Pocket Detective - Murder at the University: the review

Pocket Detective - Murder at the University: the review
A mysterious murder, investigations to be carried out as quickly as possible, witnesses and suspects to be interrogated: Pocket Detective - Murder at the University is a game published by Cranio Creations where players play the role of detectives in charge of solving a crime; but beware: the District Attorney will not be convinced by a reconstruction not corroborated by the right clues!

The game is one shot, as in the case of escape room simulators: once the game is over, the mystery is revealed and players will no longer have any reason to try again to face the case. Unlike many other titles, the author has preferred to minimize the game elements, concentrating everything in just seventy-one cards, some of which also have the role of an instruction manual. There are no other components and, unlike other similar titles, there are no elements that are destroyed or ruined during the game.

Detective at work

The mechanics are collaborative and involve game turns: the different investigators (or the only investigator) rotate: it is also possible to play individually, even if much of the fun consists precisely in the exchange of ideas with the other participants) choose a path to follow and collect the corresponding clues. The information obtained is available to everyone, but it is only the active investigator who chooses the next move. Crime scenes can be searched, witnesses questioned, archived researches done, the forensic analysis requested and much more; everything happens simply by following the instructions on the cards: some are collected in covered piles that represent the different locations or sources of information, others are uncovered and indicate the active tracks. Each track reports which new card needs to be revealed to obtain the required information or advance the story in a timely manner. Each track also has an indication (through special symbols) of how long it may take to follow it and if it has negative consequences on the investigation, indicated by the Voltage symbols; only when the new card is revealed will it be known how many real time and tension symbols have been accumulated.

The game does not have a predefined duration: the players can at any time decide to close the case, but it is important who have a clear understanding of the dynamics of the crime, so as to be able to pass a sufficiently solid case to the District Attorney. Each wrong conclusion leads to the accumulation of tension symbols that will penalize the final result. The mechanism for assigning points at the end of the game is very simple: it starts from a value of one hundred points, from which all the time symbols accumulated to complete the investigation and all the unmotivated Voltage symbols are subtracted (some can in fact be excluded from the count. ).


The game has some well thought out elements, but it also has some limitations. In general the mechanics are very simple and allow anyone to participate, even players who have no experience; on the other hand, the explanations on the cards are very summary and therefore must be read carefully, under penalty of a few missteps at the start.

The choice of simplicity is evident in many elements: there are no enigmas to solve or puzzles to solve. compose, but only investigative choices and information to be collected. If on the one hand this really allows anyone to follow and participate, applying logical-deductive reasoning, on the other hand the choice of providing all information in exclusively textual mode (except in very rare cases), greatly limits the physical interaction with the game, which is reduced to the mere reading of texts and the following discussions between the participants.

The author is evidently aware of the level of difficulty of the game and in fact in a specific introductory card that can be solved with a minimum of ten to fifteen rounds (which is equivalent to a game time of thirty to forty minutes, depending on the number of players and therefore the discussions between them).


Pocket Detective - Murder at the University is definitely a game that makes its simplicity its strong point. The title represents the first case of the first "season" and as such it is logical to expect a story of low difficulty as well. It is certainly a good product, which shows a certain care in design and production, with some flaws due to its young age; it will be interesting to evaluate the evolution of the next cases to understand if and what degrees of complexity and development will be achieved.


The cardboard used for the cards is of excellent quality and thickness , making their handling pleasant, even if typically short-lived. The setting is well represented by the decorative or representative elements of the cards (envelopes for the dossiers, typewriter font for the writings) and, even if there are not many illustrations, those present are of a good standard. The box has the minimum necessary dimensions, making the game easily transportable and very compact. From the graphic point of view it is very well studied and very beautiful; the opening from below could be misleading, making you believe that it is difficult to open, when in reality it is enough to open it from below. It should be noted that unfortunately some decks have incorrect packaging: the first ten cards are reversed, also risking dangerous spoilers. Correcting the error is very simple as each card has a code consisting of a letter and a number in the upper right corner: the first visible card should therefore be the A0 (with a huge message “Read before you start! ").

Game suitable for

Pocket Detective is a game mainly indicated for players approaching this type of product for the first time: simple mechanics and a not too complicated case, without hidden clues, riddles or puzzles, they make it linear and therefore within everyone's reach. Gamers who are passionate about the genre may find it a little too simple, but the very low cost (less than ten euros) actually makes it an absolutely acceptable expense for them too.

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