In the mobile puzzle game Detective Mimo, the titular protagnoist is an anthropomorphic cat detective, sent to put a stop to the nefarious Cat Rogue’s crime spree at the Purrfect Bank. By solving a series of increasingly challenging challenges in the game’s point-and-click interface players get closer and closer to the bank’s vault, figuring out Cat Rogue’s true identity and motivation along the way. At least, that’s how the game starts. Before the game is over, Detective Mimo will have players practicing their command line coding skills, cracking open password-protected PowerPoint presentations, and deconstructing practically every playable element of the game to complete the narrative.

The First Round: A Point and Click Puzzle Adventure
Detective Mimo starts out as a relatively simple point-and-click adventure game, albeit one that leans heavily on puzzle tropes. At the Shrimp City police station, Mimo is briefed on her assignment, which doubles as a player tutorial on the game’s core mechanics. Clicking on certain objects of the game allows Mimo to interact with them: clicking on a computer monitor might prompt players to enter a password, while clicking on other objects might transfer them into the player’s inventory, where they can be used by dragging and dropping them onto other objects.

Early challenges in the game are structured around breaking through a series of locks. Find the key to unlock the drawer, then figure out the password to unlock the computer. Find the missing pieces to access the Purrfect Bank’s interior, and then peel back layer after layer of security before finally reaching the inner vault. Practically every lock works on different principles so the process stays fresh, but a comfortable formula is established. Along the way, Mimo will stumble across more narrative clues essential to solving the broader mystery, allowing a successful identification of the Cat Rogue. All the while, the game maintains a lighthearted, comedic tone. Security Guard Mr. Purr Job is obsessed with the pop idol Meowna, while the bank’s Branch Manager keeps a secret stash of catnip locked away in his office.

Second Time’s the Charm: An Evolving Playthrough Experience
It’s only after solving the game’s primary mission that things start to get weird. The game loops back and has players retread familiar ground…but things are different this time. The difficulty of puzzles ramps up considerably, and not all challenges can be resolved through the now-familiar point and click mechanics. In the game’s first cycle, players provided support to cat detective Mimo in her investigation. For the second cycle, you as the player take on a more active role. And this round of gameplay is where Detective Mimo excels, both in its narrative and puzzle design.

From the puzzling perspective, challenges take full advantage of the fact that this is a smartphone exclusive game to force players into thinking outside the box, providing creative solutions to familiar tasks. The narrative complexity also expands, as players have a choice of how to proceed resulting in two drastically different endings. There’s even a secret room in the game available in this stage, containing the most challenging puzzle trail of the game.

Doki Doki Literature Club for the Horror Averse
Structurally, Detective Mimo resembles the horror game Doki Doki Literature Club. Both games start out by embracing the tropes of their respective genres: Detective Mimo embraces the tropes of point and click escape room precursors like The Crimson Room, while Doki Doki Literature Club takes its inspiration from the dating sim genre. After allowing players to get acclimated to familiar tropes and gameplay styles, both games become self-aware, and the role of protagonist gradually shifts from a character in a game to you, the player.

Doki Doki Literature Club leverages this shift in perspective to ramp up the game’s horror: the game isn’t just threatening some faceless protagonist: it’s threatening you, the player. When paired with the game’s adult themes, the narrative whiplash that comes from the game’s pivot from cute and harmless dating sim to psychological horror game can shock the unsuspecting player. The game’s meta elements then serve to heighten that increasingly pervasive threat, and the puzzle-centric solutions players employ serve as an increasingly desperate bid from players to protect themselves from a game that stepped outside its traditional bounds.

The shift for Detective Mimo is a more subtle one: the game remains a puzzle game: the stakes have just evolved beyond foiling a bank heist into an existential choice about how far you as the player are willing to go to “win”, and what resolution even qualifies as “winning” in the first place. It’s a credit to Detective Mimo that I don’t know which ending is better: I only know which one is more final.

Detective Mimo Downloads, and Further Spoilers
Detective Mimo is available from OMESCAPE’s Omegames Studio on iOS and Android devices, currently priced at $2.99. After you’ve given the game a try, check out ARGNet’s spoiler-laden commentary on the game, revealing the secrets hidden in the secret room. I’d also recommend trying out OMESCAPE’s online escape room Pursuit of the Assassin Artist, which bears more than a few thematic and structural similarities with Detective Mimo.

UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF DETECTIVE MIMO continues here…click at your own risk.

Special thanks to Michael Feldman, for both recommending Detective Mimo and being an instrumental partner in plumbing the game’s depths