Disclaimer: Hunt A Killer is a game that takes place over six boxes per season. This review is based on the first three of the season called “Curtain Call”.
Incorporates the Digital World (+5)
I do like the move towards supplemental digital interaction as this simulates a remote desktop of some kind. When submitting answers, you use actual real life email correspondence which is a nice touch for that immersion you’re looking for. Even the exploration of the evidence the “agency” provides you gives you a delay which then translates into anticipation. In this way, you’re really getting more out of the game than just what is in the box.
Learn Ciphers and Cipher Layering (+3)
It is fun to learn what ciphers exist out there and anytime you learn something new in a puzzle game it makes the game that much better. Not only are you giving your brain the lovely time it needs to exercise but now you have some knowledge to bring to the outside world. The designers of these boxes found clever ways to push ciphers into the story line using the characters’ everyday behaviors so it never felt forced when you recognized that they used a cipher.
Classic Murder Mystery Storytelling (+5)
They decided to include some classic murder puzzles like identifying whose alibi is strongest. Those deduction and logic exercises are some of my favorite puzzle to play with. It really reminds me of great moments during games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective but with the physical components present to accompany the narrative. Physical evidence in the box can range from some clever sources of information as well, like a general ledger. I loved the opportunity to audit some transactions like I’m used to doing at my finance job.
Exciting and Leaves You Wanting More (+4)
You’ll start making predictions since there is a good balance between slightly more information and slightly more mystery while eliminating suspects. Thoughts like “Oh no I thought for sure it was them, no way! That’s a strong alibi!” will ring through your head and leave you wanting more. I recommend looking at this as one big box for the murder mystery make a bit more sense of the incurred costs for the membership. There is an ability to have keepsakes here but if your active imagination runs wild like mine you’re likely going to want to lock them in the boxes because… Murders. Like any subscription box service that tells fragmented stories, it does a great job of leaving several questions left unanswered to tease you for next month.
Tactile Experience (+2)
In addition to the digital evidence I described earlier, they give you actual handwritten letters and belongings to some of the characters. Being able to run an investigation with real stuff is about as immersive as it can get!
Starts Too Easy (-3)
The first box was way too easy and I was blessed with having all three boxes at once so it wasn’t as noticeable. There is a meta investigation that integrates all boxes so I can understand that they did provide some things early on, similar to how an actual investigation might go. For example, you get all the stuff you can up front, so some may matter early on and some might just throw you off the trail if it distracts you. However, I interacted with maybe only half the items available in there before I figured out the answer so… even allowing that explanation was a stretch.
Too Many Ciphers (-3)
There are only so many ciphers I can sit through before I just skip ahead. I don’t care if you’ve layered them or not. There are more puzzle constructs in the world! On the other hand, these are just “normal” everyday people so perhaps thematically they may only have mental access and/or exposure to ciphers. In which case, I can go a little easier on the criticism.
Lack of Puzzle Diversity (-3)
What I mean by puzzle diversity is the amount of ways that you need to look at a problem before understanding what body of knowledge you need to draw on. There is a severe lack of it here. Note that this is only one of several seasons that Hunt A Killer has released so just like I don’t judge all of a series like Unlock or Exit by one installment, I also can’t — and shouldn’t — say for certain that all of their games will be cipher heavy.
Sealed Envelope Anxiety (-1)
The presence of sealed envelopes despite the general instructions suggesting to confirm the package contents is bothersome. This was the immediate first pet peeve the moment I got the first box. After that, you get used to the packaging and start getting a little more aggressive with anything they ship you.
Not for the Impatient (-0.5)
How could you possibly sit and wait in between these boxes month to month? I’m so used to voraciously consuming puzzles that these single solve boxes are just excruciating. If the publisher had let me preview this in the same format as consumers I don’t know if I would have had the courage to write it up.
Targeted for a Specific Audience (0)
If you want a lot of meaningful meaty puzzle in one box, this isn’t for you. Yet, if you are looking for excitement, love the thrill of a good story and thrive on delayed gratification, this is definitely for you. In this sense, this company has really honed in on those in the market for immersion and certainly there is a call to meet that need so no points docked here.