Puzzle game

MicroMacro Crime City is a fun twist on the puzzle game


MicroMacro Crime City won the Spiel des Jahres (game of the year) award in 2021, despite having one of the most unattractive game titles I can remember – what the heck even means “MicroMacro”? Maybe it sounded better in the German original. Small big ? TinyHuge? Whatever you think of the title, it’s a clever visual puzzle game that asks players to work together to find the solutions to 16 cases by examining the game’s giant fold-out map.

The town of the game’s title is violent, filled with cartoon characters getting drunk, robbing banks and killing each other. Imagine a giant Richard Scarry cartoon, in black and white, where instead of going about their usual business of buying groceries and commuting to work, various leporine cartoon characters are face down in alleys , sometimes in puddles of blood, or indulge in car rides. by gunfights where gang members take revenge on street toughs. Forget it, Jacques. It’s not Busytown.

The game comes with 16 separate cases which all ask you to find a series of clues on the giant map, which depicts the big city with various buildings, vehicles and its inhabitants. These characters appear multiple times on the map, representing their movement over a period of time, so you can follow in their footsteps to try and solve the crime involving that character. Each case folder has a series of five to eight cards that present you with questions to solve, leading to the final resolution of the case. The questions may point you to the beginning of the crime – two characters rob the town bank – and ask you to follow the thieves’ escape from town and find the hiding place for the money, or may point you to the figure lying dead in down the street and asks you to go back and find out who killed them and why.


micromacrocrimecity_map2.jpg

The map is huge but the art, while very accurate, is small, so the game comes with a little magnifying glass to help you out. It’s a cooperative game that you can play solo just as well, but with multiple players you might want multiple methods of zooming the map. Following a specific character often means identifying them by a very minute characteristic, such as a very pointed nose or the unusual shapes of the top of their head; we played with five people, one more than the box recommends, and only the youngest (a teenager) could look at the map without using glasses or a magnifying glass to find everything. (Alas, I’ve reached an age where I need glasses to read, a pretty significant handicap for a professional writer.)

The cases are quick to solve, as short as five minutes, increasing in difficulty as you go through the 16 cases in order. Maps tend to overexplain things a bit – we often found ourselves skipping ahead because it was easy enough to find a future clue, or even the answer to the whole case, while in the process of search for answers to intermediate questions, the game provided . You could easily go through all the cases in one evening if you decided to go through them one by one.

After the game’s release, there was some pushback for the violent content of a game that, at least from the cover art, appears to be aimed at children. The art isn’t an issue at all, as none of the violence is graphic at all. If there’s anything wrong here, it’s the descriptions of the crimes on the case cards – but any sane adult would just change the wording by reading the case descriptions out loud, right? The second set of cases, sold in a standalone game called MicroMacro Crime City: full houseComes with a parental warning for any cases that might include objectionable content, as later prints of the original game do, so I hope you’re happy now, Karen.

This is a one-time game – once you’ve played through all 16 cases there’s no replay value here, although you could certainly pass it on to someone else, because you do not need to mark or destroy parts of the game to solve the cases. But it’s a fun spin on the puzzle game genre popularized by games like Crime Chronicles or the Exit series, and the giant map makes the game very social as players can gather around it or examine different parts at once. The box suggests one to four players, with the upper limit mostly a function of how easily people view a section of the map; I think it would be better with two or maybe three, for the same reason. Guess this won the Spiel due to how new it was, even though it wasn’t really the best-designed game of 2021.



Keith Law is the author of The inner game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for Athleticism. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.