There's nothing particularly subtle about the first case in The Spider of Lanka: you're greeted with a literal pile of dead bodies. A half-dozen men lie dead in a gaming parlor, all seemingly killed by different weapons while playing cards in what must be the bloodiest ragequit in history.
And a big, gruesome murderpile is just what I'm looking for in the first DLC for The Case of the Golden Idol, 2022's best detective game. If you haven't played it yet, I insist you do so: it's inventive, extremely satisfying, and has a fascinating story of violence and greed running through its dozen or so murder cases, all centered around that mysterious and powerful idol. If you love playing detective, this is the game for you.
The Spider of Lanka adds three more murders to that original dozen, and excitingly the DLC functions as a prequel, taking place the year before the grisly events of Golden Idol unfold. That means you'll spot a few familiar characters and learn how that original chain of horrifying murders began.
Back to the card room filled with bloodied bodies and deadly weapons. Once again, the first step is identifying everyone in the scene, and learning all their names is tricky as only one has an actual ID on them. The rest of the identities you'll need to discover by carefully examining clues, going through people's pockets, and peering at everything in the card room. Once you've sorted out who everyone is, the real fun begins: you'll need to figure out who killed who and in what order.
It's a grim delight, putting the bodies in chronological order of their demise. Well, this guy was probably stabbed by that guy, but who bludgeoned him? This other guy? But he's got a harpoon sticking out of him, so he must have done his bludgeoning before he died, which means the harpoon-thrower was still alive at that point…
It's like putting together a Rube Goldberg machine of death as you tidy up the bloodbath and get to the bottom of the beef, one weapon and body at a time. Naturally it's not just a simple case of random violence: In this game there's always someone behind the scenes pulling the strings.
As a bonus, the optional objective is to figure out how the card game they were playing actually works, a sweet final puzzle before moving on to the next case.
In contrast to that big pile of bodies, in the second case (which I haven't finished yet) it took me a while to even find the victim. It's a big, sprawling case, spanning multiple rooms on multiple levels, packed with interesting characters to scrutinize, codes to decipher, books and maps and scrolls to examine, and scores of blanks to fill in before you can solve it.
Not only do you need to figure out everyone's names but understand what they do—who is the spymaster? Who is part of the delegation? Who has been killed, how did it happen, and most importantly: why? So far I've only pieced together a bit of it, and as eager as I am to get to the third case, I can tell it's going to take a while. Excellent.
The Case of The Golden Idol is great, and what I've played of The Spider of Lanka is too. Hey, I have an idea: you should play them both. Those murders aren't going to solve themselves.