In the latest from the company known for its detailed and self-contained mystery puzzles that depend less on luck, more than strategy and a lot more deductive reasoning, a murder has occured in a summer camp, where counsellor Bradley Brooks of Camp Ashburne, has been found burnt to a charred crisp. However, the death is ruled an accident, as Bradley is thought to have gotten drunk, tripped, and fell into the blazing bonfire.
But, the camp owner’s daughter, Jemma, found some evidence that casts doubt into the cause of Bradley’s death and that is where players come in. The game’s focus is on whodunnit – who the murderer is, and whydunnit – the motive for the crime, and as with any Hunt A Killer game, all you need is contained in a box delivered to you.
And after playing several versions of the game, we have to say that the writing for Camp Calamity is superb. This is not a one-dimensional mystery where you barrel through huge chunks of text to get a barely satisfying answer to a singular question. There are layers to Camp Calamity, mysteries on top of mysteries.
As players solve the many well-designed puzzles in the box, they get more and more snippets of the story. The summer camp setting brims with drama – beneath the superficial sheen of friendship and camaraderie, they find secret relationships, dirty secrets, and hidden tensions.
Players will find the characters’ facades breaking, as they piece together the tragic sequence of events that led to Bradley’s death.
So what’s the advantage of a game like this? In a mystery novel, the reader is a passive observer following the detective and finding out what happens page by page. Even in a video game such as Disco Elysium, the experience, being locked behind a screen, is somewhat distant, and players can feel the developer steering and guiding us in a certain direction.
Perhaps the closest things that can compare to what Hunt A Killer does are board games like TIME Stories and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. But even so, they don’t give that tantalising taste of the player being put into the role of investigator that Hunt A Killer does so well. There really is nothing like it.
It’s all about the tactile nature of it, that players are getting the story with the pages all scattered, and have to put them in order. It’s just that these ‘pages’ come in the form of notebooks, personal effects, private letters, and other memorabilia.
These include the letter that’ll get players started on the mystery, a camp zine made by the campers in the story and has that handcrafted design to it, a trashed letter which is actually crumpled, reusable stickers which is part of my favourite puzzle for the game, a lighter, playing cards, a photo, a bandana, and more.
They give players just enough to create intrigue and make the desire to dive right into the game irresistible. All these items come inside the victim’s memory box.
This is where the folks of Hunt A Killer has really outdone themselves. These murder mystery boxes already appeal to that inner snoop in many, but Camp Calamity’s design kicks it up a notch. Instead of the box containing a game, this actually feels like an object the victim owned. Brad is a camp counsellor who has been attending the summer camp annually, and the box really does bring that idea across.
There are many messages scribbled by others, and doodles all over, even inside. The story also makes use of the box in creative ways, but let’s not spoil that.
Playing the game feels like reading someone’s diary, like I’m sifting through something truly private.
The puzzles are well integrated into the story, incorporated in a naturalistic way. No puzzle is awkwardly forced in just for the sake of adding another obstacle for the player. They are all justified and don’t demand much suspension of disbelief if at all. For example, there’s a puzzle that uses this camp zine, the playing cards, and one other object which is justified both in terms of design and narrative.
Like other Hunt A Killer boxes, there is a virtual desktop to access, which is where players will type in their suspicions and maybe solutions they find along the way. For Camp Calamity, there will be more clues in the form of notes, audio files, and even a website for the summer camp.
Hunt A Killer went the extra mile with quotes and actual photos for that website, which adds to that illusion of authenticity. All of that will play a part in leading players to the identity of the murderer.
Immersion is the biggest draw here. This feels like solving an actual mystery rather than just puzzles.
This is also a friendly game, meaning you don’t have to be a murder mystery or puzzle fanatic in order to enjoy it. After all, with a box like this, it can be difficult to know where to start. There is just so much stuff! So there are hints and reveals online that will nudge players in the right direction should that be necessary, which will prevent frustration from building.
While the game can be played alone, it’s most fun with 2 to 3 people bouncing ideas off each other and splitting the job – for example one person is trying to solve a puzzle while another is searching the notebooks for clues that would help.
Camp Calamity will take about 3 to 5 hours to complete, which is perfect for a fun evening with friends and family, to get a taste of something different that you can bond over.
Unlike Hunt A Killer’s regular subscription mysteries, this is a one-time box. Which means, instead of having to solve the mystery bit by bit over the course of 6 months, the mystery can be solved within a single session.
This also means that Camp Calamity will be the cheapest mystery Hunt A Killer has ever sold directly. Instead of being priced at over US$100 like the other products, it will be going for US$59.99.
For those who can’t wait to get your hands on Camp Calamity, use the coupon code GEEKCULTURE10 to get a 10% OFF your purchase.