Criminal Case review

Criminal Case is a new Facebook game from Pretty Simple Games. It’s a criminal investigation-themed hidden object game, and is currently being highlighted by Facebook in the “New Games” section of the App Center.

Criminal Case casts players in the role of a new member of the police force who is tasked with solving a variety of brutal crimes. The first case acts as a tutorial, with the player being introduced to the various components of gameplay one by one, and then subsequent cases become increasingly lengthy and complex as the player progresses.

The game is split into several parts, each of which advance the plot of each case. Hidden object scenes are handled fairly traditionally — players are presented with a list of objects to find, some of which are key clues for the case, and must find them as quickly as possible to score maximum points. Upon completing a scene, the final score (plus time bonus and additional bonuses for any “hints” remaining) contributes to a cumulative star rating for the stage.

Unlike most hidden object games, however, these stars actually play a role in the game rather than simply showing your “mastery” level of a particular scene. Stars are used to unlock various additional investigation scenes, which vary from simple conversations with suspects to puzzles requiring the player to reassemble broken objects, find items hidden in piles of red herrings and decipher codes. Stars are expended upon performing these tasks, so the game does occasionally descend into grinding as the player tries to acquire additional stars to complete all the objectives.

Alongside these interactive elements, certain items such as the victim’s body and other objects found at the scene must be sent to the lab for analysis, which takes a period of real time to complete. As ever, these real-time delays may be bypassed with the expenditure of hard currency.

As the player progresses through each case, they gain clues as to who the victim was, how they were killed and who the suspect was. At the conclusion of the case, the player is presented with several suspects and must arrest the appropriate one who fulfils all the criteria. If they are correct, the case is complete and the next one unlocks — though past cases may be revisited at any time to grind for experience and currency.

The game is primarily a single-player affair, but it does incorporate a few social features. Each hidden object level has a leaderboard, for example, and the player may choose a “partner” from their friends to join the investigation of each scene and provide hint bonuses. This also allows players to show off their custom-created avatars, who otherwise do not appear very often in the game.

Monetization stems from several sources. Soft currency, which may be earned through normal play or purchased, may be used to acquire customization items for the player avatar, though the majority of these are level-locked. Hard currency, meanwhile, is used to bypass wait times, purchase premium items and acquire energy-restoring items. Yes, Criminal Case incorporates an energy system, placing a firm wall in front of the player after a while if they do not pay or wait. Energy is fully restored upon leveling up and also in smaller quantities upon completing tasks that require stars to accomplish. The pace of leveling is far too slow at the beginning of the game, however, meaning the player will hit a paywall by halfway through the second case, spoiling the otherwise good pace of the game’s story somewhat. This is a shame, as the game is otherwise very good; it’s a shame to see a player’s enjoyment spoiled by the particularly heavy-handed implementation of this increasingly-outdated monetization mechanic seen here.

Criminal Case currently has 40,000 monthly active users, 30,000 weekly active users and 10,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.


Worth a play for its strong story and interesting gameplay, but a heavy-handed energy mechanic spoils enjoyment somewhat.

Publish date: December 6, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT