Online, Dec 2020
I’d start this by saying Detective Society is a new subscription puzzle box series, but I’m well behind the curve here, reviewing episode 1 when they’re now shipping episode 6 (!). But since that’ll be the conclusion of their first narrative arc, perhaps I can claim that’s deliberate not just late. Although they’re designed for subscription purchase, you can also purchase boxes individually, though since they form an ongoing narrative it’ll doubtless make most sense played in sequence.
The components made a good impression; where another game might have used a simple envelope, it has a sturdy plastic sleeve secured with an actual padlock. Much of the contents are printed paper clues in one form or another, but give a good impression of being plausible pieces of evidence.
This episode 1 is a game of two halves, and plays as if there’s a first section to get your puzzle-solving neurons warmed up before you get started on the game proper. That first bit has a clear structure, suitable to divide and conquer, and is a bit easy and a bit maths-y.
Thereafter the game shifts, and becomes more linear, more narrative-driven and more of an ARG. That is to say, it aims to create the illusion that you really are tracking down a missing girl, and expects you to make use of wider internet resources not just the materials packaged in the box.
One puzzle was based around a specific area of external knowledge that my teammate found a little off-putting. In a game like this, some external research is entirely acceptable; in this instance it was that the puzzle was more accessible and appealing if you were familiar with the relevant area, and a bit more laborious otherwise.
Nonetheless, I thought it did very well at creating the illusion: once into the second half, you do feel like you’re a private investigator, or at least someone doing work experience in a PI office. A clear sense of story and characters emerges naturally from the clue items. In fact, it left me wanting a little more freedom in deciding how to resolve the episode, rather than being railroaded into the standard outcome; though I suppose that would have complicated the continuation to part 2. Either way, I’ve only played this first episode so far, but it makes a solid start to the series, and the grapevine consensus seems to be that it gets stronger from there.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.