Become a Forensic Crime Scene Investigator in Sony’s Catch a Killer

Sony Online Entertainment’s latest Facebook title, Catch a Killer, puts players in the shoes of a rookie forensic investigator, solving murders and kidnappings by combing crime scenes for clues and leads in a game based on James Patterson’s Alex Cross novel series. It’s also reminiscent of CSI: Crime City, although given the subject matter, this comparison may be inevitable. Catch a Killer is a fun single player experience and uses old mechanics in novel ways, but ends up being more linear than one might expect from a crime solving game.

As a novice investigator you initially report to Alex Cross, as he guides you and helps you solve the first cases. The primary goal, solving crimes, is completed in several discrete steps called “Investigate”, “Examine”, “Forensics” and “Results”.

Performing each step consumes energy, restricting how fast you can progress through the game, unless you purchase more energy points or have it gifted to you. Each step must be performed in sequence, and throughout the course of a case you’ll go through each of these steps in sequence several times. The faster each step is completed, the more experience points and sometimes energy points you receive.

The first step, investigation, takes you to the crime scene, where you’re given a list of items to find and click on. As you click each item, it’ll disappear from the scene. An incorrect click leaves you unable to click on any items for a short period. You get a hint every 20 seconds or so, which helps you find the next item on the list. Once you’ve found all items, one or more items will be identified as evidence and taken to the lab to be examined.

The second step, examination, involves taking the evidence found from the scene and scouring it for clues in a two step process. First, you’re given a UV lamp, magnifying glass and brush to find clues. The UV lamp can reveal fluids, the magnifying glass shows hairs and text, and the brush can uncover fingerprints. Once a clue is identified, you have to gather the clue by swabbing fluids, tweezing hairs, photographing text or using lifting tape on the fingerprints.

The last step, forensics, can be one of a few tasks depending on what you found in examination. If you found a hair or a fluid, you’ll analyze the DNA by trying to find a specific sequence of colors in a scrolling line of color sequences.

If it was a fingerprint, you’ll fill in missing pieces of the fingerprint by clicking possible matches and seeing if they fit, like a puzzle. If you found text information, you’ll perform an interview which simply consists of reading and clicking potential responses. Once you’ve completed this step, the case will be done, or you’ll have to go back to investigation and repeat the process. Oftentimes this series will be repeated three times before a case is closed.

Much of Catch a Killer feels like an old fashioned point and click adventure like Myst. As you go through cases a story starts to develop, with serial perpetrators and interviews with recurring characters. Given the relative depth of the storyline, many of the social aspects included in the game feel somewhat tacked on, and largely irrelevant to the game and its design.

For example, you can customize your avatar and office space, but outside of the customization and visiting the “City” to chat, you never see your avatar or office. You can also visit your friends, but again, their homes have nothing to do with the storylines or cases.

With weak social elements, playing Catch a Killer is a game of cat and mouse, looking for clues and finding information to solidify a lead. Players get to lead investigations and feel triumphant as they’re able to find and try serial killers and kidnappers; the game’s graphics and writing compel you to venture forward and find out the mystery behind the violence. Ultimately however, the game lays out the exact path you have to take: Catch a Killer is almost entirely linear from beginning to end, and you’re just here to watch.