One-shot investigation case game? Count me in. I’ve already reviewed two of the Unsolved Case Files games, and when I got the chance to play more, I was very willing to open another file.
This time around, Unsolved Case Files has introduced family-friendly cases for sleuths to tackle, so along with my 8-year-old daughter (and, for a little while, my 5-year-old son), we tried out Unsolved Case Files: Honey the Bunny during spring break.
I wish…well, read on. (Don’t worry, this will be a spoiler-free review!)
It IS Family Friendly
In Honey the Bunny, you take on the persona of a suspect in the game: Alex, a new sixth-grader at a school in Rolling Hills, Missouri. The class pet is an actual pet rabbit named Honey, and one Thursday over the lunch hour, Honey goes missing from her cage.
No one else at the school is smart enough to deduce what happened, and they’ve made you the lead suspect in the crime. You’re facing a week’s worth of detention unless you can clear your name. So, while the principal is chatting with the district superintendent, you have to find out what happened by first demonstrating your own innocence before studying the list of suspects to see who took Honey.
Like other Unsolved Case Files games, you’ll have pictures of suspects, witness testimony, and additional information needed to figure out the crime in three stages. The first stage requires you to clear your name before moving on; you’ll use QR codes on cards to pull up a website where you can enter information to ensure you didn’t just luck your way into an answer.
The setup and the details in Honey the Bunny are very family-friendly, although I was hoping for a game that fit younger kids. My 8-year-old got along just fine and she stuck with me as I read through case details trying to chase down answers.
My 5-year-old made it about 10 minutes before he announced “This is boring” to all within earshot (of our kitchen table) and left to play with his new Lego set. But before he left, he was convinced that one of the main suspects was definitely the culprit and didn’t stop sharing that until he left the table.
At least he was engaged for his brief time with us!
Honey the Bunny seems best suited for children around the age of 10 or 11. Now that I’ve played through it, I think some of the reading, themes and reasoning align a little better with slightly older kids.
That said, my daughter figured out the answer to the second stage of the investigation before I did.
Stage one was crafty, but plausible. Stage two? Same thing. You’ll get there, as long as you really study your evidence closely. But we found that using the website to get clues felt broken (as in, the app wasn’t providing a clue in the way that we thought it should after answering riddles tied to certain evidence), and we just lucked out to get the right answer in the app.
Speaking of the website, the accessibility is only OK. You could just pick every single answer until you get the thing right. Getting hints required a lot of math; even if you remember everything, you’ll be asked to grab a few random numbers. This gets worse when you then have to decipher puzzles scattered across 25+ pieces of evidence.
And, for the third stage of Honey the Bunny? While not logically broken (this is a problem that hit hard in the Jamie Banks case), a lot of major stretches that I dare not reveal here had to take place in order for us to land on the final solution. These stretches included a mix of the facts and the plausibility of how the game ends. We just picked all of the possible answers on the app to finally figure out the answer.
That didn’t feel great. The finale is logically possible, but it’s hard to believe it taking place in reality.
Now, what DID feel great was playing a game with my kids and spending time with them trying to solve a puzzle. Completing the case took about two hours, in part because I let my daughter serve as the reader of our evidence and she just doesn’t read aloud as fast as I do. For slightly older kids, you’re looking at 90 minutes, especially if you come to a solution faster than we did.
The format of Unsolved Case Files still works for me; Harmony Ashcroft remains my favorite of the 3 Unsolved Case Files games I have tried so far. The writing in these games never truly shines (the interview transcripts, the background information, etc.), but that makes all of the games accessible to a wide range of potential players.
The game fully resets after play, so I’m giving my copy to another gaming family as soon as this review goes live. Being able to recycle games in this way is amazing for so many reasons, and I’m hoping that Unsolved Case Files builds more of these experiences: shorter cases for younger kids, which last for about an hour.