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Unsolved Case Files: Jane Doe Game Review

“Would you say that to a cop?”

Justin continues his deep dive into the Unsolved Case Files series with a review of Jane Doe, distributed by Goliath Games.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

I have a special place in my heart for the Unsolved Case Files series of one-shot, partially app-driven, crime-solving mystery productions distributed by Goliath Games. I’ve solved the murders of Jamie Banks and Harmony Ashcroft. Avery and Zoey Gardner needed my help, so I helped solve that crime, too. I took a detour to help resolve the mystery of a missing bunny rabbit at a local school in the case of Honey the Bunny.

My crime-fighting skills were needed once again by the fine people of a fictional location not far from a place you’ve probably heard of, so I tapped the shoulders of my wife and my 10-year-old to help solve the brutal murder of…Jane Doe. Yes—THAT Jane Doe. The one who doesn’t have a name. She had a bright future until it was all dashed away when she was burned to a crisp in an apparent murder/arson situation more than 20 years ago.

Unsolved Case Files: Jane Doe offers a twist to the normal series elements we’ve come across over the previous four games in the series. (UCF: Jane Doe was actually released in 2020, so while this is my fifth game, Jane Doe was released a bit earlier than some of the other ones I’ve covered.)

Yes, the local police force has a cold case that needs a warm-up, but the mystery runs in two directions: the cops need to know who killed this particular Jane Doe, but they also need help figuring out who Jane Doe is!

Intrigued, I raised my hand for a review copy. All the warm, comfy elements of the previous games are here, right down to the somewhat unnecessary magnifying glass, the person of interest reports, and the pictures of suspects standing in front of an outdoor location that look more than just a little “Photoshopped” (per my 10-year-old).

Is this a case worth solving? Let’s discuss my spoiler-free thoughts below.


It’s April, 2001. On an island where one of the country’s most famous rehab clinics is hosting four new patients, a counselor is trying his best to provide a calm and soothing experience for recovering addicts when disaster strikes one night after a bonfire. A fire burns the counselor’s house to the ground, and the cops discover a body beneath the house in a scene that screams foul play. Immediately, the counselor and the four guests are identified as the main suspects in the crime. But, fires being fires, most of the physical evidence was destroyed and the case was never solved.

Thankfully, we the players need something to do for the next two hours! In typical Unsolved Case Files (UCF) fashion, a manila folder includes everything the players need to solve the case, along with bonus envelopes that break the game into manageable stages. Using a QR code system that leads to a website where questions must be solved to advance the case, players have to answer three questions:

  1. How did “Jane” get to the island?
  2. Who is Jane Doe?
  3. Who killed Jane?

For the first time in the five games I’ve tried in the Unsolved Case Files series, we didn’t get any of the three main questions right on our first two attempts when using the app to move forward in the investigation. We were on the right path with the first section (Jane’s journey to the island) but answered the prompts incorrectly and needed a full series of hints to even get that far.

The second and third sections of this game are…I’m going to go with “a major stretch”, in part because some of the knowledge needed went beyond the evidence. At some point, you have to go to the UCF website and tell the system which pieces of evidence prove that you’re on the right track. Couldn’t figure out which pieces proved we had a clue, even though we were well versed on the evidence by now. Then we found ourselves guessing. Four times. Five times. Trying various combinations just to get the site to tell us who Jane Doe is.

Eventually, we found a combination that fit, and the explanations provided on the answers page took a bit of a stretch.

I looked over at my wife. (By this time, my 10-year-old had gone to bed.) My wife wasn’t angry, but she was disappointed. Maybe we would have known the correct answers if we happened to know __________ about __________ and one other thing about __________. But we didn’t, and we didn’t have any additional evidence proving otherwise.

OK, fine. We still had one big question to go, and we figured we could right previous wrongs with a slam dunk (at least, it was a layup for us on paper): who killed Jane Doe?

We had our suspicions as we came down the home stretch, and when we opened the second bonus envelope to get our final batch of new evidence, we got even more excited—yes; I remember a thing from earlier in our research about _______, so let’s go back to some documents and confirm a few things and hop right back into the app.

“Sorry, those are not the two documents,” was the response when we entered our suspicions. Surprised, we doubled back to check our facts, still feeling like we had the right murderer but simply the wrong pieces of evidence. But we were wrong…way wrong. We went through maybe a dozen combinations before my wife noticed something that we missed, buried in another file.

The “a-ha” moment hit, we checked our work, entered new choices in the app and came up aces. But we found ourselves feeling a little empty. How did we miss so badly? We play a lot of these types of games, so we should have been closer to the money ball, right?

You (Don’t) Got That Lovin’ Feelin’

Unsolved Case Files: Jane Doe didn’t have some of the logic stretches I’ve seen in other one-shot mystery games (or even the semi-ridiculous ending to the UCF: Jamie Banks case, which my wife and I still joke about two years after the fact). And, any chance I can get to pour a glass of wine and play games with my wife on a weeknight is a big win.

But the investigation here—particularly the back half of the adventure—didn’t satisfy my need to feel clever by digging up a minor point from, say, an interrogation then matching that with some other random piece of evidence. The visual cues weren’t the best here. Some of the things suspects said in their interrogations with the cops felt badly made up. At one point, I looked at my wife and said something to the effect of “even on a bad TV drama, would you ever say ______ to a cop?”

Even though I was dissatisfied by the ending, Jane Doe still had touches I’ve come to enjoy with the Unsolved Case Files series. I still chuckle at the end-of-game news report, bringing the crime to life with details of what happened in the fictional world after you’ve solved the crime. Yes, some are badly “Photoshopped”, but I love the suspects and witness photos. I love using the small magnifying glass to scan all the pictures to see if I’ve missed something.

Maybe Jane Doe was too hard for us. Maybe we missed a key point early on and that set Team Bell off track. But that Unsolved Case Files magic was missing this time. I am in no way dissuaded from trying more of these, because I like to push the brain to solve a puzzle like this from time to time.

Harmony Ashcroft and the Avery & Zoey Gardner cases are still my favorites, with Honey the Bunny coming in behind those and staying well ahead of Jamie Banks. Jane Doe is behind Honey but ahead of Jamie Banks. It is not a case I would recommend as a first play for these (that easily belongs to the Gardner case), but worth a look if you like the system. The Suspects games, even the Cold Case series, are still a better fit than Unsolved Case Files, but hope springs eternal because I can’t get enough of games like this!

  • Mediocre - I probably won’t remember playing this in a year.

Unsolved Case Files: Jane Doe details

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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