Card Detective Review – Crime’s In The Cards

Reporter Hazel Gong is assigned to cover a mysterious incident where a building collapsed at an industrial site. Everyone insists it’s just that – an accident – but Hazel isn’t so sure. Using card-based investigative techniques taught to her by her mentor, the mysterious and well-connected Mr. Lu, Hazel will interrogate suspects related to the crime to find out the truth about why the building came crashing down on that fateful day. Along the way, she’ll uncover a story of thievery, debts, blackmail, under-the-table deals, and perhaps even murder.

Card Detective is a cute little deck-building mystery from MuccyGames. The plot is fairly straightforward, although the central mystery certainly has a few twists here and there. Hazel is a charming protagonist, and Lu is a fun (if rather tricksy, and often insufferably smug) mentor figure, although the suspects in the case are not super distinct and tend to blend together. Overall, it’s a decent story, and successfully self-contained – the game will probably take you between three and five hours to complete, counting the handful of tricky card battles you’ll likely have to redo at least once- that makes for a fun read.

Mr. Lu is so suspicious but he was my favorite character by far.

At the center of Card Detective is the deck-building mechanic. For each interrogation Hazel successfully completes, she will earn more cards. These cards consist of Strategies – which can be used to break down the suspects’ defenses and reveal their lies – and Tricks – which, as the name suggests, trick the suspect and grant Hazel some sort of advantage. Suspects’ statements can be collected either by fully breaking down their defenses or successfully analyzing whether a statement is a truth or a lie. The mechanic is pretty fun, and more than a little bit addictive. It’s a solid deck builder, just complex enough to be engaging without overly bogging you down in rules and exceptions. I really appreciate the fact that every card’s effect is clearly written on it, and you can access a Card Database whenever you need to see which ones you’ve collected – there are a lot of cards for such a short game, and Card Detective is aware of this and takes care not to let the system overwhelm players.

My favorite thing about Card Detective’s interrogation battles is that the game offers you the opportunity to pursue multiple different equally valid strategies, so that you don’t always feel like you’re doing the exact same thing in every battle. For example, you could choose the “brute force” approach of busting down your opponent’s defense. Alternately, you could take some time to carefully analyze the pattern of truth vs. lies and correctly identify each statement. Both approaches come with risks; brute force can quickly wear down an opponent’s Patience, while analysis could see you running out of Action Points if you guess incorrectly too many times.

Guys…I think the basement just collapsed

The story is decently interesting. It’s not the most complex mystery, but there are a few twists that I didn’t see coming when I started Card Detective. I think the pacing is a little bit of a mess at times, though – the first several questionings really feel like you are going over the same information over and over again, but then the revelations start coming thick and fast and events occur at a breakneck pace. I wish the pacing had been a little bit more balanced, but it was still a pretty cool mystery – a definite page-turner (or would that be, uh, screen-clicker?).

There are also a few side quests, which are all right. The one about a wife and a husband who are keeping multiple secrets from each other was definitely my favorite, as the two characters were just constantly suspecting one another of every little thing to the point that it was humorous. Card Detective could have been fine without the side quests, as they didn’t add too much besides padding out the game a little bit, but they weren’t super objectionable either. I do like thatCard Detective provided a database where you could keep track of each unlocked card and character secret or detail uncovered, as I’m a big fan of completionist-style gameplay and games that let you track how much you have collected and how much you still have to go.

Slowly filling out the Database

I do think that there is a major flaw in the fact that the story doesn’t actually require the player to do much in the way of deduction. You go through the card battles, and you uncover new statements from each character, and then you get to see more information about the case, usually in the form of short cut scenes or conversations between Hazel and Lu. The conclusions that Hazel draws are directly shown to the player, rather than requiring them to put clues together themselves. As a fan of tricky mysteries and mystery games that make the player figure things out for themselves rather than hand holding and delivering every reveal and truth to them, I was disappointed by this.

The absolute greatest strength of Card Detective is its art style. It’s bright and eye-catching, with a comic book inspired style primarily used during the cut scenes – sound effects and all! The cut scenes were really fun to watch, and I enjoyed each and every one. It felt like I was reading a manga or manhwa in addition to playing a game. Character design is generally fairly strong, with the exception of a few side characters who felt pretty generic and interchangeable, and Hazel in particular is absolutely adorable. The music is fine, with a generally jazzy style, although the handful of sound effects that were sometimes used during particularly shocking or dramatic moments felt fairly unnecessary, especially as Card Detective did a great job of portraying written sound effects in its comic book style.


Card Detective is not the best mystery game ever, but it is far from the worst. It’s a fun deck builder, and its short play time makes it easy to devour in a single sitting, or two or three play sessions at most. The card battles are addictive, especially as there are a variety of strategies you need to employ to make your way through the mystery. The game’s comic book art style helps it stand apart from others in the genre. Ultimately, it’s a really fun little game that will be satisfying for fans of mysteries and deck builders both.

Kate played Card Detective on PC via Steam with a provided review code.

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