Thanks to characters like Sherlock Holmes and authors like Agatha Christie, pop culture has long had a soft spot for murder mysteries and whodunnits, with recent TV series like Making a Murderer and podcasts like Serial and My Favorite Murder inspiring a new generation of true crime lovers. Whether it's a fictional story or a documentary, most audiences can't help but wonder what they would do if they were in the position of the investigators and what paths they would pursue to bring criminals to justice. With Hunt a Killer, true crime fanatics will be able to put their investigative skills to the test in hopes of solving a fictional murder, with the month-to-month puzzle weaving together a complex series of clues, physical evidence, and witness statements for a challenging experience.
When your first box arrives, you discover that Charles MacDonagh was found murdered after leaving his high school reunion. You are presented with a number of suspects who could have potentially pulled off the crime, though none of them have a clear motive, preventing you from jumping to conclusions. As each month goes by, you receive more information on the case, which blends newspaper clippings, police reports, "evidence" from the crime scene, and an online database to help you uncover the guilty party.
Upon opening your first box and as you begin diving into its contents, you'll likely be completely overwhelmed with information, leaving you perplexed with where to begin. While this is surely a frustrating feeling for anyone excited to unravel a puzzle, we can't help but realize this is like how any actual investigator feels when presented with such a case. Luckily, when you come to the point of frustration, each episode offers a link to an online "Recap" that makes sure that you took note of the pertinent details, likely surprising you to realize you actually did document the necessary reveals. With each subsequent episode, you're just as overwhelmed initially, up until you remember that there were only half a dozen key points that needed to be documented, with each episode taking 30 to 60 minutes to unravel.
Much like any other source of entertainment that is inspired by real-life, horrifying crimes, there might be some apprehension about how "fun" it would be to solve even a fictional murder. To the relief of some, Hunt a Killer is far from being a goofy parody like Clue, and feels less like any sort of game than it feels like a puzzle to be solved. If you're only somewhat aware of the premise, you might be encouraged to invite a bunch of friends over to unpack the clues for a fun night of gaming, but you'll quickly learn this experience is much denser and more rivetting than similar puzzle games that have been growing in popularity in recent years. However, with the right company, you'll quickly find yourself familiarizing yourself with the suspects and tossing out theories as passionately as if these were real crimes.
Despite Hunt a Killer being an experience available to anyone willing to buy it, each episode feels like it was crafted just for you and, while it obviously required a human touch to put it all together, the collated autopsy reports, witness statements, police files, and various other artifacts feel surprisingly authentic and like you really were passed this information by a trusted source. Add to that the complexity of the online interfaces, bringing together various photos, databases, and tools to help you discover the murderer, it's clear that a lot of thought, planning, hard work, and love went into creating such an authentic experience.
Less a game and more an experience, Hunt a Killer is an immersive, intricately crafted puzzle that allows true crime fans to put their problem solving and clue discovering skills to the test after merely witnessing such stories unfold in other mediums. Each episode will likely result in an initial sense of being in over your head, which will surely turn off some more casual gamers, but once you get past that learning curve, you'll take pride in helping bring Charles MacDonagh's killer to justice.
Rating: 4 out of 5