At least since "EXIT Das Spiel" received the Kennerspiel prize for Game of the Year in 2017, escape, crime and puzzle games have been all the rage. Gmeiner Verlag has now released a new crime thriller called “Dark Cases – Tiefer Fall”. The extensive case invites the investigators to familiarize themselves with the events in the sleepy and fictional town of Dennsberg. A mysterious incident on the village's "local mountain" needs to be cleared up.

The small town of Dennsberg is shaken by a mysterious incident. The experienced climber Thomas Borgmann fell from a great height during a climbing tour on the Talbachhorn, the town's "local mountain" and is now in the hospital's intensive care unit with life-threatening injuries. Borgmann is the managing director and founder of the traditional soup manufacturer BORGMANN's. The local police are assuming it was a tragic accident. But there are increasing signs that it might not have been an accident after all. The task of the players is to evaluate the existing documents, witness statements and interrogation records, to further investigate the evidence secured by the police and to check the motives and alibis of all suspects.

The Talbachhorn south of Dennsberg is the scene of a mysterious incident Photo: Jonas Dahmen

More than a series of puzzles

The "rules" fit on a double-sided DIN A5 sheet. There are no real rules either. It doesn't need them either. After a brief introduction, the task follows. A specific letter is taken as a starting point and then it is up to the group to investigate. The box contains a large number of documents that Commissioner Rupprecht from the Dennsberg police sent to us. Here you will find chat logs, witness statements, photos from the crime scene and much more. There are clues hidden all over the documents that lead to new clues and documents, advancing the investigation step by step. Once you have found all the clues and drawn the right conclusions, you can reconstruct what led to Thomas Borgmann's tragic crash.
At the end of the day, you have to check your own conclusions with five questions on the game's website. The correct solution is rewarded with a small audio file in which Commissioner Rupprecht summarizes all the findings.

Unlike the games in the EXIT series, for example deep fall not a series of logic puzzles to be solved in order to advance to the next puzzle. The game and the solution of individual puzzles is much more open. Individual points in the game still require a stronger use of the gray cells. However, the focus here is clearly on determining and combining. Many of the clues point to new clues or put familiar things in a new light.

Infobox

Number of players: 1 to 6
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 90 to 180 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Genre: crime game

Authors: Tobias Kühnlein and Mona Dengler
Design: UORG Lutz Eberle
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Language: German
Cost: 18 Euro

Summary

The Gmeiner publishing house supplies with Dark Cases - Deep Fall a successful crime and mystery experience. But the great revolution in this genre is not experienced here. In the compact box, the players can expect a moderately difficult fall. The level of difficulty is suitable for both beginners and more experienced players. The analog and digital game materials are all of good quality. The paper of the documents in the game is thick and has a glossy finish. This makes the material very durable. Even if the game isn't that exciting anymore after you've played it through because you already know the solution, the very good material quality allows the game to be passed on. This is definitely not a throwaway game.

Various references and documents with which the case is started Image: Jonas Dahmen

All levels of experience were represented in the test. From a complete novice who has only entered an escape room once before, to a person who has already played an escape room, a few EXIT games and a few online escape games, to an accomplished puzzler with a mid double-digit number of escape games played - and puzzle games were all there. A total of 105 minutes were needed to solve the case for three and one clue was used. Nobody had the feeling of being overwhelmed and just being pulled along by the others. At the same time, nobody felt that the game was too easy.

Some of the tips are a bit vague. On the one hand, this is of course good in order not to give too much away and spoil the fun of investigating. Especially with the "first" riddle (this is already pointed out in the introductory letter), the last tip should be a little more precise as to where you can find the key clue to the solution. The somewhat more hidden hints are probably much more difficult to discover for beginners than for experienced players, since beginners still lack the experience from other, comparable games and the "usual" solutions there. At this point, however, the hints are good if you should need them. Unfortunately, a point with a resolution if all tips cannot help is missing.

The game constantly delivers new information, all of which have comparable added value for the investigation. The "puzzles" are also all similarly complex, with the puzzle that took the most time in the test being the "first" puzzle mentioned above. In the overall context, this is also the most difficult. Of course you can also discover a lot before you have to take on this puzzle, since the game is not strictly linear. The structure would still be a bit beginner-friendly if the most challenging puzzle was not addressed right at the beginning. However, this is the only point of criticism that there is for the structure and the clues to be discovered. Overall, the game runs very smoothly and the new findings slowly but steadily lead the players on the right track without losing the thread.

The story is coherent and provides a good framework for the investigation. The characters are well described. However, they also all take on very classic roles in the story. You will not find a character from history who will be remembered for a long time. The ending is easy to decipher and the audio file at the end, in which Commissioner Rupprecht summarizes everything again, is a nice reward. It allows all the knowledge gained to be understood at a glance.

The hybrid puzzle with the "analog" clues contained in the box and the other digital clues works. It doesn't help distinguish the game noticeably from other purely digital or purely analog puzzle games, but on the other hand it isn't annoying either.

This game is highly recommended for anyone who likes puzzles and crime games. It doesn't really offer anything new, but everything it does it does well without being particularly outstanding. The specified playing time of 90-180 minutes is absolutely realistic and should also represent the framework very well for groups of pure beginners or pure experts. Whether you should play the game with six players is probably a matter of taste. There is definitely enough to read and discover, even with this number of people, so that nobody has to get bored.