A Case of Distrust

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
A Case of Distrust Game Poster Image
Stylish Jazz Age mystery with engaging story, heroine.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Affirmation of female independence, ability tampered by realistic representation of gender bias, inequality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Female protagonist navigates a politically skewed, morally bankrupt society.

Ease of Play

No way to lose; just choices to make. 


Talk of murder, brutality. Nothing shown. 


Talk of infidelity, mild sexual references. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Prohibition-era story revolves around alcohol, smoking, people with drug addiction.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Case of Distrust is a downloadable adventure game/interactive novel set in San Francisco during Prohibition. As such, its noir-style story revolves around alcohol consumption, boot-legging, smoking, gambling, drug use, and murder. But while the topics revolve around this content, none of it is shown in the game. The star of the narrative is a female private eye who encounters historically accurate sexism and racism. All the most difficult aspects are tempered by a lack of voice acting and by abstract, 2D graphics. 

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What's it about?

A CASE OF DISTRUST follows an unconventional woman at the dawn of unconventional women: America in the 1920s. Phyllis Cadence Malone blows off the homemaker career path to stake her claim in the male-dominated world of private detective work. When a known bootlegger hires her to find out who's trying to kill him, she's pulled into a complex web of deceit woven by dangerous gangsters, jealous wives, and sexist cops. Armed only with unbridled tenacity and the ability to throw back whiskey like the big boys, Malone interrogates suspects and gathers clues, eventually bringing the killer to his or her inevitable just desserts.

Is it any good?

This adventure game/interactive novel's simple graphics and creative gameplay are a stylish reminder of why indie developers are the future of games. Though set in 1920s San Francisco, A Case of Distrust might as well be set now. In our increasingly regressive political climate, it's extremely timely: Issues pertaining to women's rights and drug and alcohol use inform the narrative while adding a nice realism to the story. The writing is excellent. Slick, believable dialogue keeps things lively and differentiates characters shown only through silhouettes. The game aspect appears in the clue-gathering process: By talking to people, observing locations, and presenting evidence to suspects, you advance the story and come closer to finding the killer. Though not particularly difficult, the process does provide enough challenge to let you feel clever upon uncovering a new clue. A number of twists and turns keep you from guessing the killer's identity too quickly, and a tough choice at the end adds emotional weight to the endeavor. Granted, it's a bit short, at two to three hours, and its story could be too much (or too boring) for kids under 12. Still, its deft handling of racial and gender-related issues has the potential to teach kids something, and gamers who like a good noir-style mystery should be in heaven since it plays like a good noir reads: like a phantasmic joyride in a smoke-filled bumper car. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Prohibition, alcohol, and drugs. What was Prohibition? How does it relate to modern-day debates about the legalization of drugs?

  • Discuss the progression of women's rights. How have they changed since the 1920s? How are they still the same? 

  • Think about racial inequality in the United States. How has racism changed since the 1920s? How has it stayed the same? 

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $14.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Serenity Forge
  • Release date: March 8, 2018
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Topics: Adventures
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery

Themes & Topics

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