Take a mystery lover's holiday by solving crime on the Italian Riviera in On Your Tail

I'm used to mystery games where the mystery is the main thing. In Strange Horticulture you may be running a shop while trying to figure out what's going on in Undermere, but you don't have to balance the books between trying to figure out how a druid got poisoned. You're not going to suddenly get a game over because a national chain of weird plant shops opened up a franchise across the road from yours.

On Your Tail is something different. It's a mystery game where you're investigating a theft in a seaside town, but it's also about having a nice Italian holiday. The demo begins by letting you choose whether you want to go straight to the crime scene or meet with a local photographer who can show you the town and introduce some locals. Since you can bring any friends you've made with you on investigation, the latter seems like a better option. 

Paun the photographer—who is also a fox or maybe a dog, as all the characters in On Your Tail are anthropomorphic animals—acts as tour guide, showing off the town of Borgo Marina and a couple of relaxing minigames: fishing and stone-skipping. The trailer shown during the Wholesome Direct showcase suggests more activities, like cooking, stargazing, and bocce, will be part of the full game. You can also pick spots to relax with your current walking companion, whether a beachfront coffee stand or just a bench, and talk about topics represented by cards you collect—each a location or character you've encountered so far.

This is the holiday chillout side of On Your Tail, which developer Memorable Games calls a life sim, though based on the demo it seems less sim-y than I expected. There are no bars to fill to keep your needs up, though there's a suggestion of NPCs having affection ratings and maybe the possibility of romance? We'll see.

To experience the investigation side of On Your Tail, I visit a restaurant that's been robbed and examine it using a magical pocketwatch. The sudden appearance of a tool that can let you see into the past comes out of nowhere and seems like an odd addition to an otherwise quite grounded game. The pocketwatch lets you see which objects have been displaced, like a simpler version of Return of the Obra Dinn, each of which becomes a clue card. When I've collected all the clues the viewpoint switches to a papercraft recreation of the scene where I play the cards in order to recreate the sequence of events. It's got a cute board game vibe, and while this first puzzle is easy I imagine they'll ramp up in difficulty as it goes on.

That's pretty much all there is to the demo, but it's an intriguing idea. I can't help but wonder what a full life sim crime game would be like, having to balance an investigation with a need to eat and sleep and hold down a job or run your farm or whatever, but On Your Tail seems like it's aiming to be more of an Italian holiday recreation than anything else. Sort of like La Dolce Vita, but with a nicer photographer. It's scheduled for release in 2024, and you can play the demo on Steam.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.