The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter VI: Milton Manor (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.95 Monthly, $179.00 Yearly

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Theme:

What started as a simple museum visit has become a international adventure! Chapter VI of The Curious Correspondence Club takes us to the stately Milton Manor for more puzzling solving, intrigue, and brilliant paper craft! Like all good mansions, this one is full of secrets, and is sure to make for a thrilling spot for this month’s caper!

First Impressions:

There’s not much to say I haven’t said before about this amazing subscription. I’m consistently excited to receive the next chapter, and this one is no exception! Upon opening the envelope, I was very excited to see how a particular paper craft prop would work, as well as how these disparate pieces to the puzzle would fit together.

High Points:

Chapter VI felt like a fresh new experience, but at the same time, contained vibes reminiscent of Chapter I, encouraging us to visit a collection of different rooms in a non-linear fashion in order to draw out all the mansion’s secrets before presenting us with a brilliant meta puzzle to tie everything together! Each room contained an intuitive puzzle that required us to think outside the box and make connections between the other props and rooms. The puzzles were excellently designed, and presented a moderate level of difficulty that provided a balance between smoothly flowing fun and brain busting challenge! All of the enigmas included were multi layered, and I really love how The Curious Correspondence Club consistently ensures that every single puzzle they create is original and full of ah ha moments. There hasn’t been one puzzle which I’ve felt “been there done that” about, and I know that I can rely on the designers to create something new and mind blowing every single month! I really loved the presentation of the decoding puzzles in this chapter, and it is really cool how these instances can be solved in multiple ways, allowing for all types of thinkers to be involved.

One of the major props was amazingly designed, and I really loved interacting with it. It was also the focus of a lot of the puzzles, but managed to feel interesting each time, and we were always excited to return to it. A lot of the puzzles rely on more indirect clues, so a keen eye is required, but the information is not so hidden that it feels unfair. This allows for players to arrive at some immensely satisfying conclusions, revealing the solve organically. One prop in particular wasn’t used by us until later, and once we realized its significance, we were blown away by how satisfying it was to solve the clue. This chapter felt to me like the most dense of the six so far, and is easily my favorite run of puzzles overall. From the non linear set up, to the astounding props, as well as some of the most intriguing conundrums yet, I absolutely adored the experience!

Low Points:

Some of the fonts can be a little difficult to decipher. Generally, Curious Correspondence games help with immersion by including “hand written” fonts where applicable, but there’s always a line between authenticity and readability that unfortunately gets crossed a bit too far from readability for this one.

Verdict:

Chapter VI of The Curious Correspondence Club deserves all the praise it can get, as it serves up a run of puzzles that are excellently challenging, but are still accessible enough that newcomers can solve them with some thinking. I really adore this subscription, and cannot wait for Chapter VII to arrive! I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Curious Correspondence Club provided a complementary envelope.

The Detective Society Season 2: The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee – Episode 1 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: £168.00 for a full season, £30.00 a month for a subscription (Six episodes)

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From the Detective Society website:

Timothy Lee has fallen into a coma and no one can work out why. His doctor suspects foul play, but there’s one thing that’s missing: evidence. There’s more to Timothy’s condition than meets the eye.

You’ll need to use the tactics of a real detective, solving puzzles and using your investigative skills to discover the truth about Timothy Lee.

First Impressions:

I’m always excited to hear about new subscription boxes, and a lot of folks seemed to love The Detective Society Season 1, so when the creators reached out about reviewing Episode One of their new season, I was excited, to say the least! Once the box arrived at our door all the way from the UK, I couldn’t wait to get started!

High Points:

The first thing that really stood out to me about The Detective Society is their amazing sense of humor. I absolutely loved reading over every little bit, and taking part in a few optional interactions that didn’t move the game forward, but were definitely worth it for the chuckle. Though it was immediately obvious the experience would be much more investigative than we are used to, it was clear that this experience wouldn’t be forcing us into Sherlockian deductions or one and done guesses as to what the solution would be, instead taking a much more engaging and entertaining approach by encouraging us to make deductions as we progressed and not revealing the answer if we happened to guess wrong. Putting together the many clues and following up with characters via email was excellently implemented, and ensured the entire experience remained immersive from start to finish.

Though we received many of the clues up front, it was easy to determine what was relevant at any given time, and there were no red herrings to be found. Though the game is pretty strictly linear, (we did work on one step a little before we knew the significance, but that was more us feeling out the flow of a new game,) it doesn’t feel restrictive, and while we did not use the clues during the game, having a look afterwards confirms they are exhaustive and well layered for each part of the experience. We really enjoyed the narrative experience, and were pleased that instead of being a strictly story based adventure, there was still plenty of thinking and interaction required on our side, something narrative games sometimes tend to leave out. Overall, this first episode is a solid start, and we are very interested to see how the story and the difficulty curve develop from here!

Low Points:

The box itself is beautiful, and thin enough for easy storage, but even without being taped closed, the tabs did not want to give up the prize inside. We had to cut it open, which means it doesn’t close back very well, but it’s a minor thing in the grand scheme. We had a little trouble starting off, mostly due to not knowing quite how these boxes work, and it wasn’t totally clear that what we assumed was the ultimate objective was actually the first thing we needed to do. Mostly our bad, but it’d definitely help if it was clearer that this was our starting point. As more experienced players, this box took us a bit less time than average, and for players who are very experienced, this might be more suited as a solo adventure, just based on how things are presented. The game is more narrative and making connections based rather than outright puzzling, so folks who are looking for a more puzzle focused adventure may be disappointed. Overall, however, pretty much everything in this section is a very minor critique.

Verdict:

The Detective Society has delivered a truly exciting start to their second season with this episode! Delivering a mystery that immediately snared our interest, well designed clues that tie into each other beautifully, and a bevy of websites and characters to interact with, this is certainly an adventure that can’t be missed. I’m intrigued to see how this mystery develops, and can absolutely recommend this one without reservation! You can join the Society here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Detective Society provided a complementary copy for review.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter V: Serpents of the Sand (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.95 Monthly, $179.00 Yearly

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Theme:

After a harrowing hot air balloon ride, it’s time to travel to the ancient ruin referenced in Chapter 4! How does the ill fated expedition tie into your quest for the magical shards? And will the mysterious cabal that has been chasing you catch up to you again?

First Impressions:

I am always, always, always ready for The Curious Correspondence Club. There is so much amazing puzzling packed into these envelopes, and while I currently wait for the next chapter, my only anxiety is, “when will it come?” and not, “will it still be great?” So far, they’re five for five, and I trust that each and every new adventure is going to top the last!

High Points:

This was certainly the most challenging of the Curious Correspondence Club’s chapters so far! However, it wasn’t challenging in a way that frustrated us, but it did require us to do some big thinking outside of the box! While still a bit more difficult than other chapters, this is still an immensely intuitive game, but putting the clues together does take a bit more work than other experiences. Using the clues provided in game, and the nicely disguised “road map” of sorts, we found that Serpents of the Sand flows incredibly well, and even though nothing about this adventure is overt, the subtle guiding that has been integrated into the experience really does a fantastic job of ensuring that players always have a sign post to find. As always, this is a multilayered experience, with every single prop serving an important purpose, and evolving as puzzles are solved. In the course of these evolutions, there are some amazing reveals, and I am consistently surprised with how even five episodes in, The Curious Correspondence Club is able to keep us guessing with original new puzzles and deviously hidden clues! This subscription is one of the few that is able to ensure that every single puzzle included has an awesome ah ha moment, and does so in a way that absolutely cannot be beat.

Though the puzzles are certainly the star of the show, Serpents of the Sand is also narratively exciting as well, which is rare for a puzzling subscription. Usually the puzzles or the story tend to overwhelm the other, or one is completely absent, (I prefer the puzzles in this case,) but in this case, the brilliantly written introduction, as well as the story bits during the course of the game shed a little light on the overarching mystery, and convey the tale of an ill fated expedition into the ruins. Little details help bolster the story, and I really love the way the puzzles and narrative are tightly woven together to create a really exciting experience. Props are all paper, as usual, but include the great extras, paper craft, and twists we’ve come to expect from this subscription.

Low Points:

There was one particular symbol that showed up as a duplicate on one puzzle, which could lead to some confusion. There was also one interaction that provided a tool to complete, but it didn’t quite do its intended job very well, so we opted for a different household item. Though it wasn’t easy to find something that did the trick, it did break up the immersion a bit as we sought the item out.

Verdict:

Serpents of the Sand is an amazing experience, and continues to deliver the sort of puzzling I look forward to every month. There is, to my mind, no better subscription out there, and even puzzling veterans will find a beautiful challenge within each and every envelope. I cannot recommend subscribing enough, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Curious Correspondence Club provided a complementary envelope.

Sleuth Kings – Case 034: Moretti’s Curse (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

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From the Sleuth Kings website:

Giovanni Moretti – head of an infamous crime family – has been cursed. The threats say he’ll die if he doesn’t abandon his organization and leave town, but Moretti isn’t going down without a fight. Although Sullivan would love to see the Moretti crime family dismantled, he has no choice but to help Giovanni. Unless he can figure out who is behind the curse – and fast – a gang war is going to break out. Can you help Sullivan break the curse before innocent people are caught in its crossfire?

First Impressions

It’s been so long since our last Sleuth King’s case! Very exciting to jump back in this universe, and solving puzzles for – I mean, helping – Sullivan with his cases.

Yay Points

Leave it to Sleuth Kings to take serious topics like crime families and curses and turn it into a fun and relatively family friendly puzzling experience. This case was a great reintroduction back into the foray of the Sleuth Kings world, with one of its long running villains in need of help.

“Moretti’s Curse” contained some nice creative puzzling. For the most part, the clues were clear, yet well hidden, and it’s always appreciated how the solutions are relevant and tie into the next step of the journey. The case started out with an easier win and evolved into a slightly more layered solving experience. We liked how the method of solving one puzzle in particular, and really enjoyed the penultimate meta-puzzle as well. The set-up and placement of clues throughout the case was good, and it provided for some great ah-ha moments when we realized how things clicked together.

Labeling different puzzles as clues provides for a great linear structure, but even without it, the gatekeeping of materials was effective. In particular, I enjoyed being able to put together one of the more tactile puzzles once we found the key to solving it (though I had a very strange spelling-challenge moment, much to the disbelief of my partner). (Editor’s Note: To clarify, there was a specific word that we were uncovering, and once I determined what that word was, she was adamant it was spelled differently. Hilarity ensued.)

As can always be expected, the illustrations accompanying the different puzzles were cute, and the token at the end was absolutely charming. I feel like this was probably due to an unintentional jostling of the in-transit handling, but a little piece became slightly loose. But, we found we could “re-fasten” it back to the token in a different way and the end result made it even more adorable.

Pondering Points

Although we enjoyed the intended solving methods, there were a couple points that were less intuitive and created sticking points. It wasn’t too hard to adjust to the correct path once we figured it out, but we may have unintentionally forced through to the answer (or part of the answer) and then backtracked to solve it the correct way.

It might be nice if the presentation of one of the later clues had more meaning. While there was another clue that sets you on the right path, the “meaningless” order of the clue threw me off for a bit until we were able to put the other pieces together.

There are two puzzles whose answers had letters transposed. While it wasn’t hard to figure out what it was supposed to say, it wasn’t clear if these answers were mistakenly written that way.

Verdict

Though there could be some fine tuning, “Moretti’s Curse” was a solid case with an interesting plot and enjoyable puzzles. In terms of difficulty, I would say it’s of a beginner-intermediate level. You can purchase this and other previous cases from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

7.5/10 (Good)

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Watcher (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review is brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I always feel like… somebody’s watching me… and I get no privacy!

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Allison Zeller has a secret admirer. She thinks the mysterious guy is sweet enough at first until his behavior escalates past simple admiration and spirals into full-blown obsession. Someone is stalking her and growing impatient that they can’t have her. This infatuation culminates in a full-blown attack on Allison’s life, leaving her at death’s door. It’s likely that whoever did this to her will come back to finish what they started. Can you find out the identity of Allison’s stalker before it’s too late? Can you unmask The Watcher?

First Impressions:

*Trigger warning!* We really enjoyed solving this case, but due to the subject matter, it is unfortunately probably one of the more realistic “everyday” scenarios. As it pertains to stalking, I do want to note that this case could be triggering for some individuals, so just keep that in mind before doing this box.

Yay Points:

Deadbolt has remained steadfast in being one of my favorite subscription boxes, and it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown over the years. Not only have they been able to churn out quality content each month, but also, they’ve been able to refine and improve upon what I would’ve already considered pretty good set-ups. “The Watcher” is a fantastic example of how they’ve been able to take the best elements of previous boxes and apply them to provide a really fun puzzling experience.  

This was one of the longer Deadbolt boxes we’ve done recently, containing a multitude of conundrums that were all very intuitive. It was very clear which clues matched with their respective puzzles (even with some items containing elements for different puzzles), and their uniqueness ensured the gatekeeping of each solve was built into the experience. There wasn’t any “run of the mill” code breaking and you really get to use your detective skills to piece together the different bits of evidence to find out who the suspect really is. We were pleased to find that the suspect elimination method was more involved than previous boxes, and it was a very interesting way to flesh out the story while keeping us in suspense for who the culprit actually would be.

The story was presented in a more non-linear fashion than that of recent boxes, and was well crafted with intriguing characters. The design and style of props were varied and fit excellently into this story’s theme. In particular, the method of learning background information from and about the suspects was a thematically appropriate and effective way to learn about them. The thoughtfulness behind the design of another multifunctional item was appreciated and it was interesting to work with.

Pondering Points:

We found ourselves stumped at one point and weren’t sure what we were missing. After consulting the hints, we realized we completely overlooked what the answer was (despite recently solving it) due to its more ambiguous nature.

One of the items contained multiple pieces of evidence for the story. Although this approach was certainly efficient, it may have been helpful for some of the items to exist on their own, rather than just as a visual. This presentation made some a little easier to overlook when we were looking for what went with their respective puzzles.

Verdict:

“The Watcher” is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a well-designed case to solve! But don’t just take my word for it, join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.