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Hunt A Killer Vs Unsolved Case Files: Which Is Better?

Hunt a killer and unsolved case files side by side
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek
Ultimately, you’ll have fun with mysteries from Hunt A Killer and Unsolved Case Files. Hunt A Killer has more puzzles, codes to decrypt, and pricing models. Unsolved Case Files is all about reading and putting the pieces together. As to which one is better, I think it depends on your preferences. For me, Hunt A Killer comes out on top.

Hunt A Killer and Unsolved Case Files are two of the most popular murder mystery games. Each company produces games that involve a fictional crime, and it’s up to you (and family or friends) to catch the culprit. The premise of each game is similar, but does one company provide a better experience?

Despite Hunt A Killer being popular for its monthly subscription option, my first experience with the company was with one of its newer standalone board games: Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens. In this game, you act as Nancy Drew’s assistant, solving the mystery of who poisoned the owner of Magnolia Gardens.

Shortly after, I tested out a box set from Hunt A Killer called Curtain Call. Transported back to 1934, I helped out with a cold case involving the death of a famous actress, Viola Vane, and the Cadence Theatre. While the subject matter was different, it felt like a similar experience to the Nancy Drew game.

After trying these two games out, I wanted to know what other murder mystery games were out there. During my research, Unsolved Case Files came up as the top competition for Hunt A Killer, so I tried solving the Harmony Ashcroft case. A man had been wrongly convicted for the murder of Harmony Ashcroft, and it was up to me to prove his innocence and find the actual killer.

All in all, I enjoyed my time solving every mystery. If you’re a true crime lover like me, I think it’s impossible to not find these games entertaining—no matter which company it’s from or what the crime is that you’re investigating. However, there are a few reasons that Hunt A Killer won out for me as the best company overall to buy a murder mystery game from. Of course, that’s my personal opinion, but I think it’s a pretty solid one, and here’s why.

One-Time Solves vs Subscription-Based Mysteries

Hunt A Killer’s original claim to fame was its mystery subscription boxes. You sign up for a subscription—which can be month-to-month, bi-annual, or annual—and get to look forward to solving another piece of the puzzle every month. With a subscription, you can plan a monthly game night with friends and family for when your Hunt A Killer box is set to arrive.

Episode one of the Hunt A Killer Curtain Call Box Set standing next to other episodes
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Since Hunt A Killer started its company, it’s recognized the demand for more than a little snippet of a bigger mystery every month. Now, you can also experiment with a standalone board game experience or buy box sets of previous subscription “seasons,” consisting of six total monthly episodes.

Bag containing case files from Unsolved Case Files Harmony Ashcroft mystery game
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

In the Unsolved Case Files business model, there are no subscriptions. Everything you need is in one standalone box, and there’s no need to wait to solve the entire mystery.

What’s Included in the Box

All of the games I’ve played so far from Unsolved Case Files and Hunt A Killer involve a lot of papers to read. After all, you’re solving a mystery, and many of your clues are hidden between the lines in the paperwork you’re meant to sort through. That said, Unsolved Case Files is kind of all paper, whereas Hunt A Killer mysteries come with little trinkets that are either just for show or contain a puzzle.

Evidence files from Unsolved Case Files Harmony Ashcroft mystery game laid out on table
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

In the Harmony Ashcroft case from Unsolved Case Files, there are five suspect packets that contain witness statements, interrogations, a person of interest sheet, photos, and more. When you look at the other options from Unsolved Case Files, every case seems to contain five suspects and have a similar packet of documents. In addition to the suspect packets in the Harmony Ashcroft case, there are newspaper articles, a map of the area surrounding the murder, a wedding invitation, and a police evidence log.

There are also a bunch of photos, which is a noticeable difference between Unsolved Case Files and Hunt A Killer. In the Harmony Ashcroft case, there are three crime scene photos, a little magnifying glass, and a bunch of witness photos. The crime scene photos are a nice touch, but the witness photos just feel like extra paper. The witness photos aren’t useful in the game, and they just look like stock photos of random people.

all content of Mystery at Magnolia Gardens
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

In both of the Hunt A Killer mysteries I solved, there aren’t any photos of the crime scene, and any photos of the suspects or witnesses are drawn or made to look old. While it would be nice to have crime scene photos for the immersive aspect, I prefer the minimal witness and suspect photos in Hunt A Killer. The photos only show up when necessary rather than as a stack of cheesy stock photos to look at initially and then put down for the rest of the solving time.

The artfully crafted character cards are something I really love about Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens. The cards are large, beautifully illustrated, and have pertinent information about the pictured character on the back of them, which makes it easy to keep info organized. In addition to the character cards, miscellaneous documents, and brochures, this Hunt A Killer mystery also comes with a prop tea strainer, a ring, and a locked metal box. You have to figure out the code to unlock the metal box, and you can use it afterward as a container for pens and pencils if you want.

Box one contents of Hunt A Killer Curtain Call Box Set laid out on desk
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

The Curtain Call box set from Hunt A Killer contains similar contents to the Nancy Drew mystery. Each of the six boxes in this set feature a letter from Julia Adler, the current owner of the Cadence Theatre, where the murder occurred in 1934.

There are a few newspaper articles, a bunch of letters written in cursive, and then some documents are stored in a “virtual desktop” (a website) you need a computer to access. There are also police evidence reports and witness statements, but they aren’t as detailed as the ones found in the Harmony Ashcroft case with Unsolved Case Files.

As far as trinkets go in the Curtain Call set, there’s at least one per box. The trinkets are never crucial to solving the mystery, unlike the locked metal box in the Nancy Drew mystery, which contains crucial information inside. There are cufflinks, a handkerchief, a cigarette case, and a Cadence Theatre pin, just to name a few.

Length of Play

It took me about two hours to complete all three objectives in Unsolved Case Files – Harmony Ashcroft. All of that time was spent either reading through documents or confirming documents to prove an objective online.

Most of that two hours, I was solving the first objective. The second and third objectives only took five to ten minutes to solve. I also solved the case by myself, so if you’re solving with a group, it could easily take 45 to 90 minutes rather than two hours. The game markets playtime as two to six hours for two or more people, though the Harmony Ashcroft case is the company’s first, so it might be a little easier than other cases.

Hunt A Killer’s single-solve board game, Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens, also took about two hours to solve on my own. I spent that time reading through documents and solving a few small puzzles. This game has an official playtime of 60 to 90 minutes for one to five people.

Curtain Call is a longer, episodic box set from Hunt A Killer, and it took me about 10 hours to solve the mystery. Officially, the game says it offers 10 to 15 hours of gameplay for one to five people. However, I think the mystery could have been solved in seven to eight hours if more people were involved. With all of these time estimates in mind, each box could take between 80 and 150 minutes, depending on the number of people involved and everyone’s sleuthing skills.

Overall Level of Difficulty

The Harmony Ashcroft case from Unsolved Case Files tasks you with solving three consecutive objectives to solve the entire mystery. Your first objective is printed on the inside of the case folder, while objectives two and three are hidden in Bonus Envelopes A and B. In Bonus Envelope C, you’ll get juicy details after solving the case, like the murderer’s confession.

Your first objective is to prove why the falsely convicted man must be innocent. To solve this objective, you have to find the two documents that prove your answer without a shadow of a doubt. Then, you head to the companion website, check your answer, and see if you’re right.

The second objective is finding whose alibi had holes in it, and the third objective is figuring out which suspect hid a key piece of evidence implicating him in the murder. Both of these objectives need to be solved using two documents and the companion website, just like the first objective.

There aren’t any puzzles or codes to decipher within the Harmony Ashcroft case. Instead, finding the solution to all three objectives requires a lot of reading. There are a lot of documents to sift through, and you often have to compare them to one another to find key discrepancies. Overall, I’d say the Harmony Ashcroft case’s difficulty could be labeled as easy.

Suspect profiles from Unsolved Case Files Harmony Ashcroft mystery game
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Both of the games I tested out from Hunt A Killer incorporate puzzles to shake things up. The Curtain Call box set and Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens both have a bunch of documents to read and sort through, but the puzzles or codes to decipher help the experience not feel so monotonous.

In the Nancy Drew game, the puzzles are simple enough to solve by yourself but challenging enough that it took some time to figure them out. When I solved the mystery, my favorite puzzle was finding the correct combination on the lock to open the metal box. There was only one puzzle that I couldn’t figure out, but it wasn’t relevant to figuring out who the culprit was.

There’s a final answer envelope to open once you come to your conclusion of who poisoned Florence, the owner of Magnolia Gardens. To find this final solution, the game prompts you to answer the questions of how, why, and when Florence was poisoned. Throughout the game, you have to create a timeline and interpret information that’s meant to muddy the case. Because of this and the puzzles involved, Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens falls between an easy and medium difficulty level.

lock puzzle from Mystery at Magnolia Gardens
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Compared to the Nancy Drew standalone game, the Curtain Call box set has more codes to decipher. If you’re not familiar with cryptograms or any other kind of decoding game, it might be a bit tougher. That said, many of the coded ciphers aren’t necessary to decipher in order to solve the case. It’s fun to unravel the juicy details of the mystery, but I could’ve just as easily found the murderer without them.

I’d classify the Curtain Call set as a medium-difficulty experience, though the first box is really easy and more of an introduction to the story. In the first box, you have to find the murder weapon. Boxes two through five have you rule out a single suspect based on evidence you’ve found in that box or previous boxes. Then, in box six, you answer the question of who committed the murder. For all boxes, you email your answer through the virtual desktop—which is just a website—and receive an instant response.

It’s worth mentioning that my estimated levels of difficulty for each game might not reflect everyone’s experience. If you’re solving the mystery in a group, it might drastically decrease the overall difficulty because you have more eyes on the documents and important evidence. Or, if you’re solving the mystery by yourself and you don’t typically watch any true crime shows or practice critical reading skills, you might find these mysteries a bit harder to solve.

Price and Value Comparison

When comparing the price and value of mysteries from Unsolved Case Files and Hunt A Killer, the result is relatively similar.

Buying any case from Unsolved Case Files or a standalone board game from Hunt A Killer is around $30. You can often find these games for slightly cheaper, whether you’re buying new or used, but for this purpose, we’ll go with the retail price.

I spent about two hours by myself solving both the Harmony Ashcroft case and Nancy Drew – Mystery at Magnolia Gardens, which works out to $15 per hour. If you play these games with another person or a group, it’ll probably take you less time, which will result in a higher dollars spent to hours spent playing ratio.

When I played Hunt A Killer’s Curtain Call set, it retailed for around $120 and it took me 10 hours by myself to get through all six boxes. This would work out to be $12 spent for every hour I spent playing the game. Because the Curtain Call set has been out for a while, you can snag it on Hunt A Killer’s website for a discounted price (right now, it’s about $60), which is an even better value.

To put these prices and values in perspective, consider how much money you’d spend on a night out at the movies or an escape room. Personally, working my brain for two hours to solve a mystery is a more enjoyable experience than sitting in a movie theater for two hours. The process of getting to the correct solution isn’t always linear or easy, but there’s nothing quite like the dopamine-rush of catching the fictional killer.

Although I went through all the experiences alone (with occasional input from my husband), I would definitely try a mystery from one of these companies with a larger group of friends or family members. I love that any game from Hunt A Killer or Unsolved Case Files makes it easy to choose a solo experience or a collaborative one with multiple people. For the best possible value, keep an eye on the longer, episodic box sets from Hunt A Killer and grab one when it’s on sale.

Verdict: Hunt A Killer Has a Slight Edge

Solving mysteries from both Hunt A Killer and Unsolved Case Files was incredibly fun, but as an overall experience, I think Hunt A Killer is better. While there’s no functional reason to include the trinkets in Hunt A Killer mysteries, they add a fun, realistic element to the game. Then, the mixture of reading and comparing documents with decrypting codes and solving puzzles makes for a more entertaining gameplay experience.

There’s also a variety of ways to enjoy products from Hunt A Killer, which I really love. If you’re at Target and you want to pick up a standalone game from Hunt A Killer, you can. Or, you can subscribe for monthly fun at a relatively similar price point (as long as you don’t choose the month-to-month option) or wait for box sets to go on sale to get an awesome deal on a lengthy game experience.

Sarah Chaney Sarah Chaney
Sarah Chaney is a professional freelance writer for Review Geek, Android Authority, MakeUseOf, and other great websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Her degree, paired with her almost two years of professionally writing for websites, helps her write content that is engaging, yet informative. She enjoys covering anything Android, video game, or tech related. Read Full Bio »