It was a dark and stormy afternoon. My boyfriend (“S”) and I had just been assigned to a high priority murder mystery case in Gastown. It was our first major file, and we were curious to see how quickly we would be able to determine the guilty suspect. The case would require our skills of deduction, a willingness to do the unexpected, and above all, the ability to work together as a team. Would this romantic duo succeed at detective work?
I love solving puzzles and playing board games (Clue was always my favourite), so I was really excited when I learned about Vancouver Mysteries, the city’s first urban game company.
Basically, you sign up ($25 per person, teams of 2-5 people) for a time slot (every 15 minutes daily from 11:15am to 3:30pm) and for one of two games on offer. This first is called “Secret Mission,” a downtown spy thriller that sees players acting as secret agents out to stop an organization called Blackout.
The second, which we selected, is titled “Crime in Downtown” and involves solving, through the streets of Gastown, the ghastly murder of journalist Jimmy Capello. Suspects include Greg Flament, a mobster casino owner; heiress and party-girl Janet Evans; and Susan Slater, a tortured psychiatrist.
Our mission began with an email that gave us the address of a top-secret location near Waterfront Station. As a new member of the Terminal City Police Department, I am unable to reveal the location (as well as other precise details of the case) to you, lest it compromise future investigations. Once there, we provided the necessary code phrase, and were presented a satchel containing all our necessary crime-solving tools. Besides informational files on the murder, there were many other items whose purpose only became apparent as the game progressed.
We were given two hours to figure out our murderer; if we completed the case within 1.5 hours, we would receive full points. We then left our secret location and embarked on foot, on an inventive (and fun) series of challenges that took us all over Gastown. The puzzles incorporate famous locations and landmarks of the area, like Gassy Jack in Maple Tree Square and the steam clock. History of the area and of these key spots is provided, making the game educational as well.
The various tasks required observing and interacting with the Gastown environment in highly creative ways. Some of them were relatively easy while others required a bit more brainpower. One of the challenges had us stumped for quite some time before I remembered an item that was in our satchel. The result was revelatory. The game was also revealing in the way it forced S and I to put our heads together (sometimes playfully disagreeing) in order to move ever closer to the solution to our murder conundrum. S is very detail oriented, and I’m good at the abstract, so we made a good team.
If you want, you can hustle to get that perfect score, or, like us, take your time and make it more of a leisurely date. At one point, S needed a caffeine fix, so we stopped at a café and strategized there. Since the game takes place primarily outdoors, clear skies are optimal. However, we did our crime fighting on a rainy day and still had a great time. It added a suitable atmospheric touch to the mystery. Plus, game material is laminated so it doesn’t get soggy.
Overall, S and I loved the interactivity of the game, and the gradual unfolding of the narrative as we moved through the various puzzles. Plus, we gained a greater knowledge of Gastown’s past and present, as well as of the cobblestone streets and alleys that make this area of town so unique.