The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Circle (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Something terrible is brewing in Valley Falls… as usual.

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When Jodie Wong hosts a group of her closest friends for an evening of fun, she decides the entertainment will be a game called The Circle that requires everyone to write down one anonymous fact about themselves. The group will then take turns guessing which fact corresponds to which person. She decides to make things even more exciting by having everyone type out their fact on an antique typewriter that was owned by a murderer named Nicholas Hundley. Things get weird, however, when there are more messages than participants and one of the notes reads, “I killed a person once. Tonight, I’ll kill another.” No one admits to writing the note, and everyone goes home thinking it was nothing more than a bad joke. It doesn’t seem funny the next day when Jodie is found murdered in her home. Was Jodie Wong killed by one of those closest to her who attended the party? Or was the typewriter a conduit through which something sinister entered this world? Enter The Circle and find out.

First Impressions:

It’s the official, (not really official, but…) start of Deadbolt’s spooky season! The fall has traditionally had some fantastic creepy boxes, and it looks like this September and October will be no different, with The Circle and next month’s Lair bringing the strange and supernatural themes I love! From the moment I saw this box’s cover art I was excited, and absolutely had to crack the box open the same day we received it.

High Points:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society has delivered some fairly dense puzzling mysteries lately, and The Circle is no slouch in regards to the amount of puzzles it contains. There are quite a few connections to be made, puzzles to be solved, and codes to break, and as has become the norm recently, there are new items to find during each new stage of the game. I have been loving the multi-part set up of recent Deadbolt boxes, and the ah ha moments that are derived from opening a new envelope and finding just the right prop to connect with something you’ve been puzzling over previously are fantastic! Another innovation for this box is an expanded focus on narrative. Though Deadbolt already does a great job of weaving stories into their experiences, The Circle in particular focuses even more on expanding the lore and upping the world building. I also loved how the climax and epilogue were expanded within the box, allowing us a deeper insight into the finale, and leaving us with some revelations we were not expecting! It is astounding how Deadbolt continues to evolve month to month, delivering innovations into their mysteries that I didn’t know I wanted, but am always excited to receive.

Though the story is somewhat darker than usual, it never becomes overwhelmingly dour, and bits of comic relief or lighter moments help to ensure the solving remains enjoyable. The puzzles are beautifully integrated into the story, and there are loads of interesting characters to meet and interact with along the way. It is always interesting to see what new Valley Falls resident we will meet next, and one character that assists with the investigation will definitely be someone I’m watching out for in future spooky boxes! There are several great call backs to older boxes for veteran detectives, and the vast array of excellent props tie everything together nicely. The whole process of solving The Circle is brilliant, as the mysterious and suspenseful vibe weaves throughout the proceedings amazingly. While we solved each new puzzle, small revelations hinted at different threads of investigation, and though we theorized regarding what might truly be going on, the final revelation was truly an excellent surprise. Puzzles are very intuitive, and it always makes sense as to what comes next during the excellent game flow, even though determining the solutions might be a bit trickier. A couple of great puzzles felt enormously satisfying once the solves clicked into place, and all points were logical and required no leaps or sorting out of red herrings.

Low Points:

The PDFs pack a lot of information inside, but sometimes, these were a bit hard to read. Since only our phones have QR readers, we had to open the links and then transfer them to our desktop so we could more easily read what was on screen. For a smoother experience, it might be ok to have a couple PDFs for those with less ability to read the smaller letters. There was one puzzle in particular that is ubiquitous on Facebook, and while it isn’t a bad puzzle per se, it is a puzzle type that didn’t quite fit in with the other, more clever enigmas that Deadbolt usually dreams up. There were also a couple other interactions that were a little more simplistic than we were used to, whose connections were somewhat more spelled out, but these were, fortunately, not frequent.

Verdict:

Overall, The Circle is a great new addition to Deadbolt’s unofficial spooky lineup, and I love the even bigger focus on narrative, new mechanics, and expanded ending seen in this box. Though we found it to be a bit easier than usual, there were still loads of puzzling, and some clever surprises I’d recommend to any mystery lover, especially those who like a bit of supernatural fun to spice things 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

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

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