Graham remarked the other day about how strange it can be to see which indie megahits spawn waves of homages and which ones don’t, noting that Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please has surprisingly few immitators. His post reminded me of Pope’s other hit, Return Of The Obra Dinn. The closest we’ve come to a “Dinn-like” is probably 2022’s outstanding The Case Of The Golden Idol, though as I said in my review, its fill-in-the-blanks murder tableaus felt just about distinct enough to be their own separate thing.
Happily, the “Golden Idol-like” appears to be having a bit of a moment of its own right now, as Playstack, the publishers of Golden Idol, have just announced the delightful-looking Little Problems, a detective game that turns its word-shuffling problem-solving to the altogether more relatable conundrums of everyday life. And I couldn’t be more here for it.
Alas, there’s no trailer for Little Problems just yet, but we can glean several clues about what you’ll be doing in it from a browse of its website. You’ll be playing as Mary, a college student who appears to be a bit haphazard, and whose cat Luca is an expert in getting into trouble. Like The Golden Idol, you’ll be collecting words from various documents and objects in Mary’s life, such as her phone and calendar and arranging them into sentences to work out whodunwot and why.
From the screenshot below, you can see Mary won’t be dealing with any grizzly murders or actual crimes, per se – unless you count a broken cup inside your own apartment as property vandalism of the highest order. But that’s precisely the point – the game is called Little Problems, after all. Indeed, Playstack say they hope its everyday setting and low-key good vibes will make it a good entry point into the genre, as well as a cosier alternative to The Golden Idol’s grandiose backstabbing puzzle plots.
The website’s comic book dev diary from solo developer Posh Cat Studios is well worth a read, too, as they explain how they arrived at the game’s theme and style. It sounds as though it’s been on quite the journey. At first, the dev tried to make “an investigative mystery game with a Lovecraftian horror vibe”, due to their love of both detective fiction and Lovecraft, but they “quickly realised that continuous exposure to crime and horror content for months, or even years, could be harmful to my mental health,” they wrote. “To counter this, I started playing cosy games and looking at cute pictures to escape all the blood and gore. Unlike violent content, the more I played wholesome games, the happier I became!”
Little Problems: A Cozy Detective Game launches later this year, and there’s a demo coming soon, Playstack tell me, so do keep an eye on its Steam page for more information. If it arrives in time for February’s Steam Next Fest, I’ll definitely be giving it a look.