I’ve always loved video games with a detective spin. There’s just something about going up against an unknown villain and putting your wits to the test: will you be able to piece together the clues and use your intelligence to foil their evil plan?
The 2020 lockdown here in the UK was difficult but if you tried to stay positive, there were a few silver-linings to be thankful for. One was having the time to try some new experiences and I found myself branching out from the digital and into physical games. My other-half and I completed jigsaw puzzles with hidden challenges; played escape-rooms-in-boxes during power-cuts; and even got to star in our very own noir-themed choose-your-own-adventure thanks to a lovely Christmas gift.
One thing we haven’t done yet though is start Hack Forward. This was a product I backed on Kickstarter in February 2020 after being intrigued by its promise to provide a challenging experience that would be ‘so carefully designed that it may be impossible to distinguish reality from fiction’. Despite receiving the box late last year, it still remains unopened on our bookcase – for no other reason than that we’ve had plenty of other games to play and just haven’t got around to it yet.
We’ll need to hurry up and get around to it though because the Key Enigma team launched their next campaign for new game Calling Card this week. And this time around, instead of going after a hacker who has stolen data, video recordings and information about some very important people, players will be hunting down a killer. It can be hard to know what to expect if you’ve never tried an escape-room-in-a-box before, but the demo available through the official website will give you a good idea.
I gave it a go myself earlier this month after an email from the developers to previous backers and although I won’t say too much so as not to spoil it, you start by reading a news website article about a missing person named Roy Mirlo. Here you find a link which enables you to get in touch with his father and the investigation commences. The first step is to figure out how to get in touch with a certain company and if you do it correctly, you’ll receive an email containing further details from a member of their staff.
You can then use the information gathered so far to track down another website where you’re presented with a several cryptic puzzles. The answers to these form a series of passwords which then need to be provided to someone via an online telephone: call the number, choose which character you want to speak as and enter the words in the correct order. The demo ends on after what appears to be a live-stream where players are left with a cliff-hanger; I guess we’ll just have to wait for the full release of Calling Card to find out more.
I’ve played similar games in the past and their sticking point always seems to be chatbot quality. You usually end up having to talk to a character via some sort of messenger and it doesn’t go particularly well; the bot has difficulty understanding your responses or sends a reply completely unrelated to the question you asked. This completely takes away the immersion built up and in the worst-case scenario, can ruin the experience entirely if you’re given a detail you shouldn’t have yet uncovered.
I’m pleased to say I didn’t experience any issues like this while conversing with Roy’s father and a journalist during Calling Card and the conversation appeared to flow naturally. And although I didn’t need it because the puzzles were all logical (even though one of them required a paper and pen), they’re happy to provide you with support if you ask for a hint in the chatbox. It’s easy to see how quickly players will become immersed in the story of Roy if the rest of the game runs as well as the demo.
The official Kickstarter page is now live so I’d highly recommend heading over there to find out more. Backers will have to review clues and find inconsistencies in interrogations, emails and calls to suspects, while investigating through old documents and recordings. Can you find the necessary evidence to solve the crimes committed and prevent the villain from putting anyone else in danger?
As mentioned above, I really enjoy detective games and Calling Card looks like it’s going to be fun interactive experience. I’ve made my pledge and am looking forward to the release in October 2021 – but before then, I should really get around to trying Hack Forward. With a long weekend coming up for Easter soon and nothing to do except play games and eat chocolate eggs thanks to lockdown, it seems like the perfect time for Pete and I see how intelligent we are when compared to a hacker.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign for all the details, and the Key Enigma website for information about their previous games. You can also give them a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date with their project’s progress.