Location: Your Home!
Players: We recommend 1-4
Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping
Now you have another reason to stay indoors.
From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:
One city. Two killers in competition. A twisted game that can only end in bloodshed.
The Deadbolt Mystery Society continues to cement its place as one of the most creative subscription boxes out there, theme wise, with this game. I love the idea of a couple of crazed killers competing with each other this way, with codified rules just barely keeping the entire thing falling into complete chaos. From the time this game was announced, I was looking forward to it!
In addition to the wildly original theme, this box ties together many of the previous boxes into the shadowy organization that’s putting on this murderous event. It’s always lovely to see some nice call backs to other mysteries while each box remains its own, self contained case. Deadbolt has definitely struck an excellent balance between interconnected storytelling while still ensuring that each entry remains its own separate thing. As new boxes include further revelations, I become ever more immersed in the world of Valley Falls. The story line for Duel is great, and the box is slightly more linear in places, allowing for the narrative to evolve more naturally and in a way that evolves over the course of the full duel between the Serpent and the Red Bishop. (#TeamSerpent all day.) Props are great, and everything feels high quality, especially the super cool buttons you can wear to show your support for your favorite killer! My wife and I both liked Team Serpent’s aesthetic more, so we just sort of displayed it on the table as we puzzled. There are several QR codes to work through, but as most are sequential, there’s no need to keep up with multiple tabs, ensuring nothing becomes too chaotic.
The game flow is great for the most part, and allows for smooth transition from spot to spot in the majority of cases. There are a few points of non-linearity, and as there are a couple different threads, those moments can pop up at any point you’re feeling stuck. The main twist on the usual formula is fantastic, with sleuths attempting to discover new victims, determine the point tally for the duel, and trying to catch the murderers before they can wreak more havoc! The game truly makes you feel as if you’re squaring up against a monolithic entity of killers, trying to stop them before they can enact their master plans. The puzzles included are full of great code breaking tasks and creative hidden messages to find, all culminating with a fantastic, in theme meta puzzle that works well as a progress tracker as well. There are a lot of connections to be made, and each step provides a nice revelatory moment of satisfaction. The climax is wonderful, continuing to set up a cool Holmes/Moriarty vibe to the proceedings, and in a new development, the ending/epilogue is fully voice acted!
The linearity of one of the main points is overall well implemented, but we found there to be a choke point or two for one stage of the game that stalled the game’s momentum for a while. There is a bit of a logical leap that exacerbated this, but once we’d figured it out, (with a small hint,) things got back on track. (Another puzzle is very easy to overthink, so as a heads up, sometimes the simplest explanation is the best!) The flow was mostly great, as previously mentioned, but from time to time, once we’d exhausted all other threads, it can become a bit choppy. One puzzle has a ubiquitous cipher that long time puzzlers will find very familiar, though it is a nice inclusion for new players.
Easily one of the coolest themes Deadbolt has released, Duel has a fantastic run of enigmas to enjoy as well! Despite a quibble here and there, overall we found this to be a very fun mystery, and look forward to how the new organization and it’s cast of characters will pop up in the future! There’s been a lot of build up lately in some of the more recent boxes, and I cannot wait to see where the writers go with this. Duel is a more challenging box, but I think it’ll be accessible for new players, as this challenge isn’t insurmountable or unapproachable. Veteran players will enjoy the call backs to earlier boxes that go with said challenge as well, and I can easily recommend picking this one up! 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!
Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.