During this period of “shelter-in-place,” the only thing better than a diversion from the news feed is a diversion that captures and sympathizes with the feelings we all share. Feelings of fear and uncertainty, of being trapped, of being alone. Fire in Adlerstein, the first case in the Detective Stories series by IDVENTEURE, does this and more. In its introduction, we meet Carl Notebeck, our guide into this maze of puzzles and clues, and learn of his scary predicament. But as suggested by the game’s subtitle—A
Unique Detection Game—the entertainment to follow is hours of sleuthing fun.
Notebeck’s story is a clever set-up that adds to the immersive atmosphere of the mystery set in the eponymous (and fictional) German town of Adlerstein. His introductory note informs us that, after witnessing and photographing a fire at a suburban home, he began a private investigation into the case. (He is a journalist, we learn, with a passion for justice.) The fire he paused to photograph, however, resulted in the death of the home’s occupant, Joseph Bremer, and was deemed possible foul play by the
authorities. And Notebeck’s snooping around has a terrible cost: suspiciously tied to the crime, he is arrested and charged. Without our help, Notebeck will be punished for a crime he didn’t commit.
Conveniently for us, Notebeck has amassed a trove of evidence to help us piece together the mystery. In his casebook, we discover photographs of suspects, printouts of airline bookings, text exchanges, personal letters, and so much more. Notebeck’s investigation, the material he has collected, narrows our scope to six key suspects, all of them with connections to the deceased, Joseph Bremer. By studying the evidence—which also includes a contemporaneous newspaper and Notebeck’s own scribblings—we begin to unravel the tangle of relationships and motives that may have led one or another of our six suspects to have sought vengeance against Bremer.
Gambling debts loom. Extramarital affairs arise. The classic motives for murder are there—greed, jealousy, lust. But could Bremer have met his end due to pettier grudges?
The gamut of suspects runs from a cantankerous neighbour to a jilted wife, a betrayed and once-loyal driver to a gang of thugs. Remarkably, each of the suspects leaves a mark through the trail of paperwork—not just where they’ve been but a sense of their personality. Managing to evoke a cast through receipts and security stills is no small feat, and indicates that the team of designers became so intimate with their characters and their entanglements that the subtlety necessary for detection could be achieved.
The verdict is that a satisfying level of immersion and complexity is achieved. Ciphers and red herrings ensure that more than a distracted hour will be required to solve this mystery; and online content plus the aforementioned veracity of character motives means that the world you descend into has a certain depth you’ll want to linger in. But perhaps more importantly, the puzzle you are tasked with solving has an elegant and attainable endpoint. And despite the inevitable head-scratching along the way, an online portal will allow you to plug in the name of the guilty party for an immediate answer to the puzzle—should you have managed, amid your detection, to have uncovered the password .
All in all, Adlerstein provides the perfect solace for these times. Imagining ourselves locked away like Carl Notebeck isn’t so hard as it might have been some weeks ago, and yet even with all the uncertainty out there we can take comfort that, for most of us, our troubles aren’t as terrible as his. That this, at least, is just a game.
A media copy of A Fire in Adlerstein was provided for this article.