I’ll be 100% transparent with you. The initial appeal of Forest Grove for me came purely as a result of attending college in – literally – the very same town in which the game takes place. Of course, I didn’t realize that the game is set in the real-life Oregon town until I started playing the game, and when I made the connection, I was drawn in immediately. In college, I spent countless hours driving from Pacific University, through Cornelius, into Hillsboro, and back again – back to the small and quiet town of Forest Grove. It’s funny, though. Despite always thinking of Forest Grove as a “small and quiet town,” every time I ventured outside of the main college area, I was always amazed at just how big the city of Forest Grove actually was, with far more personality than the surrounding college area.
And that’s what makes Forest Grove – from indie developer Miga Games – so good. Although the demo takes place in a single house, it’s filled with personality and other features that really make you feel like you’re in the town that’s located about 45-minutes outside of Portland. It feels like there’s still some work to be done before its full release, but I’m loving what the Forest Grove demo is already providing in the way of a puzzle and crime-solving title.
As mentioned, the demo takes place in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon, and puts you in the role of a detective tasked with solving the case of the disappearance of a young girl named Zooey. From her mother’s apparent suicide, her seemingly frosty relationship with her stepmother, the eccentric boss, and her suspiciously aggressive boyfriend, it’s clear that Zooey’s life hasn’t exactly been easy. Her relationship with her father – a workaholic who has developed a new form of nanotechnology – keeps you guessing as as well, as you work to solve the case of her disappearance. And there is certainly plenty to solve in Forest Grove.
As you explore the family house – which is actually recreated in an X-Men-style Danger Room utilizing Zooey’s father’s nanotechnology – you’ll encounter clues that not only help you gain more insight into the main suspects of the case, but also help you solve puzzles that are found throughout the house itself. From safe combinations to secret rooms, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the family mansion. Puzzles are overly difficult, but provide enough challenge to make each solved puzzle feel satisfying. It was almost addicting as I solved each puzzle, ready and willing to move on to the next.
Clues are found by inspecting various objects and spotting DNA and fingerprints. In some cases, these clues are very hard to find, requiring you to rotate and zoom into the object before it actually appears. I appreciate this attention to detail that forces you to leave no stone left unturned. You can also gain insight from finding audio fragments littered throughout the house – again, using your futuristic crime-fighting technology. All of the suspects in the case are suspicious, including Zooey herself, which makes putting the pieces together difficult yet rewarding.
There are certain things could use a bit of tightening up, such as using a drone to match the frozen placement of suspects throughout the house, along with some smoothing out of the character models themselves. For the most part, though, the demo Forest Grove flaunts its strengths perfectly.
Just when I thought I was starting to make some real progress in the case, a pop-up appeared telling me that the demo was over. I was so sad! I’m not really someone who gravitates towards crime-solving puzzle games, but the Forest Grove demo had me immersed in its cybernetic world from start to finish.
Forest Grove is slated to be released for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam sometime in Q3 2022. Every fiber in my being wonders if I’ll be able to wait that long. Just from its demo, Forest Grove has immediately become one of my most-anticipated games of 2022.