Friday, 26 February 2021

MicroMacro: Crime City

The most succinct way to describe MicroMacro: Crime City is it is an advanced version of Where's Wally / Where's Waldo. The main component is a humungous drawing which is full of details. Although classified as a cooperative game, which can be played solo as well, I consider this a puzzle game instead. The drawing depicts a busy city, with multiple crimes being committed. Gameplay is about solving these crimes by finding clues in the drawing. There are 16 crimes in total for you to solve, and all of them happen in this same huge drawing.

On the box cover you already get a bonus mini crime to solve. This helps potential buyers decide whether it's something they will enjoy. It is a good preview of the play experience. This bonus crime is relatively easy to solve. The answer can be found on the box cover itself. The crime is related to the murder of the burger vendor. 

The box cover is part of the main drawing, and already contains much detail. The burger stall is at the top left.  

When you first open the game, you need to organise the cards by case and put the set of cards for each case into a separate transparent envelope. 

Each case has between 5 to 10 cards. The first card is always an overview of the case. The rest of the cards are questions you need to find answers to. By correctly answering all questions, you will solve the case. A question is posed on the front of a card, and the answer plus further details of the case can be found at the back. When playing the game with two or more players, one person plays the lead investigator. When you are confident with your answer, the lead investigator checks the back of the card to see whether you've got it right. If you are wrong, everyone except the lead investigator needs to continue investigating. The lead investigator already knows the answer, and has to wait until the rest of you find the right answer. Once that's done, you proceed to the next question together. 

There is an advanced rule where you only look at the case overview, and then try to solve the whole case without looking at any of the questions. When you are confident you know all there is to know about the case, you check through all the questions at one go to see whether you have indeed found all the required answers. This is a more challenging mode, and I find it more fun. Once you have played the first few cases and are familiar with how they work in general, you should switch to the advanced rule. Unless you are playing with children. Or players new to the hobby. 

The drawing takes up three quarters of my dining table. You need to lay the whole thing out, and you need good lighting. Don't allow any other game component obstruct any part of the drawing. It contains many small details, and anything obstructing any part of the drawing may just happen to cover a crucial clue you need to solve your case. Playing this game can be tiring to the eyes if you have poor eyesight. For one of the cases I had to use a phone to take a photo then zoom in, in order to see a specific piece of detail.

The art style is simple, cute and clean. Sometimes I get an urge to pinch and stretch part of the drawing, as if I am using a smart phone and will be able to enlarge the drawing. 

The game comes with a microscope, which can be handy - less stressful for the eyes. 

To imagine how big the drawing is, compare the next four photos below. Focus on the guy dressed like Batman in the centre. In each subsequent photo, I zoom out a little to show more of the drawing. 

Here's Mr Batman on a rooftop. 

Now you can see the roads around the building he is on top of. 

Zooming further out, you can see other city blocks. 

Going even further out, you can now see the riverside at the bottom right, and the factory at the bottom left. And this is just one quarter of the drawing. 

When I look at the drawing in the game, it reminds me of a display in a Japanese museum. In the series of photos below, focus on the lady hanging laundry. This will give you a sense of scale. 

The Play

The first time I played, I solved 7 cases in one go, and it took about an hour and a half. I completed the rest of the cases in two more sessions. By around the 6th case I started using the advanced rule. I like it that way - no hand-holding from the step-by-step questions. 

The fun in MicroMacro is in finding and connecting all the clues to form a coherent story. Every case has multiple segments in the drawing, and when you can find them all, you will be able to stitch together all the who, what, where, why and how. Almost all the segments will give you some hint where to find the next segment. Sometimes you work forward, sometimes backward. All in all it is not a difficult game to play. You just need some logical thinking, and the patience to comb the drawing for clues. 

The cases have difficulty ratings from 1 to 5, 5 being the hardest. 

This poor guy was crushed by a piano. What a "grand" way to go. 

The Thoughts

MicroMacro is somewhat like the Unlock and Exit series. You can only play it once. Once you know the solution, you can't unknow it. However you don't destroy or alter any game component, so once you are done with the game, you can give it to a friend. 

The idea is refreshing and novel. That was what made me decide to get a copy. It is fun to see how the various stories are told through drawings. When you manage to find all the relevant segments, you will be able to reconstruct the whole story. Some of the stories are fairly complicated. The game does test your logical thinking. 

I wondered whether this game would work well on a tablet computer, because you'd be able to zoom in and zoom out easily. After some thought, I decided it was better to play with the physical piece of paper spread out on a table top. It just feels more real. I guess I like the grandeur of seeing the drawing spread across the table. Playing the game is like studying details of those gigantic classical paintings in museums. And finding that little boy peeing into someone's soup.  

I recommend playing this on a table and not on the floor. Because back pains. 


Aik Yong said...

There is sort of IOS game on it called Hidden Folks

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Nice! I have not heard of the iOS game. Looks similar because it's also black and white. In MicroMacro, it is not a single element you need to find, it is a whole series in different parts of the drawing you need to find, to construct the full coherent story. But in MicroMacro there is of course no animation like in the app. :-D