Before I write about the latest edition of this dVGiochi game, 3 SECRETS: CRIME TIME, I think it a good idea to inform that the card games of 3 SECRETS and 3 SECRETS: CRIME TIME can be found online and in game stores, and that they also have their own companion App on the Google Store and the Apple Store. I shall say a little more about this App at the end of this review.
As with the first game this has been designed by Martino Chiacchiera & Pierluca Zizzi. Both games have more than decent artists; 3Secrets by Werther Dell'Edera and the second version utilises the work of Stefano Landini. The style of art doesn't matter to the game play so I have no idea what prompted the change of artist, though there seems to be a more line-art style in 'Crime Time' and more what I would call 'solid' artwork for the first version.
CRIME TIME has 50 games in one box, each card is a puzzle/game, the same as the first presentation. In fact CRIME TIME is more of an extension or an expansion as the rules remain the same, though there is a rules sheet in CRIME TIME in case you do not have the first game. The rules for CRIME TIME have an extra fold, making it 6 pages rather than 4, which gives room for explanation on using the App.
These games are cooperative, with one player taking on the role of the Supercomputer HAL (a nod to 2001 A Space Odyssey) and the other players being investigators or detectives trying to solve the crime. Each card has art that reflects a situation and the players have to determine what that situation is by studying the art and finding the reality to the three clues/secrets presented on each card by one of 7 colours - there must have been a temptation to use the colours depicted in a rainbow making it easier for the players to remember the colouring sequence.
Instead the colours are used but in a different order; Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Green supposedly being the easiest clues through to the toughest puzzles in Violet.
The HAL player takes one of the cards, ensuring the other players never see the reverse side. HAL reads the story to himself and looks at the three clues on the lower half of the card, the text of which applies to the associated coloured segments of the picture.
Players are allowed to view, not pick up or hold, the card, with it face up on the table. They can discuss the picture and the clues and they may ask HAL questions. The HAL player may answer any question but is limited to the answering, only being allowed to say "Yes" "No" "Not Exactly" or "Irrelevant".
The game says it lasts 15 minutes, this is because the detective players are meant to solve 3 cards in that time. After 5 minutes the players should have solved the clues on the first card. If they correctly solve the puzzle on one card they move on to the next card, using any time they have left (if they finished before 5 minutes were up) and continuing to game completion or 15 minutes.
Sometimes the clues are quite obvious and easy to work out, especially with 3 or more minds cooperating (up to 8 players can sensibly play), but so many of the clues are extremely cryptic and even when HAL reads them from the back of the card they can still sometimes remain confusing.
IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW A RESOLVED CLUE DODGE the example below and go straight to the next body of test.
For example UROGK, the first card in the deck. The Green (thus 'easy') clues are: His rather tatty Clothing, a Bush and the Eye socket of an animal skull. I will give the card explanation of one clue only - you can see the card above - and from the Green Bush you deduce that:
a). He never eats raw meat and
b). He burns down forests.
Remember that the example above was of the first card, and therefore generally accepted as the easiest puzzle to solve. Even seeing that Urogk has a camp fire burning behind him doesn't suggest to me that he likes cooked food, neither does the skull of a horned beast - where are the rest of the skeletal bones?
The App helps considerably, but it is also useful in most cases to have a flexible HAL who will accept questions that are within the perimeter of the answer.
The silly thing is, that despite us ridiculing the actual clues and finding them almost unsolvable, we are all suckers for the game and have no qualms in bringing it to the table and playing until all players have had one card as HAL.
The GOOGLE and APPLE Apps: You MUST have a copy of either 3 SECRETS or 3 SECRETS: CRIME TIME for this to be of any use to you. The App offers a Team Mode option and includes differences, and thus new experiences, that only a digital version can give, without spoiling any of the fun the card game offers - in fact the addition of a timer really puts the pressure on, more so than if you depend on the Undercover Agent to keep track of the seconds wasted.