Shadows of Doubt Early Access Review: A Sly, Indie Detective Game 

Don't worry; I'm on the case.

Developed by ColePowered Games and published by Fireshine Games, Shadows of Doubt is a procedurally generated sandbox game where players assume a role of a private detective that investigates and solves cases for a price. With a 3D pixel aesthetic set in the backdrop of a dingy dystopian world, the game lets players make their own choices and solve crimes however they want. 

Why is it that indie game developers are the ones with all the new and innovative ideas? When I first loaded into the pixel-art detective game, I’ve got to admit; it threw me for a loop. While Shadows of Doubt features aspects of other murder-mystery/detective thrillers, the style in which way it does it completely differs from any other game I’ve played, and in a way that I think could be really great — if certain steps are made to improve the title from its early access state. 

The Artstyle May Take Time to Get Used To

If you’re the type to dismiss a game over graphics, you might want to pass on Shadows of Doubt. Even for someone like me, who has played a wide range of games since the SEGA Master System and never values graphics over gameplay, it took a little getting used to. Shadows of Doubt features a 3D pixel style reminiscent of a Windows 98 screensaver, but don’t let that fool you. 

Shadows of Doubt Review Screenshot

Clearly, the game’s developers, ColePowered Games, aimed for this aesthetic, and it was intentional. Though it is a very unique look, each character in the game world has randomly generated features, which will be important later when you have to identify culprits. The buildings and locations are randomly generated, too, creating unique businesses and sites for every world you load up. While it may throw you off at first, once you get used to it, you’ll still feel immersed in the world they’ve created.

The Fun is in the Challenge

The game opens with a wide-angle view of the procedurally generated city in which you’ll be playing. Set in the late twentieth century, your country has been taken over by the evil megacorp, STARCH KOLA, sea levels are rising, and cities are polluted. This is the setting where you’ll start and helps set the vibe for the universe where you’ll be conducting your investigations.

Players should 100% take advantage of the tutorial portion of the game unless they want to wander around and wonder what to do the entire time they play. The Sandbox mode is fun — but you’ll want to reserve that until you understand the main gameplay mechanics. 

If you do go through the tutorial, you get a nice set of pre-created missions that get you acclimated to the primary gameplay concepts. As you collect new evidence, it all goes on your case board, and you can draw connections and solve the case that way. Make sure you pay attention here because missing a simple concept can have you wasting a lot of time once you complete the tutorial portion. The tutorial isn’t easy, either.

You’ll need to avoid enemies, talk your way out of situations, and use good critical reasoning skills to even push past the first few missions.

If I said it was smooth sailing for me the first time around, I’d be lying, as I didn’t realize those camera-looking things in the corner were actually railguns. 

The Game Doesn’t Hold Your Hand

You’ll gather evidence, type notes in an actual notebook, and interrogate people who think you stink — literally (after scavaging through the trash for evidence). For some, this could be frustrating as you forget to type down that important note or have no choice but to rifle through pages of employee documents to discover someone’s name — but for others, these realistic gameplay mechanics and freedom to do what you want is really what makes the title shine. 

As much as the visuals lend themselves to something unreal — there’s a lot of reality in the gameplay, and the title expects you to do the right things without holding your hand. 

Sometimes, because of the procedurally generated nature of the investigations you take, you’ll literally be given a total of three clues — average height, brown hair, and glasses. Okay — I’m good, but not that good. 

However, those kinds of cases are fewer and far between. Most of the time, you’ll be given some pieces of foundational evidence you can build off — but how you solve the case really comes down to you. 

Case Board Shadows of Doubt
My case board got a little wild-looking eventually.

Whether you wait till it’s 2 in the morning and break into someone’s apartment or wait diligently in front of someone’s place of employment to snap a photo of them, it’s whatever you want to do. 

Eventually, you’ll be able to afford your own apartment and can deck it out with what actually surprised me as a pretty deep suite of apartment options. If you complete the game’s tutorial, a dingy apartment is actually provided for free — making your first playthrough a lot easier than having to grind for days. 

A Few Bugs

No, I’m not talking about the cockroaches that seem to be skittering about in virtually every dining location you’ll go to. Shadows of Doubt is in an early access state, even with its endless depth of content. I’ll also preface this section with the fact I was granted an even earlier access key — so some of these bugs may be remedied by the time the game hits EA on Steam.

One time, I spawned in the middle of the ocean as soon as I loaded a new world — sending me straight into the ER the second I got into the game. That was fun. Another time I chased a suspect and wanted to handcuff them, only for my handcuffs to magically turn into a camera. The perp must have been a witch or something. 

Bed Shadows of Doubt

One of the most painful parts of the game was when I got lost in a skyscraper’s ventilation shaft and couldn’t find my way down. It was like if John Mcclane from Die Hard got stuck in a Groundhog’s Day parody, and to say it “wasn’t fun” would be an understatement. While I’m on that note, vent crawling feels really disorienting at times since you can go directly straight up or down, and I found myself getting lost more often than not. 

And well, yeah — you get the picture. However, even with all this said, bugs included, there was enough there to continue to pique my interest and continue playing the game, then start a new campaign in Sandbox mode, so that’s saying a lot.

Final Verdict

If you’ve always wanted a sandbox L.A. Noire with 3D pixel graphics set in a dystopian future where megacorporations control the world — then get Shadows of Doubt. 

However, if you have no patience for games in development, you may want to hold off until the game releases in a final state. 

That being said, even with its bugs and roughness around the edges as a result of being an early-access indie release — there’s enough freedom and content within its procedurally generated walls to give you hours of fun playtime as long as you can get used to the game’s unique mechanics. This will for sure be a title I continue to investigate and explore as it approaches a final release.

Shadows of Doubt Early Access Review

Garrett Ettinger



Shadows of Doubt is a procedurally-generated 3D pixel-graphics game that tasks the players with solving investigations as a private eye. With unique gameplay mechanics and a high level of freedom, Shadows of Doubt is worth investigating for any murder mystery or detective thriller aficionado.


Shadows of Doubt is available on Steam.

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Reviewed on PC.