The 25th Ward: The Silver Case – Review
Follow Genre: Visual Novel Adventure
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: NIS America inc.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Tested on: PS4

The 25th Ward: The Silver Case – Review

Site Score
4.5
Good: original experimental story telling
Bad: Losing itself in trying to be something it's not. Overall little effort to make it communicating or attractive.
User Score
1.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 1.5/10 (2 votes cast)

The Silver Case, a game originally developed in 1999, got a sequel for mobile phones that was released in 2005. This sequel was called The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. It is a visual novel with interaction developed by Grasshopper Manufacture. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case on PS4 and PC is the complete remake of The original mobile 25th Ward: Silver Case, with new graphics and everything, because the developer felt the original features the mobile game had wouldn’t work out anymore. The mobile version and the remake don’t look much alike anymore, but some basic comparisons still show, including the weird absence of well, anything a normal game would have. 

25th ward banner logo

Story

In The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, basically everything is about the story. It’s a visual novel first, and a game second. Its weird narrative is split up into three different points of view. A bunch of crime scene cops, two special agents and a reporter with amnesia. It’s not helping, especially at the start, that the game doesn’t really communicate well which party you are following at the start. On top of that, they all have Japanese names that are easy to forget. It’s pure chaos that might be too much, even for Goichi Suda (Suda51), who writes a bunch of these weird stories and directs video games like them. It’s a special type of product that, together with this visual novel style, really only is nice for a certain type of people. The most of these people will be fans from previous works.

Previously, 24 wards (districts) had been built, promising a bright future for people to live organized and happy. The 25th ward is supposedly an improvement on this concept, trying hard to keep the dream of a perfect Utopia alive. However, a series of seemingly random suicides and murders threatens to throw the already more dystopic environment to the ground, promising a collision effect if there’s nothing done about it. This is where the player steps in from different points of view and ”plays” the game.

25th Ward The Silver Case 2

Graphics

Even though the game got a total remake to make it more appealing to people playing on PS4 and PC, it actually still feels like it’s a game more suitable for a phone. Its 3D models and buildings look flat, which is only partially the fault of the dystopian fake utopia that’s called the 25th ward. It’s not impressing, it’s not up-to-date. The best graphical elements are the many images that accompany the text and poor animations. Especially the horror ones look pretty gruesome and cool, which they probably set out to be.

Most of the original game series became known for its weird interface, like opening three different windows on your desktop PC that are still somehow connected. One with an image, another with text, maybe a third one with a different image and point of view or a moving animation telling you what activity is keeping a person busy. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s used so little. Mostly it feels like somebody picked up a manga which he cut every image out of, scanned them in separately, and shows us one at a time while he tells what’s going on. And even then, it’s not really fast-paced. It actually takes some time to read or click through conversations when you are a pretty fast reader due to text and windowpane animations. The game just holds you back like that, forbidding you from going too fast.

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Sound

Let’s say it straight, like it is, like this entire review. The soundtrack is mostly annoying. There is some new age jazzy stuff going on, which feels like it was intended to be somewhat of a noir detective track but doesn’t really do the trick. Some other tracks are a bit more mysterious and rather fitting, but since it’s all the sound going on in the game besides some weird 90’s noises and typing beeps when text is appearing, the soundtrack is damned important and yet failing its purpose of creating the correct environment for reading this much. Like the graphics and the gameplay, a lot could have been done better without letting the game lose its edgy sides.

Gameplay

The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is a visual novel adventure, meaning you follow a, in this case, complex but linear story from A to B. If you are one of the persons who complain that the Telltale games such as the Walking Dead are not games cause there is ”too much story” in them, games like The Silver Case are not for you. By far. It’s arguable that you have such little influence in the game’s story and there is so much to read, that this game truly is way closer to a slightly interactive book than it is in anyway close to a game with a story. The only positive sides are some intense moments, plot twists or funny moments, but this is far from enough.

25th Ward The Silver Case 1

You are allowed to choose something that pops up every now and then or to fill in numbers like passcodes you previously needed to pay attention to, but it’s so limited. If you need to walk somewhere, you will mostly walk there in a straight line to read some more text and watch some more (poorly) animated 3D environments. This could all be overlooked if the story was even slightly accessible and didn’t try to be so damned edgy and surreal all the time that it leaves most players in a state of pure confusion. Sure, you can be that person telling everybody else they simply don’t understand the depth of the game and all the meaning inside, but it’s pretty much the same as with abstract art. And as soon as you want to commercialize art, it needs to be communicative towards (a large part of) the masses.

The Silver Case simply isn’t much of a game due to the lack of, the word says it all, gameplay. It has plenty of opportunities to create parts filled with action like the quick time events we used to get to know since Resident Evil 4, but it doesn’t. Instead, it gives you the task to read its pseudo-intellectual text floods until you are allowed to move through the path that’s already set out for you.

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Conclusion

Even though The Silver Case became somewhat of a cult classic, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case really doesn’t hold up for anything if you are not a fan of Suda51’s work. Even if you are, the 25th ward might have taken it to a level that’s so complex and surreal that it doesn’t really have anything of a stable narrative left at all. At least, not in this art form. Some good cinematics would have helped, but even graphically there is not much to be discovered due to the low-grade 3D environments and visual novel still images. Overall: A complex read with little to do, it might be fun for a select few. In every simple aspect, the game falls short. There could have been more effort to create something truly new or amazing, but alas, everything feels half-arsed. It’s like by trying to be overly special and edgy, the game fails to reach its goals of communicating what it wants to be. A dark unique story which calls out to be read.

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Rating: 1.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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The 25th Ward: The Silver Case - Review, 1.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Pim Hoogeveen
Pim Hoogeveen


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