Title: This is the Zodiac Speaking
Developer: Punch Punk Games
Genre: Action/Adventure, Noir, Mystery, Horror
Available On: PlayStation 4, Steam Xbox One
Official Site: https://www.zodiac-speaking.com/
The Zodiac Killer was a prolific killer in the 1960s and 70s. Despite being active for very few years, they are well-known because of how they ‘operated,’ they escaped the notice of many. Delving into this kind of mystery doesn’t sound easy. But that’s what I got to experience in This is the Zodiac Speaking.
Watching an investigation about a serial killer is one thing. Being part of the story is an entirely different animal. I gave it a whirl, and my heart was pounding when I felt danger. While I knew I was truly safe playing the game, it didn’t help curb the intensity.
This is the Zodiac Speaking Gameplay
Like any mystery-solving title, the first task was collecting my journal. Where one title may have you rely on a crowbar, This is the Zodiac Speaking treats your journal that way. It is your most important tool. And is divided into six sections: Clues, Objectives, Diary, Items, Zodiac Facts, and Hints. Each time I picked up a clue, it would either update the Zodiac Facts, Diary, or Objectives. The diary recorded Hartnell’s thoughts and could be played by clicking on the speaker icon.
The interactive objects were picked up with the A button and rotated with the left thumbstick. I found that sometimes, I wouldn’t receive a clue until I examined the entire object. It proved to be frustrating at times. This was because some of the objects simply filled space. Yes, decorations are all well and good, but there was minimal context. One object was a ‘journalism trophy’ that gave me nothing when examined. Even something as insignificant as background on the award would have been appreciated. Why not tell me how he got it? Who was there with him? What article earned him that trophy?
Some of the objects provided nothing more than the background on the protagonist. Robert Hartnell, the game’s lead, is inspired by the real Hartnell. The background of the game, however, may have been embellished for entertainment’s sake. Having a background on someone who investigated the Zodiac was interesting. It drove me down a rabbit hole in both the game and research outside of the game.
The Hunters are The Hunted
This is the Zodiac Speaking gave players two options to play. One was a ‘serial killer’ mode and the other ‘investigation’ mode. The former, if not already obvious, involved the variable of the serial killer themselves. The latter mode has no ‘danger’ to speak of. I went, of course, with the first because why not?
Part of me did regret choosing a mode where I’d be chased. I had to simultaneously avoid the Zodiac Killer while investigating their crimes. It actually took dying a handful of times to really understand what I had to do. If the killer were close, suspenseful music would begin to play. And if he caught sight of you, this was indicated by a crescent shape representing their ‘vision cone.’ If it disappeared, it meant you were at least out of sight.
I was able to run, but my stamina was limited, which is why hiding and maintaining sight of them was important. Peak your head out at the wrong moment, and you’re dead.
The most direction a player got was from the journal. While it provided a great deal of insight, it was frustrating to rely on only that for direction. I spent a good hour or two looking for something I passed more than a few times. My frustration ebbed when I found the objects. But oftentimes, the objects I had to look for were spread far from each other. Finding some of the objects also didn’t seem to fit into the scenes they were a part of.
Also, Hartnell has the opportunity to carry a gun to one investigation. Whether or not you take it doesn’t matter in the slightest. The first time I played the level, I decided to take the gun. When I looked for it in my inventory, it was like I never touched it in the first place. When I left the gun the second time, I got the same result. The Zodiac Killer caught me, and that was it.
Final Verdict: This is the Zodiac Speaking is a title developed by Punch Punk Games. Inspired by real-life events, the game puts players on the path to gathering long-awaited answers. Those easily triggered by things they can’t control should steer clear of it. But if you love playing hide and seek with villains, you should definitely check it out. The game is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
- Graphics aren't demanding
- Suspenseful music
- Controls are simple
- No weapons makes the game scarier
- Killer does not lose stamina
- Certain objects do absolutely nothing
- Some objects may disappear when you pick them up