The reason felt the need to write this Hunt a Killer review is because when I was considering subscribing I was frustrated and surprised at the lack of information from others who played. Since I had never participated in any service like this I was disappointed that I had to make this decision blindly. This review is based on my personal experience with the Hunt a Killer service and I will do my best to not spoil anything but this article will show contents from the game and will provide some suggestions that I wish I knew before subscribing.
On to my story…. I decided to purchase Hunt a Killer as a last minute Valentine’s gift for my wife because I foolishly thought we weren’t buying each other gifts. One day in passing she mentioned that she grabbed me something. I panicked and thought hard about something I could get her that would be unique and I remembered seeing the ad for Hunt a Killer on Facebook.
Some may find it odd or morbid to buy my wife a “box of murder” to show my affection but you have to understand my wife’s favorite TV shows. I am going to steal a phrase from South Park who coined the term “Murder Porn” and they nailed it. These are shows like Dateline, 48 Hours, Law and Order, Snapped, etc. and it’s not uncommon to find us binging on channels like the ID Network. In fact we regularly fall asleep to these shows and humorously never see if the killer was caught.
So the Hunt a Killer idea seemed perfect for us because we fancy ourselves to be armchair detectives and have hundreds of hours of experience. Also, we’ve been looking for a reason to get a game night together with friends so I figure I would kill a couple birds with one stone. (pun intended)
Now the basics…
What is Hunt a Killer
According the company:
“Hunt A Killer is a murder mystery subscription box where a detective enlists your help in solving a murder. This detective sends you a box with letters, documents, clues, and evidence every month. With each box, you’ll be able to eliminate a suspect and get one step closer to cracking the case. You’re a part of this fictional world and we’re relying on your detective skills to piece together this story and catch the killer!”
As the above statement mentions when you receive your first box inside will be a letter from a private investigator asking for your help to solve a murder mystery. This letter is critical to the game because it acts as a guide for the various puzzles you’ll need to solve each month. The goal of each box is to eliminate one suspect per box.
You’ll also receive important pieces of evidence such as witness statements, a map of the town, photos of the suspects, etc. With each new box you’ll receive another letter from the private investigator and more evidence that will help you eliminate suspects until you figure out who the killer is.
If you sign up for the season (6 boxes) you’ll get one new box every month. Depending how many people you have working together each box should take a couple hours to figure out. If you find you’re solving them quicker you can request new boxes anytime and they’ll ship it out so you don’t have to wait a whole month. We have a group of six working together and have found that we can get through two boxes in an evening if we’re focused.
In addition to the boxes there is on-line help in the form of the Hunt a Killer forums and also the private investigator’s website. The investigator’s website is critical to solving the mystery because he’ll usually post photos or videos to help narrow down the suspects. The forums are a great help but be careful because there are definitely spoilers in those posts. Most of the posts with spoilers are clearly marked but we tend to wait until we’re stuck or if we think we figured out the box just to be safe. The forum is a ton of fun because people will come up with theories and experiments that we would have never thought of on our own.
Subscription Options and Cost
In order to play you’ll need to fill out a form and see if you qualify. They say that they only accept 200 new members a day. I’m not sure if this is for a specific reason or just a marketing ploy but you won’t be able to see the pricing until you fill out the form.
Once you get the approval email you’ll see that there are three options to choose from.
- Month to Month – $30.00
- One Season (6 Boxes) – $27.50
- Two Seasons (12 Boxes) – $25.00
If you don’t want to wait month to month you can also buy the “Premium Case” option where they’ll ship you an entire story in one box. This may be a good option if you’re throwing a party or prefer to get everything in one bang. They prices for the Premium Boxes vary depending on the mystery but most seem to be between $100 – $160.
I subscribed to Hunt a Killer with the intention to play with friends as a game night but you could definitely play as a couple or solo.
What was fun about playing in a group is that everyone brought different skills to the team. When we opened the first box none of us had any idea what to expect and by the end of that first night each person had their own role. One of our friends took meticulous notes, one of us operated the computer, etc.
The goal of each box is to use the clues to eliminate at least one suspect. Each box will always have a letter from the private investigator and it’s important that you read that letter carefully. We weren’t paying attention when our friend read the letter and completely missed that there’s a “virtual desktop” from the PI that had important information.
The clues will vary from photos and witness statements to physical items like a necklace or socks, etc. You’ll also have to go on-line to see items the PI posted like audio recordings or videos. Some of the clues will require you to solve a puzzle and I’ll include some helpful tips below that we found useful.
Typically you can complete one box in about two hours and we typically complete two boxes during each game night. If you find that you are going to need more than one box per month you can request the next box at anytime.
Once you think that you have solved all of the clues and think you can eliminate suspects you can confirm you findings by going to the episode recap website. You’ll receive a checklist with each box and on the back of that checklist is the website for the episode recap as well as a code to let you see the information. This site is great if you get stuck on a puzzle and you can select only the information you want to view so you don’t spoil anything.
Overall we really enjoyed the boxes and each one was tough enough to challenge and engage the group without losing our interest. The story is fun and if you enjoy true crime shows (Dateline, 48 Hours, etc.) you’ll find yourself getting drawn in. We enjoyed this for our game night because it was one game that we spread out over several gatherings. What we did realize is that if we left too much time between events we had a tough time remembering all of the characters and details. We agreed as a group we would do another season and possibly buy the “Premium Boxes” for a group or family vacation activity.
Tips and Suggestions
Additional Items Needed
Based on our experience I would recommend several items to help your game play.
- Cork Board / Push Pin
- This is useful for your “murder board” we pinned the suspects to it and removed them as we eliminated them. It was also helpful to leave the timeline up so we could all refer back to it.
- Binder / Bins
- There’s a lot of papers and physical items (witness statements, clues, etc.) and it’s necessary to have a way to organize them so that you don’t lose anything. Plus it is easier to keep everyone’s notes together.
- Laptop / Desktop Computer
- You must have a laptop or desktop computer to access the Private Investigators “virtual desktop“. You won’t be able to access that information on a mobile device or tablet. This came up as an issue one evening at we lost a lot of time trying to find a working laptop.
- Pens, Notebooks, Tape, etc.
- You’re going to want to take notes and write on the various clues. We also found it was helpful to tape the map of the town to the wall so we could look up where incidents happened, etc.
Below are some recommendations that I wish I knew before playing that will hopefully help with your game experience.
- Read the Private Investigator’s letter carefully
- The letter will give you all the clues that you’ll need to complete each box. It’s also important to use his “virtual desktop” because there are helpful tools and clues in there.
- Use the Hunt a Killer forums
- The forums have great information to help you get started and also is helpful if you get stuck on a clue. The forum is good about marking items with spoiler alerts before you read them. Also, it’s interesting to hear other players theories on the story and see how far people will go to solve the mystery.
- Get to know your cyphers
- Cyphers are ways to create and solve codes and are critical for solving the various puzzles in the box. On the Hunt a Killer forum there is a great list of the the various cyphers used. You can find the list here. Also, there are very helpful tools found inside the private investigators “virtual desktop” that will help you crack the codes.
- If you get stuck use the episode recap website
- The episode recap website is structured in a way that you can select only the clues you want to reveal. Still be careful because there are spoilers in the recap.
Overall I would recommend Hunt a Killer and thought it was very fun and challenging. The story line is whimsical and is a cleaver nod to the murder mystery shows we all love. If you enjoy solving puzzles and riddles this will be very enjoyable. I would recommend playing with others but I could see it being enjoyable even by yourself. We are going to play Hunt a Killer again but will also keep my eyes peeled for other similar box service to have a comparison.
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