Each mystery game takes its own approach to how a player might solve its riddles. In Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa, you're matching clues to statements to find contradictions, emulating a courtroom. Many have you investigate crime scenes, talking to eyewitnesses and uncovering clues right where everything went down. Or it's Return of the Obra Dinn, and you're literally rewinding time and using context clues to establish a nameless sailor's identity.
Lucifer Within Us is a new detective game out today on Steam, developed by Kitfox Games with The Shrouded Isle's Jongwoo Kim as creative director, that skips the courtroom formalities. As an exorcist of digital demons, your job is to help the Church of Ain Soph discover why murders are suddenly happening again after decades of peace, and who—or what—is behind them. And you do it all through a timeline.
In any mystery narrative, the timeline is absolutely crucial. Establishing a motive is one thing, but many cases also come down to a matter of opportunity. Who was out of sight, alone, and without alibi just long enough to commit murder? Lucifer Within Us thrives inside that quandary.
Playing as Ada, an exorcist of the Inquisition, your goal is to establish three key factors: means, motive, and opportunity. Who did it, when, how, and why? Across three distinct but secretly interlaced cases, you roam the crime scene and its surrounding area, while also interrogating the various suspected individuals.
Talking to those suspects adds to your timeline, which always sits just at the bottom of the screen. Each case has a fairly distinct frame of time in which murder could have occurred, and you can freely scrub through that like it's an Adobe Premiere file. As testimony goes on, general windows start to be established, and Ada starts to get a picture of when everyone was and where.
While it would've been interesting to have to suss out some of these details yourself, potentially laying out your own timeline rather than the game doing so for you, the conflict comes in identifying where these discrete boxes don't quite line up. Every character can be questioned or contradicted. Using physical evidence is an obvious method, but you can also dispute them using the statements of others.
Poking and prodding at the various testimonies is where a lot of the fun in Lucifer Within Us is. Despite there being only one true culprit, everyone is lying in their own way; they might be covering up their crimes, or trying to leave out details that might make an otherwise innocent person look suspicious. Finding the ways in which people contradict or refute each other, and then intuiting just how to press those weaknesses in their stories, is great.
Sometimes these differences are perfunctory; a character says they greeted another by themselves, when really their brother was also present. Other times, it can blow a hole open in a case. If one person saw another at a certain point in time, then you might question how that's possible when the latter said they were doing something else, or took a different route that would make that seemingly impossible.
Each small, boxed event on the timeline also denotes when an event is corroborated or not. If two characters independently confirm the same information, or even three, it's reasonable to assume it's close enough to the truth. Establishing a clean, corroborated, concrete sequence of events is rewarding in its own way, not unlike Return of the Obra Dinn. Thankfully, the game helps you along and provides those helpful hints to identify where testimonies are weak or in contrast with one another.
The game also notes when certain actions line up with a suspect's psych profile, which is crucial for establishing the less tangible of your three determining factors in finding a murderer: the motive. Every time you break a suspect's lies, a "third eye" of sorts opens up, allowing Ada to delve into their mind palace and elicit a piece of their subconscious. Sometimes these are simple emotions, like pride or fear. Other times they're a little more complex; narcissism, envy, religious fervor, or a single-minded devotion to a cause. Everyone has something that drives them, and even if it isn't what led them to murder, it might help you understand more about their actions and why someone might be lying.
Excavating those nuggets of psyche is key to determining what demon is possessing the subject. This is, after all, an exorcism. Lucifer Within Us is set in a technological future that still adheres to a religion, and the following of a god called Ain Soph. It believes that demons can exist within the data that flows between each citizen's mind, and they can prey on a person's innermost desires; belief can turn to pride, temptation to lust or gluttony, curiosity to envy.
Once you've determined the key factors and found your culprit, you get to hear their full side of the story. The timeline revises one final time, to show you just how it all happened, and hear why from the culprit's mouth. Then, you get the chance to dive into their mind's eye one more time and speak the name of the demon you think is plaguing them, based on their psychology.
It's not often a difficult aspect of the case to suss out, but it's a cool moment nonetheless. Yelling out "LUCIFER" or "BEELZEBUB" is fun, and these moments are where the foreshadowing and impending doom of each successive case is set up. The demons aren't just happy they've driven an Ain Soph worshipper to murder, but they seem to believe it won't be long until they're running rampant and free themselves.
The world of Lucifer Within Us is its own draw, too. Learning more about the mix of cybernetics and religion really drew me in, and by story's end, I was fascinated with the implications it held for the world at large. The church and its technology is not as pure or pristine as it appears to be, and discovering the demons infesting the digital space might uncover more truth about just what that digital space is doing to the world.
Which leads me to my only major qualm with Lucifer Within Us: the length. There are three cases in the game's story, and it took me a little over two hours to see them through. Only the first case feels "tutorialized" in any way; cases two and three, a chapel murder and a catastophic technical malfunction respectively, feel like fully fledged mysteries, though it doesn't take too long to piece them apart and solve them.
With the cliffhanger left at the end of the story, Lucifer Within Us certainly ends up feeling like the foundation of something more. The timeline tool is a genuinely engaging, fun way to visualize and solve mysteries, and I'm hopeful that it carries forward into more mysteries in the future. For some, that short engagement time might make the $20 price tag feel a little steep. But if you enjoy solving mysteries in new and intriguing ways, with a dash of the digital devil, Lucifer Within Us is the right kind of mystery to ring in the spooky season.