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Shadows of Doubt is a head-scratching wonder of an immersive sim

Sleuth fairy.

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You can't have a good detective game without a good mystery, and Shadows of Doubt has plenty of them. The biggest one rattling around my brain right now, though, is how is this possible? This is a work of staggering ambition and no small amount of artistry, presenting an evocative, fully-functioning cityscape for you to explore, complete with several intricate systems underpinning your sleuthing. I've played 20 minutes and I'm simply staggered.

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So what exactly is it? Allow me to do the lazy journalist scum bit with a quickly-dashed-together comparison - Shadows of Doubt is like Thief in a trenchcoat and with a ketamine hangover. Okay, let's put a bit more effort in - Shadows of Doubt is a first-person detective stealth game set in a procedurally-generated noirish city. The art-style is exquisite, a lo-grade pixellated affair that sits perfectly with the subject at hand. It's fuzzy and gritty - the perfect texture for a detective thriller.

The tutorial level doesn't reveal Shadows of Doubt's full hand, but it does give a tantalising glimpse of it. You start off in your own bed, crawling out then fumbling through a fog of amnesia as you slowly rediscover your own apartment. There's neat detail there, and a world that's convincingly grounded - instead of finding on-the-nose diary entries, here you'll just come across a tenancy agreement and a phone directory, the latter being put to use as you begin on the trail of a character whose case you're on.

Their own apartment is a handful of blocks away, and on the journey between the two you discover how convincing Shadows of Doubt's procedurally-generated streets are. People stick to their own schedules, and even on the way down from your room you'll see signs of a world that's alive and lived in - there's grubby wallpaper in apartment lobbies, where you can take dark stairways and brush against some of the city's citizens or catch a ratchety old lift. Outside there's a world of bars with broken neon signs, where inside you can quiz the bartenders or ask to see their records.

There's a real lived-in beauty to Shadows of Doubt's cities.

Back on the case as you try and infiltrate an apartment there's typical stealth trappings - air vents can be used to get easy access, while locks are there to be picked - while Shadows of Doubt also has its own little quirks. Each knock on the door will get a little louder and intimidating, while your own case board you can pull out at any time can have various items of evidence and points of interest pinned together in a complex lattice of your own design.

These are but slivers of the ideas being explored in Shadows of Doubt, and the current demo is but a small sketch that hints at what's finally going to be implemented - take a look at one of developer Cole Jeffries development videos and you'll have some idea of what's going to be possible. If Shadows of Doubt manages to achieve even half of what it's setting out to do it's going to be something very special indeed.

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