The sweet, sugary smell of success
Another Case Solved is the follow-up to developer Ars Thanea Games’ ridiculously engaging match-3-meets-city builder, Puzzle Craft. Like its predecessor, Another Case Solved relies primarily on puzzle-matching objects that are used as building blocks for progress throughout the game. Unlike Puzzle Craft, this progress is less cyclical and more monetary, wrapped in an economy that makes the noir-themed newcomer notably more challenging, but rarely malicious. With a number of variations on gameplay packed alongside the primary puzzle boards, Another Case Solved manages to differentiate itself while still offering all the trappings that made Puzzle Craft compelling.
This time around, you are not the mayor of a fledgling village, but a newbie private detective in a Prohibition Era-styled city. Sugar, not alcohol, is the banned substance and everyone from crooks to cops can be put on ice for having a sweet tooth. You’ll occasionally run into cases involving sugar smugglers and donut blackmail, but as a no-name private eye, you’ll also take on work that requires chasing kittens and tracking down missing documents.
All of these assignments, no matter their gravity, follow a similar format split into two camps. Minor cases you find in the daily newspaper are basic gigs that merely require you to play the match-3 portion of the game. These can be played over and over and are used to earn cash (known as “detective bucks”) as well as credibility that unlocks more involved story missions. The story missions, or major cases, are brought to you by characters in need and are the meat of Another Case Solved. They not only present plot points involving recurring characters you’ll meet throughout other major assignments, but require you to complete four different types of puzzles in order to crack the case.
These puzzles are the main gameplay of Another Case Solved, and they always start with the match-3 board. Much like Puzzle Craft, you’ll be presented with a set of objects that turn into other objects when matched in high quantities. Each board begins stuffed with clues that are collected as you match at least three like clues together, or are turned into evidence when matched in sets of five. Clues include things like footprints, questions, and magnifying glasses, which transmute into evidence like maps, photographs, and fingerprints. Each board has a predetermined set of turns, and you must collect a specific amount of each type of clue or evidence before those turns run out.
Once you meet your evidence quota, you’ll move onto the next type of puzzle: either the “city search,” “crime scene investigation,” or “suspect identification.” The order these are completed varies per case, but each is required. City search shows you an overview map of some part of the city with the goal of tracking down the location in question, such as the scene of the crime or the criminal’s hideout. You’ll use clues like “It’s adjacent to a railroad” to narrow down the potential city blocks to the correct spot.
The crime scene investigation places your detective in the blueprints of a building or house, requiring you to search rooms and objects for a specific piece of evidence. Every action you complete takes minutes off your limited amount of time, forcing you to make logical choices—like not searching for a cat in the toilet. The final puzzle type, suspect identification, pits you against a lineup of photographs and a limited number of questions about the criminal’s appearance. Through process of elimination questions like “Do they have black hair?” or “Are they tall?” you’ll narrow down the choices and collar the right crook.
Successfully completing all four puzzle types solves the crime, opens up new plot-related cases, and awards cash and stars based on how well you did. Those stars are used to level up and assign skill points to your detective to improve her ability in each puzzle variant: for instance, one skill allows you to exclude suspects from the investigation portion while another lets you choose what type of clue will next appear on the match-3 board.
In between completing major cases or newspaper queries, you can use your cash to buy furniture for your office, clothing for your detective, or tools to use within cases. These tools quickly become a crucial component in Another Case Solved due to the increasing difficulty and apparent randomness of cases. Some puzzle boards seem designed to thwart you, requesting 20 magnifying glasses but giving you none. Others will start with a perfect set-up in place that feeds you every type of clue needed.
The more consistently challenging areas are the city searches and crime scene investigations. The former scales to a large section of the city with almost every building “unknown,” meaning you must spend either footprint clues or tools to uncover them. The latter purposely gives misleading hints during its hotter-colder scheme of deduction, telling you you’re “closer” at times and to “keep looking” at others. The problem is that only “closer” indicates you’re on the right track, but the game throws both at you as if they’re interchangeable.
This means that as cases grow more complex, you’ll be using tools just as often as your skills of deduction to earn even one star. This leaves cases feeling less organic and more pay-to-win, allowing you to do well if you have enough cash and premium currency, candy, in your wallet. The good news is that both of these are generously doled out: cash is earned for every minor or major case you complete and even those you fail, and candy can be uncovered in any puzzle type as well as in your office furniture every 12 hours. This makes time the true premium currency in Another Case Solved, at least early on. Patient players who build up their cash and newspaper quota should never need to pay a dime to progress, but they’ll still feel the mechanical defeat of using tools in place of talent.
This does dampen the experience, but doesn’t ruin it. Another Case Solved is a stellar follow-up to Puzzle Craft that manages to feel both familiar and fresh by tweaking the original formula and adding new ingredients. Its difficulty is a welcome change of pace as well, since Puzzle Craft was often too forgiving and building an entire kingdom required little sweat from your brow. The problem arises from the nature of the difficulty and its constant fallback on purchasable tools. With a little more detective work and a little less store-bought justice, Another Case Solved would truly be the cat’s pajamas.