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Video Game / The Shapeshifting Detective

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The Shapeshifting Detective is a Full Motion Video game in which you play a detective who can change into other people at will. Released by D'Avekki Studios in November 2018, it was created by Tim and Lynda Cowles who also made The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. The game is something of a Spiritual Successor to Dekker in that it is also a murder mystery with a variety of different outcomes.

In 2020, the game was given a spin-off in the form of Dark Nights with Poe & Munro.


This game provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Dorota Shaw was such a good cellist that she received a scholarship to Juilliard.
  • Actor Allusion: Several:
    • Rupert Booth (Chief Dupont) also played a law enforcement official in Contradiction. In that game, he was the detective who had to report to an unseen superior. In this game, you are an unseen detective who has to report to him. At one point, he says something is a "contradiction" as well as his signature line, "Does this mean anything to you?". If you change into him, Violet says, "Don't try to get me to contradict myself".
    • Speaking of Violet, her actress Aislinn De'ath played Marianna in Dekker. Both characters initially claim to have gaps in their memory but later reveal that something far more sinister is going on. They are also both described as "beautiful" or "gorgeous" by other characters.
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    • Rachel Cowles (Sophia) is the daughter of game developers Tim and Lynda Cowles. In Dekker, she played Molly who also comes across as a Creepy Child.
    • Largely averted with Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler (Bronwyn) who was also in Contradiction but plays a very different character here. The only thing they have in common is lying to the detective.
  • The Alibi: One of the main objectives in the game is to determine if the characters' alibis check out. Oscar was playing football in front of several witnesses, Poe and Munro were on the air and Dupont was at the station (as confirmed by security cameras). The other characters' alibis are flimsy at best. Bronwyn was logged into a tarot-reading service but she lies in order to protect Lexie, who doesn't have an alibi.
  • Anti-Climax: If you manage to successfully guess who killed Dorota, Dupont locks them up. This means they can't kidnap and confront you, resulting in a somewhat anticlimactic ending.
  • Artifact Alias: Rayne is revealed to be Lawrence Petrovsky. He's not a Russian spy but he is a suspect in a previous murder case. Despite this, he's still referred to as "Rayne" for the rest of the game.
  • Artistic License: The tarot cards used in the game are accurate but Mercury, the tarot set that gives you the question as well as the answer, is fictional.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ellis. Questioning reveals she is having affairs with both Dorota and Poe, both of which are in relationships and the latter of which has a wife and kids. Whilst initially displaying a sweet and lonely demeanor, she is later shown to be playing coy and becomes very flirtatious, explaining her actions by saying she wants "to taste all the sweet things" and keep her options open. She comes onto Sam, even after Poe has declared he will leave his wife for her and implies she is now more interested in Sam. Sam can call her out on the act.
  • Calling Card: Dorota was found with a gold coin in her mouth, which is something only the killer would know.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Zak fancies himself quite the ladies' man but doesn't have as much luck with them as he'd like. He's divorced and it's implied he might have raped a woman in the past.
  • Chick Magnet: "Sam" proves to be quite popular with the ladies. Both Lexie and Ellis say they've fallen for you.
  • Creator Cameo: Tim Cowles has a non-speaking role as the cab driver.
  • Creepy Child: Played with. A little girl named Sophia pops up at one point, seemingly out of nowhere, but we later learn she is Violet's goddaughter and is perfectly normal.
  • The Ditz: Lexie can come across as this at times. She's a bit naive and practically worships Bronwyn but does genuinely want to help the investigation.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Violet says shoes are not allowed in the guesthouse because the carpet is priceless.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the ending where Violet is the killer, you can change into her. This will cause her to go mad and shoot herself.
  • Easter Egg: In addition to Poe and Munro, the radio plays various short stories (read by Let's Players). They don't advance the plot in any way but they do contribute to the game's spooky atmosphere.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Chief Dupont suspects the tarot readers at first but your job is to treat every character as if they're a suspect. You can even ask Dupont if he has an alibi (which he does).
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The game begins at 5 PM and ends the morning after.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Although you can change into almost every character in the game, most of the time you play as the gender-neutral "Sam" (which can be short for either Samuel or Samantha). And even that isn't your real form (which Agent X says "nobody wants to see"). If you get drunk, you revert to your natural state and frighten Zak in the process. If you manage to get yourself killed, the police have trouble determining what species you are.
  • Fiery Redhead: Violet has no problem telling it as she sees it, even referring to the late Dorota Shaw as "slutty". She also has a temper, which manifests itself if you ask for information about her alleged abduction by aliens. It's partly justified since she's had a hard life. Her parents beat her with a belt for the slightest indiscretion note  and she was in a satanic cult at one point. Ellis is also a redhead but only gets angry if you leave her with Danny or pretend to be Oscar and suggest having sex.
  • First-Name Basis: If you change into Dupont, it's revealed that he and Violet are on a first-name basis with each other.
  • Friends with Benefits: Zak and Violet. Violet denies it but if you change into Zak, the way she talks to you speaks volumes.
  • Full Motion Video: The game is entirely live action but also makes good use of radio voiceovers.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Dekker had some sexual innuendo but it was only conveyed through dialogue. In this game, you can view boudoir photos and video of Dorota. If you change into Bronwyn, you can attempt to seduce Oscar and say things like, "I want you inside me". If you change into Lexie, you can have Zak take topless photos of you.
  • In-Joke: The radio in the guesthouse is manufactured by a company called Dekker.
  • It's All My Fault: Oscar blames himself for Dorota's death because he wasn't there to save her.
  • Jump Scare: A few here and there, whether it's Sophia suddenly appearing in the hallway, Ellis returning your phone or Rayne saying "Boo!".
  • Karma Houdini: The tarot readers believe that travelers jump dimensions after committing murder and are thus impossible to bring to justice.
  • Large Ham: Poe the radio host has a flair for the theatrical when speaking.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The game gives you the option of deleting questions. If you ask Agent X "Who are you?", he rewinds the game to the beginning until you get the hint and delete the question.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Unlike Dekker, the game is unambiguously supernatural since there is no question about the player character's ability to shapeshift. However, some story elements are not so straightforward:
    • Is Violet really being abducted by aliens or is it all in her head?
    • Is the killer really possessed by an interdimensional traveller or are they just insane?
  • Multiple Endings: The killer is chosen at random with each new game. You also either save Ellis or fail to save her, depending on the choices you make. If you survive, you can leave with the tarot readers or stay in August. In most endings, Agent X "augments" you as a reward for doing well. But if you are too carefree with your shapeshifting, he "deprecates" you instead.
  • No Name Given: Agent X. Also applies to the player character since "Sam" is just an alias. In a post-credits scene, Agent X refers to you as Agent 3.13 before "augmenting" you to 3.14.
  • Noodle Incident: Chief Dupont promises to "bury" something you did if you catch Dorota's killer. At the end, he tells you the coroner's report will say the woman was dead when you arrived, not after.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The murder of 21-year-old cellist Dorota Shaw is what sets the plot in motion.
  • Police Are Useless: Ellis says that the only thing she's seen Dupont chase after is an ice cream truck and compares his assistant Danny to Dewey from Scream. Dupont is almost entirely reliant on you and only gives you a few pieces of useful information.
  • Posthumous Character: Dorota.
  • Red Herring: Lexie doesn't have a real alibi, and Bronwyn lies to you to protect her. However, despite the culprit being randomized each time you play, the culprit isn't either of them.
  • Sanity Slippage: This arguably happens to the killer once they reveal themselves to you (depending on whether they're actually possessed or not).
  • Secret-Keeper: It's possible for Lexie to discover your secret. You tell her not to tell anyone and she agrees.
  • Sequel Hook: The games ends with the words, "The End. Maybe."
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: Dorota was found naked in her bed and we see a shot of her dead body that is mostly covered by a bedsheet.
  • The Stinger: During the credits, we get to see some of Dorota's radio interview. She says she wants to build a time machine in order to go back and make better choices. After the credits, you can enter a "secret debriefing" where Agent X asks you a series of questions to determine if you're ready for your next assignment. If he doesn't like what he hears, he says you're "stuck in compliance mode".
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The climax of the game occurs when the killer has you tied up and at their mercy. The only way out is to shapeshift right in front of them, even though Agent X said your one job is to not get caught. However, there is a way to avoid this: if you correctly guess the culprit on your first try, the culprit will be arrested right away and thus won't be able to kidnap you, so you won't have to shapeshift in front of them.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer features shots from some of the endings and reveals the identity of at least one possible killer.
  • The Unreveal: Exactly who or what you are is never made entirely clear.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Bronwyn finds a trashy romance novel about sexy vampires and speculates that it belongs to Violet.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You can show empathy for the characters, resulting in them opening up to you.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Or you can be mean and standoffish, causing them to distrust you. Among other things, you can try to seduce Oscar without his consent and kick Zak in the groin.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: All the shapeshifting in the game is voluntary unless you drink too much, in which case you involuntarily return to your natural form.


Video Example(s):


The Shapeshifting Detective

Violet storms out.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FieryRedhead

Media sources:

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