One of the most popular game genres in the VR market is the mystery game. VR tech unfortunately requires you to stay in place and so developers figured out that you can rather comfortably search a room in VR without having to deal with the disorientation that comes from location to location movement.
At the same time, mystery games are starting to blow up in the board gaming market, notably due to the rising popularity of cooperative and legacy games. Shuffling through decks to solve puzzles and unravel complex plots is not only the new hotness, but is emblematic of the change in board game design over the past few years, moving away from your standard numbers games to focus more heavily on innovation.
Chronicles of Crime, an upcoming release from Lucky Duck games, takes these two popular mechanics and combines them together into one hybrid board game/videogame/VR experience, and it was one of the coolest games I saw at PAX Unplugged this year.
You are going to need more than just the box and components to play Chronicles of Crime. You are also going to need a smartphone with a camera and the Chronicles of Crime app. The app is where most of the game lies and it acts as a sort of game master for your mystery experience. When the game starts you draw the Scotland Yard location board from a large deck, along with a card that represents your commanding officer. Place the character card on the location board and you are ready to start the game.
The first interesting mechanic that the game has to offer is somewhat AR based. Each board, card, and game element in the game has a QR code on it. Scan the QR code of a character and you can talk to it. Scan a QR code of a location and you can look around or travel there. Eventually you will find items and pieces of evidence and you can scan their QR codes to use them, or to present them to people you are interrogating in a sort of Phoenix Wright style deduction sequence. You can also scan QR codes of four allies you have, a mortician, a hacker, a forensics scientist, and a criminologist to analyze pieces of evidence, psychologically profile suspects, perform autopsies, and break into people’s phones and laptops.
There is a catch. Every time you scan a code time passes in the game world. This has different implications for you depending on what scenario you are playing. Maybe you need to let time pass to allow lab results to come back. Maybe if you take too long a serial killer will strike again. Sometimes your main goal even changes.
Thefts become murders, suspects disappear, major disasters strike, and more. Despite the fact that time factors in to so many of the game’s events, it’s also the main source of pressure and tension. In general, solving a case quicker is better and when you are graded at the end, you will get points off for the amount of time you took.
If you stumble upon a crime scene or other place of interest, VR elements creep in. Using the included pair of VR glasses or any phone capable VR headset (like Google Cardboard or the Oculus Go) Chronicles of Crime puts you right in the crime scene. You look around trying to find anything suspicious, from fingerprints, to bloodstains, to strange devices.
After you are done getting a good look at the crime scene, it’s time to examine the evidence. You look through a deck of cards for the suspicious things you saw in VR and then you scan their QR codes. Doing so will tell you whether or not they are relevant to the case. Once again, scanning cards takes time so you have to be a little picky. The blood splatter on the floor is definitely worth scanning so that you can take a sample to the forensics scientist, but the open window, while a clear point of entry, may not have much more information to give on closer examination.
When you feel you have solved the case you can report back to your superior officer and answer a couple questions to try and resolve everything. If you are wrong, you might get booted back into the field. If you are right enough, the game may end but you’ll get a bad score. However, there are many times when attempting to solve a crime ends up changing the story somehow. New evidence comes to light based on who you questioned and detained. In fact, some stories even have branching paths and multiple endings.
For now there are about five scenarios available to play but more will come out in early 2019. In addition, several expansions are going to come out introducing more cards and making scenarios more complicated. But, perhaps the coolest thing about Chronicles of Crime is the potential for user generated content. Outside of the VR sections, most of the app is just text responses to scanned QR codes. By opening the ability to create scenarios up to the general fanbase, there is the potential for pseudo-infinite content.
If you like games like Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton, and Danganronpa, then you will absolutely love Chronicles of Crime. This board game video game hybrid is one of the coolest VR experiences I have had to date, despite its relatively simple smartphone implementation. You might not have a lot of experience pushing cardboard, but this is a great way to get VR aficionados into the hobby.