Preview: Can You Work Together to Solve a 5-Minute Mystery and Catch the Crook? | Casual Game Revolution

Preview: Can You Work Together to Solve a 5-Minute Mystery and Catch the Crook?

5 Minute Mystery

Oh no! A crook has stolen the MacGuffin from the museum! You don't have much time to track the criminal down and return the object before the museum is scheduled to open.

Currently on Kickstarter, 5-Minute Mystery is the newest game from the designers of 5-Minute Dungeon. In both mechanics and theme, the game is completely different, but still features the need to beat a very short clock.


The deck of scene cards is shuffled and placed in the center of the table. Each scene shows a room in the museum, and there are five hidden shapes in the image. One player is selected to be the codex operator. The codex features five dials, one for each shape. However, the shapes can come in different designs, and each dial shows all of the different possibilities.

Next, the deck of suspect cards is shuffled and divided between the players. The matching suspect tiles are shuffled, and one is placed face down on the table: this is the culprit for the round. Players choose which case they will be attempting to solve. Each case card says how much time they have to solve the mystery and any additional special rules (for example, they may have to catch two culprits instead of one, or they may start the game with one clue already revealed).

The timer then starts and the game begins. Players race to find the hidden shapes in the current scene card and then describe them to the codex operator, who turns the dials of the codex so they match those shapes. Once the players believe they have accurately gotten all five shapes from the scene onto the codex, they flip over the scene card. The back of the card shows the shapes that were on it and if they match the dials of the codex the players draw a clue tile.

Clue tiles come in one of four colors and players may choose which color they wish to draw. The clue is some object or element that each suspect either has or doesn’t have, such as a hat, a fan, or a pocket watch. Each clue tile has a colored barcode along one side of it which you compare to the matching color barcode along the facedown culprit tile. If the two barcodes are identical, it means the suspect has this feature. If they do not match, it means the culprit does not have the feature. Players then sort through the suspect cards in their hands, looking at the images to find these features, and discard any that do not fit in with the clue they have discovered. They then move onto the next scene card, to look for more shapes in order to reveal further clues.

If the players figure out who the culprit is (through the process of elimination or guessing), they win the game. If they run out of time they have one chance to guess the culprit, but if they’re wrong, they lose the game.

5 Minute Mystery components


5-Minute Mystery is a cleverly designed mixture of a hidden object game blended with real time cooperation. There's a real sense of beating the clock to find the shapes on the scenes and the clue features on the suspect cards, while players also need smooth communication between the codex operator and those searching the scene cards. The suspect cards can be particularly tricky as you might miss that this suspect has a fan tucked away or is holding a paper, for instance.

You might worry that after seeing each scene card once or at least a handful of times, you'll start to memorize all the shapes on them. However, each room in the museum actually appears on multiple scene cards, with different combinations of shapes in different locations, making the game more difficult than just memorizing the shapes in each room.

Still, part of the concept of the game is that you will improve: you'll find shapes faster, improve at communicating them to the codex operator, and learn the suspects and their traits. This is why the case files continue to throw more challenges at you and increase in difficulty. Part of the fun of the game is seeing your team's performance improve, learning how to communicate and gather information more efficiently, and work your way up to completing the later challenges that earlier you would have thought impossible.

There is a certain imbalance in the game based on player count. For example, in a two player game, both players will be holding quite a few suspect cards, so sorting them out will take up more time, just like finding the shapes will take longer. Gameplay is still fun and enjoyable, but you can feel the imbalance on the more time sensitive cases.

The prototype we played was quite well produced. The codex is a particularly neat game piece that cleverly fits with the mechanics, making it easy to check your work on scene cards, and the artwork throughout the game looks great.

5-Minute Mystery features a unique blend of mechanics and ideas and the result feels both fresh and fun. Check it out on Kickstarter and see for yourself. We recommend it.

Pros: Fun blend of mechanics, good components, increase in difficulty is balanced nicely with growing familiarity of the game

Cons: Some slight balance issues based on player count

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.