Some of my favorite game experiences over the past couple years have been murder mystery and escape room games. It’s incredibly satisfying to connect the dots and solve a crime with friends or by yourself. I jumped at the chance to review the latest Murder Mystery Party game from University Games. This series has been around since the mid-80’s and this is my first time diving into this crime thriller in a box.
The Night Hunter
You’ve been called in to help solve a new murder. The collected clues point to the patterns of a serial killer who calls himself “The Night Hunter”. With someone currently sitting in jail for the killings 20 years prior, could this be the work of a copycat killer?
I was so excited to check out this game that features over 100 physical components that spread across 4 chapters. While I originally thought I would be digging into this one alone, I was happy to find a friend wanted to jump into being my co-detective in this case. During this review, I’ll share the experience of solving this crime with a friend and will keep everything spoiler-free.
The Night Hunter Game starts with a letter from the bureau detailing a crime that has gone cold. The killing shares loads of similarities to the Night Hunter serial killer murders that took place in the 90’s. Solving this crime is going to mean revisiting the original crimes to understand the methods of this killer.
Broken into 4 chapters, each one comes with case files, evidence, photos and envelopes that must be unlocked by solving the unanswered questions in the case. There’s a nice pace to the game as you start off with a couple pieces of information, building into decades of information that you’ll pour over.
The protagonist of The Night Hunter is something that feels like it was pulled from the news. University Games did an excellent job with the setting that spans from the 90’s through today. Growing up on 80’s and 90’s horror films helped me to really connect with this game.
A Trove of Documents
Over the years, I’ve been a fan of games that merge the digital and physical components as part of the gameplay. The Night Hunter leans into the physical media for the majority of the gameplay. In our first game session, I realized how powerful it is to hold, touch and pass the physical media at the table.
The Night Hunter does have a digital component that works well but is not the focal point of the gameplay. Using a QR code or web address, you’ll use the website in a couple ways.
This website contains additional documents like eye witness statements and memos that are important to the cases. You’ll also use the site to confirm the answers that will unlock the sealed envelopes in each chapter. If you get stuck, you can access hints as you work toward answering the questions that the bureau is asking.
During our time playing The Night Hunter, we only spent a couple minutes using the website in each chapter. The interface was easy to use on my cell phone but is far easier to read on a laptop or tablet.
Cold Case Detectives
I said earlier that this was my first experience with University Games Murder Mystery Party series. I’ve got to say, I was impressed with the quality of the writing and engaging story on display in The Night Hunter. It was easy to follow while still having plenty of puzzles to solve. Unlike some of the escape room games that I’ve played over the years, I never felt like an answer came from left-field.
Even though I love the Unlock series of games, I’ve felt at times that some of the abstract puzzles ruined the experience by spiking the difficulty. I never felt that way about The Night Hunter. If anything, there were times where I was looking for a more complex of convoluted solution to a question. Over the course of just under 6 hours with the game, we only took 2 or 3 clues to help guide us in unlocking new content.
While this game would be a great solo experience, I really liked going through this with a friend. We would talk about some of the challenges and thoughts we had at the end of each chapter. Having a second set of eyes to look at a clue was incredibly helpful. After each session, we would tell other people about our experience with the game. This immediately hooked my teenage son and some of our friends who love true crime media.
A Murderous Experience
Each of the four chapters of The Night Hunter flow really well into one another. One of my biggest criticisms of the game is the lack of guidance when repackaging the game. Chapters are mostly self contained but will reference previous pieces of evidence. Most of the time, we were quickly able to recall where we saw this info. Opening the packet or file and retrieving the info was simple. The problem was remembering where it came from when we finished the chapter.
I have a really solid memory so I could usually remember where each piece of evidence came from. But, this won’t be the case for everyone. If you loose track of where the faxes, pamphlets, photos and documents came from, it could be impossible to repackage this box for another player to experience. For me, I want to be able to hand this off to my immediate family to experience. Since none of the items are destroyed while solving the crime, this is possible. You just have to keep meticulous track of where things belong.
The Night Hunter Game is one of the best mystery box experiences that I’ve ever had. Every part of the case felt solvable and it was always exciting to move onto a new packet of content. Working through this with another person made for a deeper experience and it made sure I didn’t have to read every single thing. There’s a lot of reading in this game!
The game never held our hands and everything was based on logic and not random guesses. The structure of the 4 chapters worked well and allowed us to take a break after each chapter to talk about the case. We found ourselves texting each other to plan for the next night we could get together to solve the case.
Holding the physical media and pieces of evidence made a huge difference in how I experienced this game. 90% of this game relied on physical components and that made everything so much more engaging.
Now, I’ve got to check out the back catalog of this Murder Mystery Party series to see what other crimes need to be solved.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Just the right difficulty level for casual sleuths
- Physical media throughout the game was engaging
- Excellent protagonist and storyline
- Each chapter is about an hour to 90 minutes of play
- Connection to the digital assets is a necessity
- Difficult to keep assets sorted for another player to experience