games, yet various locations can be
elaborate, almost sumptuous, and little touches here and there add to
the overall aesthetic (for instance, check out Di's belt depending on
whether he is walking left or right). The sound palette does its bit as
well, music reflective of the Chinese setting occasionally giving way to
the sounds of the environment, maybe crickets or birds. Ambient sound is
just as sparse but equally as integral to what confronts you.
There is no spoken word, which is probably the only thing that was a
little disappointing. It would have been nice to have heard a Chinese
language, playing along with English subtitles, but it was a small
thing. Far more importantly, what is read is well written, meaning the
tale is well told, with a twist or two to keep Di on his toes.
The game is played in the third person, driven by Detective Di's
investigations and conversations. Asking questions is as important as
finding the necessary items, and while some characters require a fair
bit of questioning, it never seemed unnecessarily overdone. The bulk of
the puzzles are inventory based, and there are four or five logic
puzzles that are both thoughtful and contextual. As well, at various
times you will get to re-enact the particular crime, requiring
appropriate input from you at particular times. If you provide the wrong
information, Detective Di says something like "that doesn't seem
right, lets try again" and off you go. None of the puzzling is
hard, but I always felt like I was playing rather than just clicking
It is straightforward point and click, and its mechanics will be
familiar to most players. Sweep your mouse around the screen and
hotspots will be revealed. Left click will bring up an icon to look, and
possibly also one to use or take. Moving the mouse to the top of screen
brings up the inventory ribbon, in which the same icons are available
for each item. Examining items is important, for both clues and
triggers, and is where you read notes and other scraps of information
you might find. You can also combine items should that be necessary. An
icon bottom right of screen brings up your deduction board, which keeps
tracks of the evidence as you find it, and which when full triggers the
re-enactment for that crime.
You can't highlight hotspots, which produced a shortish pixel hunt or
two, but nothing too frustrating. Screens can scroll sideways and now
and then in other planes, and a shoe icon will indicate an exit from the
current screen. Exits can lead to a map, from which you choose your next
location, with new ones popping up as you trigger them through the game.
The escape key brings up the menu, from which you can tweak a few
settings. Save at will.
In short, and in conclusion, appealing all around.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz