Unsolved Case Files partners with Pressman to bring about a series of fictional mysteries where players act as cold-case detectives to unravel crimes “performed” years ago. Whether reruns of Unsolved Mysteries or new seasons of Serial, cold cases are fascinating peeks into the mass of information that investigative work produces. Parts can be bad leads, much of it is weeds needing thinning, but, deep inside, is the truth.
The Jamie Banks Case presents the narrative of a high school student who fell to her death in 1992. At the time, it was ruled a tragic suicide of a gifted young woman buckling under the pressures of her schoolwork, clubs, and social activities. Yet, as players look back through the case, something does not quite add up, giving the chance for the players to do the math and solve a crime.
Much of the fun of the Unsolved Case Files is the high production value. The game box contains a plastic bag marked “Evidence,” sealed and to be opened by “Authorized Personnel Only.” Inside is what one might expect to find in a real police evidence bag: a manila folder filled with forms, statements, documented interviews, and a few newspaper clippings for context. It also includes an envelope of photographs with a magnifying card, hinting that players need to examine closely to find overlooked details.
As it is a cold case, much of the police work has already been done with the files completed and the photos snapped. There are a few conclusions, but players of course know there is something more to be found, meaning the initial phase of the challenge is to read and organize. It is a good idea to go into the Unsolved Case Files with a notebook to jot important items such as where suspects were at certain times.
Rather than being a single question of who-done-it, the Jamie Banks Case is broken into stages to guide players on the right track. Three Objectives are mysteries-within-mysteries, each with its own envelope of further materials. The first lead is to prove that Jamie was not alone in the room before her fall, giving focus to the players’ search of the materials.
Once players have the proof in hand, they are able to check their answers with the Unsolved Case Files website. They mark the document box where they found the proof, showing that they know something without letting the questions give anything away in case it is a bad guess. Hints are available for those struggling while those with the right idea open the first bonus envelope for more evidence and another lead. The third objective will lead to the final question: what proves Jamie was murdered?
Unsolved Case Files: Jamie Banks is a murder-mystery game for one or more players aged fourteen and up. It is fun to play alone, picking the details out like a good mystery novel, but it is also a great party game to share the evidence and debate hunches. As a narrative mystery, it is a one-time game, but Unsolved Case Files has players wanting more covered with plenty more mysteries.