True crime has become a national pastime. From documentaries and dramatized biopics to endless podcasts and YouTube channels, folks can’t get enough of diving into real-life murders and missing person cases – some solved, some apparently never to be solved. And now, you can explore a new file of cases in augmented reality with CrimeTrip.
Taking a CrimeTrip
CrimeTrip is a true crime AR game for iOS and Android from developer studio Prologue. The experience, viewed and navigated entirely through a mobile phone, puts you in the middle of painstakingly reproduced crime scenes from six unsolved crimes from the seventies and eighties including heists, mob hits, and more. Three are available now, with three coming soon.
The app download is free, but, after playing through a free “prologue” and tutorial, you have the option to buy an individual story for $3.99, or bundles of stories going up to the complete game for $12.99. According to the app, this allows the platform to be supported entirely ad-free.
Hands-On the Game
If you have enough open space, you can navigate within the game by walking to some degree. However, the game worlds are big enough that no matter how big and clean your living room is you’ll have to use the on-screen controls eventually. (My biggest issue with the game was accidentally holding my phone in a way that covered the camera and lost my tracking.)
CrimeTrip is split between crime scenes and a pretty expansive police department office. The office includes resources that you will need to dive into the case, including the cork board where you put it all together.
“[CrimeTrip] revisits the podcast genre, following non-linear routes, constantly shifting between the present and the past,” Prologue founder and creative director Jonathan Rouxel said in a Medium post. “Designers elevate the status of the audience who is no longer perceived as a community of passive listeners but as active participants.”
On-screen controls don’t do all the work. Sometimes the best way to view a scene or the only way to find an item is by physically getting on your hands and knees. A good portion of the game might be “played” on the various online communities as you compare notes with other true crime enthusiasts.
While scenes and clues are accurately created with great detail, the characters and events in the stories appear as luminous point clouds – so there’s no unsettling blood and gore to deal with. The cheeky, fourth-wall-breaking game narration should be amusing to true crime enthusiasts and not too stressful for people new to the genre.
A Careful Handling of a Touchy Subject
True crime is a sensitive subject – and people can be very sensitive to it. Stories can be emotionally challenging to hear and research, and living people are sometimes affected by true crime commentators jumping on a story still in development. CrimeTrip avoids both of these problems in two important ways.
First, the graphical style and the narration style of the game keep things from being too heavy. We saw a similar approach with USA Today’s Accused experience last year. Second, the cases in this experience are old enough that all of the suspects have passed away so players can enjoy the puzzling stories without stressing the impact on survivors too much.
The fact that the cases are so old and so cold helps add allure to the game as well. There are no bad guys left to catch so it’s okay that even AR-enabled sleuths aren’t able to conclusively agree on whodunit. In ongoing cases, it would be great if the culprit could be caught and taken off the streets. But these forty and fifty-year-old tales can remain unfinished puzzles forever.
Check it Out if You Dare
So, is CrimeTrip worth your money? Check it out. The free app includes free previews to all available episodes – and that’s not just gameplay videos, you get to play the game. Still not sure? You can buy the cases one at a time. So, if you’re even remotely interested in true crime, it can’t hurt to check out.