The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is a sequel to The Silver Case, which was released on PS4 back in 2017. The 25th Ward was originally developed by Suda51 via Grasshopper Manufacturer back in 2005 and was only released on certain phones on a certain network within Japan – thus making this an almost lost game… until now. NIS America has come to the rescue and not only breathed new life into this forgotten classic but also translated it for western audiences.
As a sequel, the game goes off on its own, with new characters and a new direction for the story – so knowledge of the previous game isn’t required but it is highly recommended as various people will pop up from the original game and it presumes you already know who they are. Don’t be put off by the looks though – think of The 25th Ward as a visual novel + point and click style game. Anyone who is a fan of Suda51, visual novels or old-school adventure games will most likely appreciate this game more and if you overlook it because it looks a bit messy/confusing, then you are missing out on one of the best adventure games of 2018 so far.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is based a few years after the events of The Silver Case. As mentioned above, this game is about 90% self-contained, the game has new characters and a new story with different cases than The Silver Case; however, every now and again someone will pop up from the previous game and will make a reference to something that happened previously without explanation. I’ve not played the original game and I still managed to get through The 25th Ward with no issues or confusion.
We have three story arcs to play through (which I’ll come to later) and during each one, we are introduced and put in control of members from the Heinous Crimes Unit whilst they are working on a case involving multiple murders from a single perp. The game starts off slow, with simple puzzles, lots of text and an introduction to the new characters, but not too long in and you will begin to see Suda51’s creative mind take effect with a few twists and surprises.
Most of the game will be played either as a visual novel-style where you can choose to talk to people, look around, or move to another location all whilst finding out more information on the current events. However, every now and again the game will introduce new mechanics and puzzles which may not occur again but add to the scene at hand. The humour is also very mature and crude at times, but again, it fits with the game and the style the game is going for – just something to be aware of if you’re against that sort of thing.
The story info above may be a bit vague and uninformative, but with this game, it’s very hard to write exactly what the game is about as it tackles many things. From a hair-swallowing fetish, which is discovered as a side-line to a murder and is overlooked as a common perversion (something we probably wouldn’t call it these days), to the Postal Service hiring hitmen to ‘adjust’ people who complain about their situation or events. There are many strange and wonderful things about this game and it just gets weirder the more you play and the deeper into the story you get. This is Suda51 at his most crazy, I would imagine!
One of the best features of the game revolves around the level select screen. You will be playing the game through three different perspectives – these are three story arcs that can be selected on the main menu and should technically be played as chapter one of each story, then chapter two, then chapter three… It isn’t mandatory to do this and you can play a story through entirely first, but each chapter references or is intertwined with the other chapters, a bit like the Danganronpa 3 anime if you have seen that. By choosing to play the game like this, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 1.2, 2.2, 3.2 etc.., you get to see how everything all comes together, how different people are involved and how various events fall into place. This is a cool mechanic and I love games that do this as it gives you multiple perspectives on the same events – The Raven did something similar as well.
Regarding the controls – This was one thing I felt let down the game a little at first until I got used to them. The most common game-mode is the Visual novel style, in this mode, you have a D&D style 8-sided die in the lower right-hand corner and each face has a command on it. The common commands are look, move and then talk (with each of the people present as their own face). Sounds simple enough, but it’s more confusing than hard to control as you don’t directly pick what you are looking at when you pick the option and you can’t progress to another screen until you have looked and talked to everyone. This can sometimes require you to look and talk multiple times to everyone in order to get the option to move – this is without any indication on what you have to do or who you have or haven’t talked too.
Another issue I had with this method of control is the majority of the time when you pick ‘Look’, your character would talk to one of the people there rather than actually looking. Doing this action would usually open up the pathway for you to talk to them more or move out, but still – it all gets a little confusing. I would have personally preferred it if the icons for each of the character faces or the look command had greyed out once all possible actions for that option had been done – at the moment, it’s like a free-for-all as you spam all of them until the “we are not done yet” message stops popping up when you try and move on.
The game features some puzzle, as I mentioned above, and some of them are pretty good. An example is the first one you encounter – you have a keycard to enter a hotel room, where a murder took place, but you don’t have the passcode. You must look in your inventory at the ID card in order to get the code (using the die visual style) and you are then presented with the keypad. In order to press the numbers, the die is replaced with a numerical die which you can spin in order to select the right numbers. This is a neat feature and I imagine it would have worked really well on the phone back in the day as well.
On top of the puzzles, you will have to engage with some ‘chatbots’ where you are ordered to read the text and reply accordingly in order to keep the conversations engaging. This is difficult as the translations over here may not have matched what they were looking for. It was hard to spot patterns and respond accordingly every time, thus resulting in some guesswork. There is also some fight sequences that weren’t the best I’ve seen…
Where The 25th Ward: The Silver Case really shines is in it’s audio and visual department! Visually, the game may not seem like much but the art style is so unique, dark and gritty. Everything works perfectly in tandem with the game as it offers a dark and creepy look within the strange, disturbing district. The game does a great job of visually enhancing all of the dialogue and perfectly gets the message across that the 25th ward isn’t a place you want to be. Some of the crime scenes are incredibly visual, gory and disturbing as well – even though they are only images, they still shocked me in some places!
In terms of the audio – we have both great and bad things to talk about here. Starting with the bad – as with most visual novels, the text makes a sound as it appears on the screen – kind of like someone typing on a mechanical keyboard – with their face. So you’ll be best to turn that audio down a little but leave the music at full blast as the music itself is awesome and I really wish I had got the soundtrack! The music really sets the scene with its eerie tone which really compliments the accompanied scenes. For me, what makes a game full immersed, scary, creepy, or sad is the music – If I watch Aerith die and drowned by Cloud in FF7 without any music then meh, who cares. Yet if I watch it with the music on then you can feel the tears starting to develop. The 25th Ward has the perfect music style in that it really builds up suspense and makes you anxious about what’s going to happen without ruining the surprise.
As a fan of Suda51 and a gamer in general, the fact we can play The 25th Ward: The Silver Case in English after all these years and the fact it’s been saved from digital hell makes me thankful and happy. The narrative of The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is both crazy and unique, offering you a lot to think about and probably a lot you won’t understand – yet the story really sticks with you after playing and keeps you thinking. True, the game does have some flaws and the controls aren’t as modernised as they could be, but once you are used to them and deep within the tri-layered story you really do begin to appreciate how crazy Suda51 can get. Recommended to those who like visual novels, Suda51 and old-school adventure games.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case£24.99
- - Unique and original story/dialogue
- - Great music which really sets the tone
- - The artwork is both fitting and slightly disturbing
- - The humour is pure Suda51 and crazy
- - The way the three stories are intertwined is great
- - The controls aren't the best with no indication on who you havn't talked to or why you can't move out
- - The sound of the text appearing is too overpowering (until you reduce it)
- - It is a little confusing in terms of the story
- - Playing the first game isn't recuired but I would highly recommend to get the most out of this title