Update 4/10/21 – This game has been upgraded from a clickable pdf to a browser based game. We tested the new browser-based instance and it works great. It’s a less novel format, but more user-friendly.
A Death in the Red Light is an online puzzle game created by Mystery City Games in Amsterdam.
Style of Play: clickable PDF with accompanying website
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection
Recommended Team Size: 1-3
Play Time: 1-2 hours
Price: €12 introductory price
Booking: purchase the game and play at your leisure
The game is played using an interactive pdf. It contains a map of locations to visit and puzzles at those locations. There is a web component for getting additional information, accessing hints, and submitting your final answer.
One reviewer highly recommends listening to the Spotify playlist.
Note that this game contains adult themes such as murder, drugs, and prostitution.
Hivemind Review Scale
Sarah Mendez’s Reaction
This sleuthing game is a lovely example of how to present an expansive world without overwhelming the player. The story slowly unfolds as you discover breadcrumbs that lead down multiple paths of inquiry, all contained within an interactive PDF and simple database that make the game feel both authentic and approachable. For the most part, the puzzles seamlessly further the narrative, mimicking detective work through deductive activities and interpreting evidence. Indeed, success in this game relies not only on puzzling prowess, but even more so on synthesizing the story’s details, inviting you to retrace your steps to deepen your understanding of the situation. As someone who prizes the discovery and sense-making elements of games, I thoroughly enjoyed this process and felt like an accomplished crime-solver by the end.
Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction
The small disclaimer at the bottom of the Mystery City Games website says: “All our games are historically accurate.” I read that before I played A Death in the Red Light and, admittedly, ignored it. It wasn’t until we were getting deep into the story that that line came back to me, reasserting that I was playing a real story; that idea made the game much more intriguing. It also makes this game the only one I’ve played where you can use Wikipedia as a hint system.
A Death in the Red Light is played through an interactive pdf combined with online elements for extra information, hints, and inputting the final puzzle solution. You are tasked with solving a crime by completing standard logic puzzles and escape room style puzzles. None of these puzzles were overly difficult, and a few of them were simple enough that they barely felt like puzzles. Because the game is not fully linear, the most difficult part was understanding when you had explored everything. It made for an interesting game where the story elements eclipsed the puzzle elements.
Michelle Calabro’s Reaction
What I love about this game is it takes bare-bones parts – a clickable PDF, a simple website and an optional Spotify playlist – and provides an all-consuming gameplay experience. To maximize the experience, I suggest setting yourself up the way I did:
- Pour yourself a glass of wine.
- Put on your headphones.
- Press ‘play’ on the Spotify playlist.
- Open one browser tab with the downloaded PDF.
- Open another tab with the Police Database.
- Make a Google Doc to take notes.
The story is injected with a healthy dose of noir humor. You’re investigating a case in the red light district of Amsterdam involving musicians, prostitutes, junkies and their debts. The puzzles were the right difficulty level and I appreciated that they were self-contained (no Googling involved.) Some puzzles led me astray, many puzzles led me to the same conclusion, and one piece of evidence made everything else make sense. If you’re like me, you might find yourself writing an elaborate story about the cause of death. But here’s a hint: when you file your report, you’re going to choose the cause of death from a multiple choice list.