The 25th Ward: The Silver Case Review – Correctness (PS4)
Playing through the remake of Grasshopper Manufacture’s 1999 adventure game The Silver Case was quite the experience. It had a large cast of characters, a disjointed narrative that wasn’t afraid to skip around, and a story that didn’t really make sense until players played through both of the game’s two separate halves. Hell, even after I had fully read everything that the detective story had to offer, I wound up alternating between thinking I had understood it to being confused again. Very few games have left me thinking about what it meant, and what exactly I had experienced, months later, but The Silver Case was the exception.
Now Grasshopper has remade the game’s Japanese-only mobile phone sequel called The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. While it’s not a traditional sequel in any means (you won’t be continuing the adventures of Big Dick, the previous game’s protagonist), there are many characters and thematic consistencies that continue here. In fact, the game’s world would be downright baffling if you haven’t played The Silver Case.
Interestingly, the narrative of The 25th Ward is split into three separate stories that follow a crime unit trying to solver murders, an investigative journalist with amnesia, and two secret agents that are left to question if they’re doing the right thing, respectively. Each story has twists and turns that intertwine even if they tell very different stories, and the full picture of The 25th Ward only comes into view after all three have been seen.
That said, you’re probably not going to fully understand everything that happens. The 25th Ward might be Suda51’s strangest game to date. While the majority of the game is a straightforward visual novel, one chapter in particular plays out like a role-playing game where the player is up against a variety of assassins (one of whom is defeated by “getting horny,” so I’ll just let you imagine what that entails). There are a dozen other moments that are arguably weirder, and the core plot can often make little sense even if you’re taking extensive notes on the dozens of faces that appear. Characters from the first game will also randomly appear without much of an introduction, and it’s up to the player’s memory to connect the dots.
However, it’s simply missing the point to purely focus on whether or not The 25th Ward‘s narrative makes traditional sense. This a world that operates on ideas of “criminal power” (a force that builds up and causes otherwise normal people to commit murder), and one where players are constantly told not to accept what they see at face value. Once these themes are accepted, and The Silver Case is viewed as a vertical slice of another reality, there turns out to be so much more to unpack here.
Beyond getting a glimpse of a truly harrowing world that revolves around a corrupt government treating its people like test subjects, the highlight of The 25th Ward is its writing. Every character is wonderfully written from the coroner that can’t wait to talk your ear off about his collection of snuff films to the hardened Yakuza veteran that wants to make sure that others are eating their meals the proper way. Nearly every character is colored with unique traits, and it helps build a world that feels incredibly grounded despite the dystopian future it depicts.
Perhaps the craziest part of The 25th Ward is its ending sequence, which features 100 different endings for the player to choose from. These range from more serious scenarios (some of which that even tie-in to Suda’s other work) to one where the player writes the script for Wayne’s World 3. To say this is a Suda-ass Suda-51 game would be an understatement.
While its various eccentricities are largely charming, The 25th Ward definitely has some poor design and issues. These largely come from the actual gameplay, which has an incredibly annoying user interface shaped like a diamond. Everything from text entry (players will often have to enter passwords to solve the unenjoyable puzzles that plague the experience) to moving around the environment is more of a pain in the ass than it should be. I also lost two hours of gameplay due to crashing issues (and the lack of an auto-save), so players will have to endure some shortcoming to enjoy an otherwise fascinating narrative.
If you’re strictly concerned with comprehending a story then you can probably skip The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. However, if you’re down to take some glimpses into a strange world that doesn’t operate under the same rules as our own then you’ll be treated to some of the sharpest dialogue and scenes seen in any game. I may not understand everything about The 25th Ward, but that’s by design. After all, sometimes it’s important to quit worrying about the minutia, and take time to appreciate the bigger picture.
The 25th Ward The Silver Case review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.