Scarlet Envelope – Envelopes One and Two (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: $20 monthly

Secret Societies sure do love their puzzles…

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

Envelope One: Something confusing was delivered to your mailbox. The items in an envelope seem to be from different times…and worlds! Slowly you realize that a mysterious Secret Society is watching you as you try to pass this unusual test. Will you accept a challenge?

Envelope Two: Paris, 1899. Colette, a gorgeous cabaret dancer, disappears. Her dressing room is full of confusing leads: among the jewelry and love notes, you find a threatening letter and some truly unexpected things from the past. Who is she..? Find Colette and reveal her dark secret!

First Impressions:

From the moment I saw Scarlet Envelope advertised on Kickstarter, I knew I had to give it a try! A myriad of creative themes, the promise of a exciting puzzle adventure, and a excellent price point all called to me. In a sea of new puzzling experiences, this one was the one I was most excited for, as it certainly would be interesting to see how many puzzles the designers could pack into a single envelope. (Spoiler alert, it is a LOT more than I thought.)

High Points:

Overall, the first two envelopes for Scarlet Envelope are really great, containing a wealth of puzzling and a dense, multilayered experience that is woven into itself nicely, ensuring that the whole experience feels interconnected and well designed. Each envelope not only provides a large variety of props inside, but also includes digital items and locks to solve, expanding the experience greatly. The story is properly mysterious, and I like the meta narrative that has been included, which I won’t comment too specifically on to prevent spoilers, but I am indeed very interested to see where how deep this rabbit hole goes!

Chapter One is an introduction of sorts, sending along a small newspaper and an assortment of various and sundry items, all of which, if players have been keeping tabs on some of the revealed themes, hint towards future experiences Scarlet Envelope has in store! I really love this foreshadowing, and am interested to see if and how they tie into future games. This envelope was completely non-linear, with a bevy of puzzles that all tie into a final solve that was intuitive and entertaining to put together. I really enjoyed how many of the clues were very subtle, but lead the player just enough to ensure that once all the connections have been put together, they happen upon a fantastic ah ha moment. This occurred frequently, and the multilayered nature of the game, coupled with the tactile feel of all the props, was immediately engaging. I love how well this envelope works as an introductory experience, and as a teaser it definitely had us looking forward to the next envelope!

Speaking of, Chapter Two was more of a story based experience, including a narrative that sets up the mystery of the missing Colette. This game flung us directly into the deep end, delivering several enigmatic items, tasking us with determining the meaning behind them. This was a much more difficult experience than the previous envelope, but was appropriately rewarding, serving up a story that includes a fantastic twist and climax that we did not see coming at all! The ah ha moments in this game are much more hard won, but when I solved them, it felt like a triumph. Most of the difficulty of this game relies on well hidden cluing and out of the box thinking, ensuring that the experience remains fair and well crafted. Several moments feel hugely creative, and I can’t quite pick out my favorite puzzle from the lot, there were so many great ones! Everything culminates well during the final solve, and the mystery must be fully explored in order to complete the game, which I loved, as there were no ways to short circuit the game at the end. Overall, the premise is fantastic, and I cannot wait to continue our time hopping journey next month!

Low Points:

For Envelope One, there were a couple typos that accidentally allowed me to solve a particular puzzle using these accidentally connected typos. This has since been corrected however, and shouldn’t be a problem any longer. Another puzzle is more of knowing who someone is, and while outside knowledge isn’t as much a bad thing as it is in escape rooms, either knowing a bit of trivia or googling it has never been the most exciting puzzle to us.

In regards to Envelope Two, for experienced players, you’ll probably notice something about one prop that will lead you down a particular rabbit hole, but I’d recommend not doing so, as this skips one excellent puzzle. This item was a great surprise, but I did notice that getting it to do what it was supposed to was a bit more destructive than was probably intended. The glue was just a bit stronger, making it so that a reset wasn’t exactly seamless. Luckily, there will be a reset pack for this item for folks who’d like to ensure their game remains in peak condition. For this game being only the second entry of a planned 13, the difficulty ramps up greatly. While on the whole this wasn’t unwelcome, there are points at which the logic can be tenuous, requiring some leaps. There’s one in particular that we couldn’t for the life of us make the connection on, and when we took a hint, were still thrown off due to an unintended red herring. Though I love the video that accompanies the ending, there is an ongoing character that uses a voice modulator, which can make things hard to understand. Subtitles would definitely help out here, however.

Verdict:

Scarlet Envelope is a brilliant new subscription that I highly recommend, based off their first two games. Envelope one starts things off gently by introducing players to their style of mystery, but the experience ramps up from there during envelope two, providing almost two hours of puzzling adventure! I highly recommend checking this out, and can easily say that newcomers and enthusiasts alike will love the experience due to the inclusion of a “Starter” and “Experienced” difficulty level. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

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