The last time I did an eye exam I was met with a frightening reality: I have to remove my eyeglasses to see anything well up close. I knew I was nearsighted, but my sight has taken a turn for the worse. Now, whenever I’m reading at home, I usually read with my specs on a side table.
My friend and colleague, Andy Matthews, handed me a game to review the last time I saw him in Nashville. That game is MicroMacro: Crime City—Full House, designed by Johannes Sich and published by Pegasus Spiele. The original game, MicroMacro: Crime City, swept nearly every award it was up for in 2020 and this sequel builds on a strong foundation to provide more of the complex deduction the first game made famous by staring at a very large map with a magnifying glass looking for clues.
MicroMacro: Crime City—Full House (let’s go with Full House for short) smartly sticks to the script, and just gives you another massive map, 16 cases to solve, and a not-nearly-strong-enough “magnifying glass” to solve crimes. (I use the term “magnifying glass” loosely here. Let’s just say you should run out and buy your own!)
Two Stars, My ***!
Andy reviewed the original MicroMacro: Crime City and really enjoyed it. (If you are curious about how to play this series, Andy does a great job summarizing the basics.) I also played 3 cases from the first game at a friend’s house last year, where we spent more time debating its merits as a game than we did actually playing. Many of the cases in the first game are very short, sometimes less than 10 minutes to work through the 4-5 questions in a simpler scenario.
There are 16 cases in Full House and, save for the tutorial case, all the cases are rated from 2-5 stars in terms of difficulty. A 5-star case is gonna be a doozy but there are only 2 cases like this in the box. But even the 2-star cases have at least one section that is a little tricky.
That’s great, because that gives Full House quite a bit of life. You’re not going to blow through this box of 16 cases in an hour. The first couple of cases took anywhere from 5-10 minutes, and I took each case casually. If I could figure it out on my own, great, and if not, I just flipped the card over to find where I was stuck before continuing. You can play Full House at your leisure, just like the base game. Plus, many of the cases in Full House are playable with the entire family, not just teens and adults.
I can’t talk too much about the specifics of the case without spoiling the whole game, so I’ll move right to where I land on the game.
Full House is a fun ride, but I wish that more was done to really shake things up from the original game. My sense of Full House is that it’s MicroMacro: Crime City v.1.1. Everything I liked about the base game is here, just on a different map. The artwork is still amazing. The backstory for what really happened for each crime still made me laugh out loud. (A special shout out to some of the character names in Full House; comedy!) The way stories are told, the use of time and space to work backwards through each crime, still really lands well.
By the same token, Full House fixes none of the minor issues from the base game. The game still only comes with a single magnifying glass; multiple friends have purchased their own because the ones included aren’t great and you will likely play this with others. Some cases still require an incredible leap of faith, assuming you have looked at every single nook and cranny on the massive map. (I’m looking at you, “The Mysterious Disappearance of Lisa Lindt”!!!) In a couple of the cases, it was tougher than expected to simply identify where to start a search on the very first card.
And those are just the minor issues with the game. The major issue comes when you try to play this game in a room that is poorly lit, because the white-and-light-gray map is so hard to see without exceptionally bright light. That’s more an issue with my eyesight than the game, but you will blame a friend for trying to play this game in a dining room that is not lit well. Then you add the lack of included magnifying glasses and the diminishing eyesight of yours truly, and you have some essential problems playing the game.
These last issues are mine, and maybe mine alone. Be prepared!
One Final Question. Is It a Game?
I’m not sure that really matters. The gaming public at large has spoken, and believes that these “Where’s Waldo?”-style puzzles really ARE games. I’m more concerned with a different question: is Full House fun?
Absolutely. I’ve played Full House with my gaming groups, my wife, with friends after a dinner party, and solo. Everyone loves a good mystery and looking around the magnificent map for 15 minutes with friends to find out whodunit just works.
It’s a single play experience (or one that you’ll play through once, then leave on a shelf for a year or two, just long enough to forget some of the details, before playing again). For the price, this offers a great activity to leave on a puzzle table or pinned to a large corkboard in a well-lit room for people to try their hand at solving each crime. Like other puzzle/escape room game experiences, I fully expect MicroMacro to turn into an annual series that stays as fresh as the designer’s future ideas. Bring it on!