Detective: A Modern Crime Story

8.4 Overall
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Detective: A Modern Crime Story

  • Played September 2018

  • Each case has its own time limit
  • 1-4 players
  • $50 MSRP

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From time to time, most of us find ourselves addicted to a good book, a television series, or other forms of story driven entertainment. Have you ever wondered where the source of that obsession comes from? Most people usually identify the engaging story, characters, and/or that sense of not knowing what’s coming next but needing to find out as fast as possible (Game Of Thrones fans relate to this feeling all too well). At the same time, our body chemistry is taken for a ride by elevated endorphin levels and empathy. The combination of these become the source of euphoria and anxiety as we not only learn more about the story, but we start to live out the story as if we are part of it. To put it simply, we become addicted because the story becomes a part of us! Story writers, movie producers, escape room creators, and narrative experts are well trained in tapping into this process. Board game designers have also started to see the value of a good story, which is why we’re now seeing a surge of narrative (or campaign/legacy) based games entering the marketplace.

From the game designer of First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet, Ignacy Trzewiczek and Portal Games present Detective: A Modern Crime Story. In this co-operative crime solving game, you’ve been recruited to work for a new task force known as Antares. The Antares team is a specialized detective agency whose mission is to reinvestigate five previously unresolved cases which are of particular importance to the FBI. To further highlight the importance and urgency of these cases, no resources have been spared and you’ve been granted access to the Antares online database. Not everyone in the government is happy with the cost of this project, so your team only has a limited amount of time to solve each case and submit your final reports. When you’ve run out of time, become completely exhausted by putting in too many overtime hours, or feel you’ve gained enough information to make a suitable report, you’ll complete each case by answering several multiple choice questions given to you by your superiors. What makes these cases particularly interesting is you won’t have the time to chase down every lead you encounter. Your team’s skills and gut instincts will ultimately decide which paths you follow. In the course of your investigations you may even find yourselves discovering characters and circumstances that seem to have nothing to do with your case at all, but somehow seem related…if only you had the time to put it all together. Thankfully you have the Antares database to keep track of the characters you interact with and the evidence you discover. Don’t think you can get away with letting Antares do all the work for you however! There’s still a lot of investigating, story mapping, and deduction you’ll need to do if you want to bring these cases to an end.

The game components for Detective: A Modern Crime Story range from decent to incredible. Most of the cases involve you travelling around a board with 5 different locations, using skill tokens, and tracking down leads in the form of cards. The cards are separated by case, listed numerically, easy to read, and decent in quality. The game board also fits nicely within the box insert if table space is an issue. The Antares team character cards identify which skills you have available on your team and are printed on colourful, high quality cardboard stock in the design of real access cards. Although the game pieces and components are decent, it’s the interaction you have with the online Antares database (on your own computer) that will really wow you. Imagine sitting around a table where each player has their own laptop, logged into your team account, while collectively inputting information each of you can access, research, and discuss. Inputting, researching and following your gut instinct becomes addictive with all the online tools you’ll have.

Unlike a typical escape room or escape room board game, the puzzle aspect of this game isn’t found in the traditional implementation of Sudoku, riddles, math puzzles, and the like. The puzzle is the untangling of a web of facts: names, dates, stories and interviews. To solve the puzzle, you must work together and employ your wits to deduce means, motive and opportunity. Now you might be saying to yourself, “This sounds pretty dull. Is it just reading text non-stop?” No, not really. There is a LOT of reading in this game, but it’s broken into several small segments with lots to do between the readings in the database, online, and the lead cards you uncover. Part of the team building fun of this game is found in the designated roles you can create or interplay between your team members. If you’re really good at working together, you’ll find yourself functioning as a real team of detectives. One person can act as your data entry person, another can be your online fact checker, another team member can be the person who reads through suspect interrogation interviews, etc. There are several ways you can allocate all the tasks involved. If you’re a lone wolf (one who doesn’t work well in teams, dominates open brainstorming, or just doesn’t like to talk and share with others) you can play the game by yourself, but to us the game was much more enjoyable with the team building aspect.

Now to the heart of this game: IMMERSION! The narrative of the story is incredible. You’ll discover several different paths you can take, many different approaches to gathering data, and so many intertwined pieces of information you’ll go to bed each night counting down the hours until you can crack open the box again. What’s even more impressive is how the stories of this game are entangled with real and relevant historical, biographical, and geographical information. It isn’t necessary to look up the factual and contextual information throughout the game, but you’d certainly be missing a HUGE part of the overall experience! Fans of The Never Ending Story may see the parallel between this game and the film: that moment when the boy who is reading the book suddenly realizes that he has become part of the story simply by being the one who is reading the book. Remember what we said earlier about the power of good narrative entertainment? That same wow factor takes place here as you will slowly find yourself forgetting that these are fictional stories amid the use of real locations, real historical events, and real world information. If you want a story in which you can invest yourself and you are the type who loves to sit around hypothesizing, it does not get any better than this! If there was one downside to the immersion of this game, however, it’s that it takes a while to get established. The first case seems too straightforward, with too few choices and not enough left to the imagination. It terms of a story arc, it’s more of a “Here’s the basics of what you need to know before we can make the story interesting.” Yes, that’s fine, but it did make some of our players wary of continuing past the first case. However, we are thankful that we did!

What about the overall game experience? It is just amazing! We don’t want to talk about it too much because there are several surprises you should discover for yourself and the choices you make will shape your game slightly differently than ours turned out. All we can say is that this game is well worth the time invested into it, much like an addictive book, TV series, or movie. If you’re ready to get obsessed, go buy this game!

We want to hear your thoughts! Be sure to comment in the section below or send us a message via ERA’s email, Facebook, or Twitter. As always, happy escaping!

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