Solve a Literary Mystery in ‘Sarawak’

Mia Green isn’t having a good day. She’s on a trip with mother to Oxford, and her morning has begun with a police officer questioning her about the death of a professor—and her mother is apparently being detained at the station. Surely there’s been some sort of mix-up, right?

This is the beginning of Sarawak, a literary mystery game from Cowleyfornia Studios, available today on Steam. You play as Mia, piecing together clues and solving puzzles to figure out who this Professor Samson was and how he died, and how your mother is connected to all of this.

Here’s a trailer video for the game:

The game plays out a bit like a text adventure game: you scroll down and read a mixture of narration and dialogue bubbles, and at certain points you’ll get to some bolded statements that you click to continue. Some (like the one pictured below) offer you multiple options to choose from, but other times it’s just a pausing point and you just click to continue the story.

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The illustrations remind me a little of cut-paper artwork, and while some are just there as decoration, there are also points in the game where you can interact with the images. Some of these are puzzles, though for the most part they’re not too complicated. For instance, in the image below, you have to figure out a puzzle gate to proceed.

I don’t want to spoil the story itself—it takes Mia to a variety of locations as she digs into Professor Samson’s past—but at times it does feel like Mia is oddly detached from the revelations that she discovers.

I was given early access to Sarawak, and enjoyed playing through it, though I found it mostly pretty easy, in part because the story typically progresses no matter which option you choose. You just get slightly different perspectives, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to “lose” the game. At most, you’ll get stuck on a puzzle where you can’t proceed until you complete it. The puzzles themselves aren’t too tricky, but there is a hint system if you get stuck. It took me a little over an hour to play through the game the first time.

There are some achievements to be earned, though, so you may play through it more than once just to see what happens when you select different responses or to collect the achievements. Overall, I think you should approach it more like a mystery story with a few interactive bits rather than a choose-your-own-adventure book where differing options can set you off on a totally different path.

Visit the Sarawak Steam page to purchase the game, or check out the Cowleyfornia Games website for more information.

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This post was last modified on January 27, 2021 9:48 pm

Jonathan H. Liu

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit. I can be reached at jonathan at geekdad dot com.

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