A mystery in full bloom
White Paper Games cracks open the case on Conway: Disappearance At Dahlia View
Charlotte May is missing. The eight-yearold girl’s disappearance engulfs Dahlia View and retired investigator Robert Conway can’t leave the mystery unsolved. The ex-gumshoe quickly finds himself caught between two promises: one to Charlotte May’s father, resolving to find the little girl, and one that becomes an even more personal family matter.
Robert’s daughter Catherine is at the beginning of her law enforcement career and working the disappearance case in an official capacity. In many ways she is a foil to her father, particularly in her by-the-book approach. Knowing her father worked as a private investigator, she makes him promise not to get involved. Almost immediately, he betrays his daughter’s trust. Regardless of how you tackle the central mystery, Robert will eventually have to face the consequences of breaking his promise.
The third game from White Paper Games fits neatly into the developer’s hand-crafted ‘Paperverse.’ You don’t need to have played 2015’s Ether One or 2019’s The Occupation before Conway but all three take place in the same universe. Set in 1950s England, Conway is the earliest entry in the timeline chronologically.
Audio-narrative director Nathaniel-Jorden Apostol tells us, “Dahlia View is a very small, contained world and we’ve gone with the idea that it’s a metre wide and a mile deep.”
The social fabric of Dahlia View presents a variety of threads to tug on, and allusions to other Paperverse games through artwork or family lineages serve to enrich that.
Apostol elaborates, “Worldbuilding is something that we absolutely love doing. Ether One was our first go at that and people praised us for the worldbuilding and the stories around the main story. When you’ve already built this entire world and then you move on to do a brand-new one, it kind of seems a shame to leave it.”
Studio co-founder and game designer Pete Bottomley tells us, “We like the idea of creating new IPs, new game worlds to explore, and we want to keep pushing ourselves. Hopefully, people that have played Ether One to The
Occupation to Conway, [will] see that evolution of a team growing.”
GETTING AWAY WITH IT
The game draws inspiration from sources beyond the Paperverse. Robert’s wheelchair use is lifted from Stephen King’s Misery, and the cinematic stylings of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as well as Prisoners contributed to the game’s vibe. The art style nods towards French animated film The Illusionist, and Bottomley says Hitchcock’s Vertigo offered inspiration. The apartment view central to Conway’s first reveal led many to draw a straight line to Rear Window as well.
Spying on your neighbours is only one phase of the investigation, and Robert doesn’t wait for his suspects to come to him. After spotting something suspect from his apartment, Robert can investigate further by either breaking in and sneaking around or persuading a fellow resident to let him in or share information.
Apostol observes, “If you set a game now, the answer to everything is ‘Google it [or] just phone them’. Forensics back [in the 1950s] was nothing compared to what it is now, so somebody could get away with a crime that no-one would have a chance to get away with now – somebody would have got their phone out and filmed it.”
You’ll then need to connect the dots in evidence review. There are plenty of optional threads to unspool, though you
Catherine, Conway’s daughter, makes him promise not to get involved in the case.
won’t miss the case’s core beats. “It’s not necessarily possible to miss conclusions but it is possible to get towards the end of a level with a slightly different take on characters,” Apostol says.
BLEAKER THAN FICTION
Spying on your neighbours is only one phase of Robert Conway’s investigation.
The team researched the ’50s setting extensively but ultimately found looking into real-life crimes too bleak.
Apostol explains, “I actually don’t think you need to use a real case for it to feel authentic. You just have to write a fear that is understandable by a lot of people.”
Having become a father at the end of work on The Occupation, Apostol reflects, “[Working on Conway] you’re thinking, ‘Well, the sound needs to do this, and the art needs to do that,’ and what have you […] It’s just all very functional. And then the second […] it starts to take shape, and you start to view it like an actual father or like just an actual person playing the game, you go, ‘Oh, God…’ and suddenly, that thing that was really functional to you hits somewhere inside you.”