Mindcop is a non-linear detective game with time management elements, where you investigate the murder of a young woman in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
You play the titular Mindcop, a veteran detective with a unique ability – to surf his suspects’ brain waves.
Time and Punishment
I recently had a chance to play a short demo of Mindcop and then chat with the game’s sole developer Andre Gareis, aka Mindcop Games. The demo starts right at the beginning of the game when the titular Mindcop and his trusty-yet-aloof partner Linda arrive at the crime scene.
A young woman has been murdered in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and you have five days to solve it. In the full game, we’ll be free to move around the town, visit any house, question any character, and even arrest whomever you think is guilty.
In the demo, however, I was confined to one location and one witness.
At first, the game plays like a straightforward adventure title. You walk around, talk to characters, and interact with your environment. But Mindcop puts an interesting twist on things by using time as a resource.
Every action you do takes time. Examining a clue, questioning a witness, even opening the door to the next room cost you minutes. You need to be smart and choose your actions carefully. If you waste all your time examining red herrings, you might miss a vital clue.
And there are consequences to missing clues. You can end up with a bad ending if your five days are up, and you still don’t know who the killer is.
According to Gareis, Mindcop isn’t particularly punishing, though. You can revisit areas you think still hold crucial info, and you rarely find yourself locked up of a specific clue – as long as you have the time, you can keep going.
Surfing the Brainwaves
You have more than your detective skills to help you solve the case in time. After all, Mindcop isn’t called “Mindcop” for nothing.
When questioning a character, you have the option to “mindsurf” their memories. Choosing to do so triggers a minigame of sorts, where you buy Mindcop time to literally surf the person’s brainwaves on his way to the subconscious, as a clock counts down.
The minigame itself is quite simple, though Gareis promises it will get trickier as the game progresses. You spin a rectangular brain with different colors on each side and try to “catch” falling blocks of the same color. Or, you can get the color match wrong on purpose, and stack these blocks until you get three in a row for a higher score.
The mindsurfing minigame does feel a bit out of place, and I do hope we’ll get more of a challenge in the full game. Then again, the entire mindscape is a weird place.
Once you beat the puzzle, you are confronted with three doors – one shows you a Truth, one a Lie, and the middle on shows you an Uncertainty – either a truth or a lie. You visit all of them and discover more information that will help with your interrogation.
In the demo, I was questioning the first police officer on the crime scene. His Truth door showed me he puked when he first saw the murder victim, but then cleaned it up, erasing important evidence. But his Uncertainty door was way more interesting; it showed him confronting the murder in the woods, only for the culprit to suddenly morph into a giant blob of eyes and tentacles.
At first, I discorded the vision as another lie, but developer Andre Gareis pointed out that a person’s mindscape is subjective. The officer didn’t necessarily confront an actual monster – this might just be his brain’s representation of the killer.
Speaking of weird visuals, I really like Mindcop’s aesthetics. They are cute and kind of goofy – a stark contrast to the subject material. The game doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, with plenty of cynical humor you’d expect from a jaded, psychic police detective and his somewhat grumpy partner.