The Fairy Tale Files – The Cinderella Murders (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $22

Theme:

From the Fairy Tale Files Website:

A grisly double-murder shocks Fairy Tale Land! Lady Tremaine and one of her two daughters are found stabbed at the manor. The prime suspect is the mistreated stepdaughter Cinderella – she had motive and opportunity. Could it be that simple?

The Fairy Tale Files are immersive escape room style experiences in which you interact with physical game components and also chat with characters, suspects, and witnesses in real-time to solve the case!

As an investigator at the Magical Mishap Agency, you are called upon to shine light on crimes and other strange events troubling this faraway land.

High Points:

The chat bot that is included online as a major part of the game, (you’ll enter all answers and interact with the world through this component,) works supremely well, reacting to everything we did comprehensively, and delivering the next steps and clues quickly once we had solved any particular puzzle. The story develops as you solve, popping up as new clues and tidbits of information within the chat bot. I really enjoyed how it evolved throughout the experience, and how the narrative was integrated into the experience seamlessly. A good mix of puzzles joins the mystery, and is set up to ensure the game flowed smoothly, with a difficulty curve that ensures the experience is highly accessible. Overall, in order to ensure the story develops as it should, the game is pretty linear, and controls the stream of information so that players won’t get overwhelmed with data, and the beautiful props are intuitively called out as players progress. The whole experience gives off a nice, Tim Burton-y/American McGee’s Alice vibe, so if you’re a fan of those properties, you’ll really enjoy the Fairy Tale Files. Accessibility wise, the inclusion of transcripts for audio and cursive items is always great to see, and ensures that more players are able to enjoy the mystery!

Low Points:

We had a lot of trouble getting started, as every mobile device we tried could not get the online interface to work properly, however, on desktop, it worked beautifully, but limited where we could play. As puzzling veterans, this one was a mite bit easier than other experiences, taking us around a half hour to complete, however, beginners will find the experience very accessible, so this is only a low point for expert puzzlers.

Final Verdict:

The Cinderella Murders is a great start to The Fairy Tale Files, and if this is how it starts, I cannot wait to see how the games develop from here! I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re into the theme and art style, and especially think this is a fantastic jumping off point for new players. Get started solving The Cinderella Murders here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a complementary mailing.

Scarlet Envelope – Episode Four: Breakfast for a Serial Killer (Review)

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

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $20 monthly

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

“Extraordinary Weekly”, 1956: “The death of a waitress at Stanley’s Diner, is being investigated in connection to similar cases…” This time, you work as a cop in the fifties. Bring justice to the victims of a serial killer who clearly has a thing for junk food! Expect case files, coroner’s reports, & footage of suspects’ interrogations with real actors!

This game really puts your detective skills to the test! The gameplay is full of puzzles but is focused on the narrative and is more linear. * Parental Advisory: Mild Content.

Yay Points

With so many types of game play out there, I really appreciate knowing what kind of puzzling experience I’m getting into. And, true to its description, Envelope 4 was very much a linear, narrative-based case. It had an interesting story, with puzzles that were a good use of its theme and setting to carry you through it. The suspect footage added to the immersion, and I especially appreciated the fact that transcripts of the videos were provided as well.

Though this envelope was more narrative-based, the handful puzzles were of a good variety and a mix of physical and virtual props. In particular, I enjoyed one of the early puzzles’ use of color as both the clue and key to solving it. For the most part, there were pretty clear indicators on what you needed to do or use at any given point, which is very helpful for those who are new to puzzles and/or those who just prefer a more chiller, guided puzzling experience.

Having had some unfortunate experiences in the past, I’ve been conditioned to save each page as a new tab with any online puzzling components as a way to keep track of and reference any items I come across. But, I was happy to find that my efforts were unnecessary since the last puzzle provided links to everything required to solve it!

Pondering Points

There were a couple of puzzles that I got stuck on. While a good concept, I felt one of them could benefit from another nudge or indication of how the clues should be interpreted. However, once the hints put me on the right path, I thought it went pretty smoothly. With the other puzzle, I knew what to do with it, but had a little harder time with executing it. Though this could be more of a personal visualization problem on my end, it may have been more helpful to have physical props for this particular one. (As an aside, there was also something in this item that clearly seemed like a clue, but I didn’t end up using it and it didn’t ever become relevant. Though, it is very possible I was completely oblivious to its intended purpose and ended up using a different way of getting to the solution.)

As previously mentioned, this is a narrative-based experience. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but because of it, I should mention that those who don’t like Sherlockian deductions (i.e., my editor) may not enjoy some of the interactions of this Envelope.

Verdict

This envelope is a good experience for those who want a more laid-back puzzling experience guided by an interesting story. I’d recommend it for those who are newer to puzzling, enjoy deductive-style puzzles, and/or story-focused experiences. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here!

6.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Last Resort (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

A group of co-workers employed by a Valley Falls travel agency have been given an incredible opportunity. The Refuge at Emerald Island is an isolated and exclusive resort that, ironically, none of the travel agents have ever heard of. What makes this opportunity even more special is that they will be the last group to stay at the tropical resort. The week after their stay, the resort is scheduled to be demolished by its owner and rebuilt as an industrial hub. Once the group arrives, they are excited for sand, sun and relaxation. That quickly changes when a member of their team is found dead with a harpoon in the back. The person who committed the crime must be one of the travel agency guests or the resort staff. Trapped on an island with a bloodthirsty killer, the body count is certain to go up as the suspect list goes down. Will you figure out who the killer is before it’s too late?

High Points:

We really enjoyed Last Resort! It reminded me a lot of an updated version of Cabin, as the story is very well written, placing you directly into the situation rather than investigating an after the fact murder. If you like slasher films, this one definitely plays out similarly. One new thing that the designers at Deadbolt have implemented is the casting of players as a specific main character, rather than a detective with the Will Street Detective Agency. This opens up greater avenues of storytelling, and it shows brilliantly in this box. From the start, there is a sense of unease built by that continues to build, and as we are drip fed revelations that all may not be as it seems, (and it seems pretty dire already,) the mystery deepens until we reach the explosive climax! As a side note, this box can get really brutal at times, which we actually really enjoyed, as it gave a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Overall, I love how the box started off very light, and quickly became much darker! On the puzzle side of things, we liked how the game flow alternated between linear and non-linear, depending on how the story was gate-kept, and we never felt like there were any major blockages to the flow, ensuring that the experience remained smooth throughout. Puzzle density was great, as there were a ton of interactions to work through, and the variety included kept our team occupied and entertained from start to finish. The final line of puzzles does an excellent job of dropping us into a frantic end sequence that really drove home what was at stake! I felt as though all the puzzles were designed in a truly intuitive way, and that the clues allowed us to make connections without feeling as if our hands were being held. There is a lot to figure out at any one moment, but Deadbolt always does an amazing job ensuring that clues subtly point the way. All in all, the combination of great story, original puzzling, and slasher movie vibes definitely delivered one of my favorite puzzle experiences this year!

Low Points:

This box had a lot more math than usual, and I know the puzzle community either loves or hates math, with very little in between, so make sure to take that under advisement if you fall into the latter group. One puzzle in particular was a pretty large leap of logic for us, and could easily be interpreted in several different ways as is, so I feel like another small clue is needed to create a more direct puzzle. Finally, this was definitely one of the easier boxes, which isn’t so much a low point as a heads up for veteran solvers looking for a bigger challenge. I will say the story absolutely makes this one worth it, however.

Verdict:

Last Resort is definitely one of Deadbolt’s most innovative new boxes; remaining familiar while switching up the formula in an exciting new way! I highly recommend checking this one out as even though we found this adventure to be on the somewhat easier side, the story and experience was more than worth the price of admission. 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.

The Escape Game – Rugrats: The Search for the Losted Toys (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  Up to 8 (We recommend 4-5)

Price: $35 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Theme:

From the The Escape Game website:

Angelica has tricked the babies and hidden all of their bestest toys. But, oh, no! She unwittingly misplaced her beloved Cynthia doll, too! Join Tommy and the gang to track down their most favoritest toys and save playtime! Oh, and you better hurry because it’s a race against the snore. If Grandpa Lou wakes up from his nap and catches you outside the playpen, you’ll be scooped up and toyless – maybe forever!

High Points:

The instant we began our Search for the Losted Toys, I noticed how brilliantly the set evoked the feel of the old Nickelodeon show. As a big fan of Rugrats when I was little, this room absolutely brought back memories, and I love the art style that The Escape Game has employed to bring the world of Rugrats to life! Starting us off in the babies playpen was a great touch, and the way we escaped from there kicked off things in a fantastic way! As we progressed, puzzles gradually increased in difficulty, presenting a difficulty curve that started with some easy wins to get our momentum up, and becoming more complex as we neared the final few toys. I loved how some of the late stage puzzles were brilliantly layered, and the final room really did have some of the best overall interactions in the game. The game isn’t quite as difficult as others we’ve played from The Escape Game, but it does present a great challenge while still being a suitable game for families, and a great intro to escaping for older kids! The escape itself was pretty linear overall, which was good for the remote nature of our experience, ensuring that we weren’t jumping between too many points and letting clues get lost in the fray. The puzzles and interactions were varied nicely, allowing for several different types of puzzler to shine, and keeping the proceedings from getting bogged down in any one type of puzzle. One of my favorite interactions, though it would have been cooler if we had been able to do it live, allowed us to contact one of the best side characters from the show, and it was such a rush of nostalgia to hear his dulcet tones! On the whole, our team has a brilliant time solving through the Pickle’s home, and ensuring that the Rugrats, (even Angelica!) were reunited with their beloved toys.

Low Points:

Though we really enjoyed our time with this super creative Rugrats room, I highly, highly recommend doing it in person if you can. The remote experience is translated decently, but a lot of the puzzles included within the room are very tactile and do not translate well. One of these puzzles in particular takes forever and is very tedious to run through. However, we recognize that were we physically in the room, these interactions would have been a lot more fun. Overall, our avatar did a great job, but was required to do so much of the room for us that we felt like we had missed out on particular parts of the game. Other than that, there is one interaction in particular that requires light outside knowledge as well, and the main parts of the puzzle are somewhat banal.

Verdict:

On the whole, Rugrats: The Search for the Losted Toys is a great way to spend an hour, with the caveat that if you are able to play this one live (Available in Las Vegas and King of Prussia,) that will be a better experience overall. However, we still had a great time with the remote experience, reliving the nostalgia of Rugrats, and enjoying the brilliant set while recapturing those losted toys from Angelica! Book your time helping the Rugrats here!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Escape Game provided our team with a complementary game.

Game On Escapes & More – Sorcerer’s Mistake (Review)

Location: Cary, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-4)

Price: $27 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Theme:

From the Game On Escapes & More website:

Abis the Sorcerer was working on something in the workshop in secret and is now missing!  A mistake must have been made.  Can you find out what the Abis was working on, help complete the mission, and escape?

High Points:

Sorcerer’s Mistake is Game On’s family friendly room, and like their holiday room Grinched, is still a lot of fun to puzzle through if you’re only a kid at heart. Though the game is intended to take 45 minutes, a full hour is given, and allows players of all skill levels and ages ample time to work through the puzzles. The set itself was small, but well decorated, and while it wasn’t the largest escape room we’d been in, it still fit our group of four comfortably. I really enjoyed the initial stages within Abis’s laboratory, as it was filled with interesting props and items, lending a magical feel to the room. While not as elaborate as some of Game On’s other rooms, the lighting and design does an excellent job evoking the desired mood. The puzzle flow worked excellently, and added in a few great interactions to ensure smaller puzzlers would be able to contribute, and while the room provided an easier level of difficulty, there was still enough of a challenge to make solving enjoyable. The game design was brilliantly thought out, and I really liked how some escape room mainstays were incorporated without feeling overdone, making this one of the better introductory style rooms I’ve encountered. Sorcerer’s Mistake is definitely one of those rooms that you can take new players to in order to get their feet wet, but still feel as though you received a full experience that isn’t dumbed down or banal. There were also a couple of great practical effects that we enjoyed seeing activate during our solves. Overall, even though this room is intended for families, I think anyone could have a brilliant time working through Abis’s magical journey!

Low Points:

One of the puzzles was an excellent tactile challenge, but we were able to easily circumvent it using the tools in an unintended, but not destructive, manner without realizing we were missing out. Enthusiasts might find this room very easy due to the family friendly nature, which isn’t a low point, just a heads up regarding the intended audience. Overall, the room was a bit dim with no flashlights, so sometimes it was a bit difficult to see, especially as we progressed into the later room that was darker.

Verdict:

Sorcerer’s Mistake is overall a wonderful room, allowing for a family friendly experience that delivers a fun challenge that allows little ones ample chance to contribute and enjoy themselves without leaving older solvers bored. I absolutely recommend checking it out for anyone looking for an introductory experience. Figure out how to correct Abis’s mistake here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Game on Escapes & More provided media discounted tickets for our team.