Tangle Tower is a beautiful detective game that doesn’t take itself too seriously but manages to get you hooked from the very beginning.
The mystery of Freya Fellow’s murder is a tangled one. It lures you in with a weird premise and keeps you guessing the whole way. Walking the winding halls of Tangle Tower and talking to the characters who live there only intensify your curiosity. You just have to know what happened and why.
The Art of Murder
But the “whats” and the “whys” aren’t the most critical questions you need answers for. Playing as Detective Gilmore and his cynical partner Sally, you have to figure out the most essential part of any murder mystery: who. And that’s where things get tricky.
Your primary suspect, the one who was found standing over Freya’s body with a bloody knife, is an unfinished painting.
There’s something eerie about the thought of a painting committing murder, and Tangle Tower takes that feeling and runs with it. The delicate balance between the game’s child-like, innocent art style, and the creepy atmosphere really gets under your skin.
The soft, yet intense background music only strengthens the “something is very wrong here” vibe. It also stokes your curiosity and urges you to explore the beautiful rooms of the mansion and listen to all the colorful characters.
The Unusual Suspects
Detective Gilmore and his brilliant partner Sally have a unique charm to them. Still, the interactions between them and the rest of the cast are where the real magic happens. You can really feel the two know each other for a long time, and their playful, humoristic banter is easy to fall for.
Each of our nine suspects is very distinct in both appearance and personality. You can usually tell something about them just by looking at them, but they aren’t an open book. They each have their own motives to lie to you and react very differently when you expose their lies.
You do want to get to know them better, to the point you always come back to hear what they have to say. Every time I found an interesting item, I rushed to show it to my favorite personas just to listen to what they have to say. Luckily, you never get in trouble for “wasting your time” on pointless interrogations.
Unlike other, more punishing detective games, Tangle Tower lets you ask any character about any item without any penalty. Even when I knew that showing a particular object to someone would make them mad, I could still enjoy their reactions without hurting my investigation. The worst thing that can happen is that a character will ignore your question, but they were always willing to speak about other subjects.
To get your suspects to react to certain items and evidence, you first need to find them. Gathering items and clues can be as simple as clicking on them to pick them up. But gladly, not all of them are found so easily. Some hide behind moderately challenging puzzles, sophisticated enough to ensure you use your head, but won’t resort to any external help.
Most puzzles are sophisticated enough to ensure you use your head but aren’t very difficult to figure out, except for one. This particular puzzle really drew me in, rewarding me with the glorious “Ah-ha!” moment all detectives crave. Solving it, and others like it, was the main reason I enjoyed Tangle Tower as much as I did.
Once you solved a few puzzles and found enough items, evidence, and clues that tell you someone is lying to you – it’s time to confront them.
Pointing Out the Flaw
After collecting enough information, you can use it to confront the lying characters, a much-needed mechanic in a detective game. All you do is organize relevant items and a few key phrases together and hit the approval button. The first time I did that, I was somewhat disappointed.
Detective Gilmore reads out the sentence you created like his in an episode of Dora the Explorer. There’s a half a second break between each word, and the tone feels very robotic and disingenuous. I can only assume that recording all possibilities as complete sentences wasn’t really an option since there are so many possibilities. But it does ruin the game’s flow and sticks out in an otherwise flawless casual detective experience.
Even so, Tangle Tower is a remarkable detective game that combines beautiful art and music with a well-written story. The characters are all expertly voiced, and immerse you even deeper into this perplexing, slightly adorable murder mystery.
I smiled and laughed out loud multiple times, but also never stopped thinking and analyzing. It’s a great game with a tangled plot that you will have nothing but fun unraveling.
Developer: SFB Games
Publisher: SFB Games
Release Date: Oct. 22, 2019
Our Tangle Tower review copy was provided by the developer.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.