#9  Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View

#9 Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View

November 3, 2021 0 By Owly

The studio behind today’s promotion made one of my all-time favourite games – The Occupation. I have been looking forward to their new release for a long time, but before we get to Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, let’s take a look at White Paper Games’ journey so far.

A White Paper game respects your time, values your input & questions your understanding through the power of player-driven storytelling.

We’re a small, independent studio based in Manchester, UK with a goal to deliver compelling narratives that leave you with lingering thoughts long after you’ve left our worlds.

White Paper Games was founded in 2011. They quickly got to work on their first release with a budding team of six. For three years, they developed and self-published their first title – Ether One. Their debut was met with strong critical acclaim, thanks to incredible support from Epic Games and Sony Playstation.

Ether One is a first person adventure that deals with the fragility of the human mind. There are two paths in the world you can choose from. At its core is a story exploration path free from puzzles where you can unfold the story at your own pace.

Ether One was nominated for a Develop award for ‘Use of Narrative’ and became a finalist at Indiecade 2014. This would surely give any fledgling studio confidence from their early ambitions. White Paper Games capitalised on this momentum and began work on their second outing. Four years later, in March 2019, The Occupation was released.

The Occupation is a fixed-time, investigative thriller set in North West England on Saturday 24th October, 1987.

I adore The Occupation, it’s brilliant. You play as a journalist seeking to uncover an important truth. The game plays out in real time, so a minute in the game is a real-world minute. You will have to sneak through restricted areas, question characters, and engage in a series of interviews – these are made by appointment, so keep on eye on the time as you don’t want to be late! You are playing against the clock and time waits for no one. The Occupation is a very tense experience and one I highly recommend.

It could be argued that The Occupation was a little too ambitious, as the scale of the project resulted in a lot of stress for the team at White Paper Games, forcing a refocus before they could move on. Having said that, The Occupation earned positive reviews and some impressive accolades.

In their own words. “with a better understanding of the game development pipeline, with more emphasis placed on team culture, we were able to build a strong foundation in which to execute our next game title. We formed new pipelines and processes to create stability, whilst avoiding the impulse to create unnecessary rules which provided our team with the same autonomy and creative freedom from our early years. Our goal was to place emphasis upon hiring and continuous learning within the team to ensure we deliver the best titles to our players whilst retaining team members for the long term.”

That brings us to Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View. I’m very excited for this. So, let’s play!

When 8-year-old Charlotte May is reported missing from Dahlia View, retired detective Robert Conway launches his own investigation into her disappearance. Lead the investigation and uncover dark secrets in a story-driven observational thriller from the creators of The Occupation and Ether One.

My favourite film is Rear Window. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The film centered around a photographer who had broken his leg, subsequently becoming bound to a wheelchair. He passed the time recovering by spying on his neighbours, ultimately reaching the conclusion that one of them had committed a serious crime – murder. Hitchcock was the master of suspense and Rear Window is, in my view, a perfect thriller. The film was released in the mid-fifties, when Hitchcock was hitting his best, and I mention it now because when I saw the trailer for Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, the similarities to Rear Window made me nothing short of giddy.

The opening of Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is deeply sinister. It’s Christmas eve 1940 and a hooded figure approaches a locked front door. It’s quiet but for the soft crunch of fresh snow underfoot. The lock is picked with ease and the hooded figure slips inside, making their way upstairs and into someone’s bedroom. The game immediately had my attention.

We then jump to 1954 – the year Rear Window came out – and we take control of Robert Conway, a retired private investigator. You awake to a noise from outside, but before you can inspect the commotion, you reach for your wheelchair. Once at your window, with your trusty camera in hand, you take the first steps into solving the disappearance of Charlotte May.

The game has been released on console and pc. I played on my laptop, running everything on very high with my MSI GF65, with an i7 and an RTX 3060. The game ran beautifully, and visuals aside, I only came across a couple of minor bugs. At one point I was in a bathroom and there was no prompt to leave, until I rebooted the game. On another occasion, I loaded my save file and discovered I had developed the power of invisibility. Another quick reboot fixed that. These bugs won’t survive long and they took nothing away from the game.

There is full controller support for this title, but I used my mouse and keyboard. You control Conway with the WASD keys and when interacting with different areas, you use your mouse, much like a point-and-click adventure. I found the movement controls a little clunky but quickly appreciated that I’m in a wheelchair so that stands to reason. I actually think this was designed to be and I grew to like having to be extra careful when sneaking around. Early on in the game, I’d sometimes spin my chair like a right royal plum and I’d knock a table, only for everything on it to wobble. There would be a terrified moment of waiting to see if I had just clumsily given myself away – I may have been trespassing at the time.

Conway is trying to track down a dangerous criminal, so putting him in a wheelchair and therefore at a considerable disadvantage, really added to the tension that was already being layered. On top of that, Conway is no spring chicken. Speed and strength are out the window. You need to be smart – that is the key.

Once you are aware of what has unfolded at Dahlia View, you get to work speaking with each neighbour, in turn building profiles on everyone who could have been involved. One by one you’ll investigate each suspect, even though your daughter, who is an active police officer working the case, has made it very clear that you step aside. This was a great dynamic to include and watch unfold.

When investigating, the structure is always the same and begins with you spying on your neighbour from your window, following them with your camera and photographing suspicious behaviour. This never got old, it is a highlight of the entire experience. When you’re ready, you’ll approach said neighbour with caution and lend a sympathetic ear. That is until their backs are turned, at which point you’ll rifle through every possession they’ve ever laid eyes on. Looking for clues was glorious fun. You’ll keep taking pictures, you’ll decipher codes and puzzles, and you’ll build up your inventory. Picking locks was a real favourite of mine. Nothing was ever that difficult to work out and I appreciated that because thrillers are about building momentum instead of constant stalls.

After each encounter, you’ll compile your evidence at home, processing your theories and adjusting your prediction if needed. Slowly but surely your evidence board will take shape. There are four areas to investigate and they incrementally get more impressive. I beat the game in under six hours but there are stamps to collect along the way and fourteen achievements to unlock on Steam. You’re probably looking at around ten hours to 100% this.

The conclusion, which of course I won’t spoil, was very satisfying. A good thriller keeps you guessing for the duration, which I did, only to have the rug pulled out from me at the end. For most thrillers, it is the build-up that is more enjoyable than the payoff, but Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View rounds its story off well.

Sometimes you just know a game is going to hit the mark. As previously mentioned, I adored The Occupation and I just knew this was going to be a step up from that. Inspired by my favourite film, which they homage with aplomb, Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is a fantastic experience and one I highly recommend. White Paper Games are quickly becoming one of my favourite studios and I can’t wait for what they have planned next.

Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is out now on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox One X/S, Steam, Epic and GOG.

Website – Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View (dahlia-game.com)
Steam – Save 10% on Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View on Steam (steampowered.com)
Twitter – @WhitePaperGames