The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Lair (Review)

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

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Nightingale Lane is set off the main road and difficult to see from the highway. In other words, it’s a perfect spot for secrets. When a courier for Coyote Parcel Service needs a signature for the envelope he is supposed to deliver to 148 Nightingale Lane, he peeks through the window in hopes of getting the owner’s attention. What he sees is a room covered in blood-soaked plastic. Could there be a logical explanation for such a sinister sight? Is it possible that this isn’t what it looks like? Or has he stumbled upon the lair of a madman who has managed to keep to the shadows and out of the public eye? Explore the house on Nightingale Lane and find out what’s really been going on there.

First Impressions

I’m not sure why but I kept reading this box’s title as “Liar” instead of “Lair”. To be fair, “Liar” could be at least some sort of adjacent, related title for this box (as well as just many other boxes) so I feel like technically I wasn’t super off. Anyways! On a super, totally un-related note, what’s up with horror themes and teeth?

Yay Points

As can often be expected from the creative team at Deadbolt, Lair contained a cool and creepy story with interesting plot surprises. I really enjoyed the story-related a-ha realizations we experienced, hinted at by various clues on the way. In particular, it was a clever touch the way we were given the key to solving the final mystery and how it fit (or didn’t fit) in with the killer’s plan.

As always, the box contained a huge assortment of puzzles for us to play through. We really enjoyed how story elements emerge as various answers are unlocked, as well as how this contributed to the smooth flow of the game. There were some cool props and story facets in particular that not only made the experience more directed, but also created a more thrilling impetus behind working towards and getting through the next step. 

While all the props were neat, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that we were (finally?) provided a thorough map of Valley Falls (or at least a good portion of it). I kind of forget that this is a “normal”, functioning (fictional) town given the sheer number of serial killers, crime rings, and just pervasive issues they seem to have. The map itself was an interesting prop and veteran Deadbolt subscribers will definitely appreciate the callbacks to previous mysteries. There were also a couple of new interesting landmarks introduced in this game, at least one of which we wouldn’t be surprised if it were re-visited in future boxes.

The killer of this game definitely had an interesting personality, and we kind of got a Collector-like vibe. Could there be a sequel in the works? At the very least, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if this box helped create a foundation for later mysteries!

Pondering Points

There was one puzzle in particular that was a bit ambiguous for us in figuring out how to apply the directions we were given. While we knew what we were supposed to do, we ended up spending a bit of time guessing and checking our solution for this puzzle.

Overall though, the puzzles themselves were good. Compared to other Deadbolt boxes, they seemed a little simpler overall, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. The box was still an enjoyable experience!

Final Verdict

The Lair provided a really suspenseful and intriguing mystery experience! I think this box would be friendly for more advanced beginning sleuths, but definitely check it out for yourself 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!

8/10 (Great)

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

Society of Curiosities – Ch.2: The Posey Ring (Review)

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

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.50/month OR $49/every 3 months OR $179/year

Theme:

From the Society of Curiosities Website:

A mysterious Posey Ring leads you to Victorian England in search of an ancient alchemical manuscript.

Study the artifacts, articles, and expert resources to discover the location the manuscript and dispatch your team to recover it.

First Impressions

I’m always amazed with how much content can be packed into the relatively small envelopes puzzle makers send us, and this game was no exception! If the Posey Ring is anything similar to the Society of Curiosities’ first chapter, I was excited to get lost in another mystery and see what was in store for us this time!

Yay Points

In addition to the multitude of puzzles provided, we were also struck by their variety. I don’t think we needed to repeat any of our solving methods! With so many types, it was impressive how unique and well-themed each one of them was. The props for each enigma were extremely fun to work with and were well-designed, with the game being pretty tactile-based overall. I appreciated many of the interactions and really enjoyed the effects that resulted (science rules! :D). There was even a neat destructible state puzzle, and, as a result of it, we were pleasantly surprised to be left with a pretty decent tasting drink.

The game flow of the Posey Ring was really smooth. For the most part, we were pretty clear on what items we needed to work with each step of the way, and didn’t have much aimless searching. It was very satisfying to see solutions start to reveal themselves as we figured out what props to put together (and how) and to see the puzzle put itself into place.   

Most all of the technical interactions were intuitively placed throughout, and really boosted our experience of the game. At one point, we were directed to an interesting website that provided some great interactions, and honestly, I just appreciated the puns. There were also multiple video clips that displayed different plot points, and featured our text-based bot friend performing the interactions we guided him to do and the results of those actions. These clips were really helpful in immersing us into the mystery and were just really fun to watch.

Our bot-friend was seamlessly integrated, and really enhanced both the direction and feel of the experience as well. The bot’s character had a fun personality, which came through not just with the video clips that depicted his actions, but also his responses to our messages. We were even able to goof around with him a bit, which was impressive!

Pondering Points

There was one point in the game where we were surprisingly lost. After a lot of hint taking, we realized we missed a puzzle by not telling our bot-friend something that we had actually already found earlier. It wasn’t intuitive to us that we would need to convey this particular finding, and we lost some time since we didn’t receive the clue directing us to and helping us figure out to solve a certain set of props.

Final Verdict

The Posey Ring was a really fun and immersive home game experience, and I would highly recommend this chapter, (as well as the first,) of the Society of Curiosities’ subscription mystery games. This one in particular had an added bonus of the second half feeling similar to an escape room, which my partner (of course,) appreciated. Check them out for yourselves here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a complementary mailing.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter 1: The Custodian’s Keys (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.95 Monthly, $179.00 Yearly

Join the Club!

Theme:

From the Curious Correspondence Club website:

Welcome to the M.B. Franklin Museum of Natural History, a place of knowledge, learning, and curiosity.

When a serendipitous discovery grants you an audience with the Museum’s Custodian, a peculiar occurrence launches the hunt for a secret hidden within this storied institution.

Will you be able to unlock the secrets?

First Impressions:

The Curious Correspondence Club’s first chapter arrived in a small to medium sized envelope, but I was impressed with how much was packed into the game, as well as how high quality everything was!

High Points:

The Curious Correspondence Club is absolutely dense with puzzling, and for $19.95 (or less with a yearly subscription,) this game is more than worth the price of admission. The clever inclusion of every single item as part of the puzzling or story is extremely well executed, and upon opening the envelope, I was intrigued to see that even this was used as part of the experience, delivering the mysterious introductory story as it folded out. I was consistently thrilled to see that even the most innocuous of props became a part of the story, and the many ah ha moments that were delivered via connecting these props together were supremely satisfying. Though this game mostly relies on paper props, the experience always feels incredibly polished and fun to work through, and the adventure’s theme is well portrayed by the myriad items included. The story itself is highly mysterious, and had us hooked from the start, it sort of reminded me of a somewhat more grounded version of the video game Control, and that is absolutely a good thing. The videos that are included as an intro and epilogue are well voice acted, and they started and capped off the experience fantastically.

The game flow is incredibly smooth, and allows players to work on the initial puzzles non-linearly at their own pace, and great, tiered hints are provided for those who need a little more direction, ensuring that frustration remains absent from this game. The variety of puzzles is excellent, and I really love how everything fits together intuitively from start to finish. I really love how puzzles built on each other over the various exhibits, and reading through everything helped narrow our investigative routes organically. The meta puzzle was easily my favorite part, as all the information we’d collected came together into a really cool and climactic finale, introducing us to a mysterious world of secret societies, and setting up upcoming adventures amazingly. Without a doubt, this was one of the most exciting at home games we’d played recently!

Low Points:

The set up of the game can allow players to skip one puzzle by process of elimination, though that may be a high point for players who come across a more difficult puzzle they’d like to jump over. For players that are looking to complete every puzzle, the final conundrum they solve will be spoiled somewhat. One puzzle combines a couple more banal interactions, including seek and find and counting elements that aren’t overly exciting.

Verdict:

Without a doubt, I can say that I recommend The Curious Correspondence Club to anyone looking for a new puzzling subscription to try! Enthusiasts and newcomers to the hobby alike can look forward to a beautifully crafted hour or two of engaging puzzling that’s well worth the price. I absolutely love the clever puzzling, as well as look forward to seeing how the intriguing meta-story plays out, and cannot wait for the next envelope to arrive! Join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

Modern Treasure Hunt – The VOC Treasure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: €49.95 ($59.02 at the time of writing)

Hunting for treasure in the comfort of your own home!

Theme:

From the Modern Treasure Hunt website:

The VOC Treasure is an #AtHomeMystery treasure hunt. It is an adventure based on a true story that took place at the end of the Dutch Golden Age. It is a 1-4 player (maximum of 6) experience allowing you to play solo or coöperatively. Larger groups can compete or also work together using multiple boxes.

First Impressions:

The VOC Treasure came to us from the Netherlands one day, packed inside a nice wooden box, and holding some very interesting treasures to puzzle through. We had quite a backlog to work through, but the tempting wooden box continued to call to me until we finally got a chance to uncover its secrets! Spoiler alert, it was absolutely worth the wait.

High Points:

One thing that is immediately apparent about The VOC Treasure is that it is a beautifully designed game. The props are all authentic feeling and sturdy, and feel as though they are made to last. Each item is important, and beyond looking good, even the most standard piece of the game plays a major role in the puzzle solving. Not one bit felt extraneous, and it is always wonderful to find a game that has zero fluff included. This amazing attention to detail and design doesn’t end with the presentation, as the puzzles and game flow are excellent as well. Even a particular puzzle that seemed, at first glance, like it would be a slog proved to be an engaging and challenging solve. Code breaking is included, but is non-standard, ensuring that the process to solving is interesting and allows players to engage with something beyond the usual pig-pen/ceasar cipher banality that some games can fall into. The meta-puzzle for this game builds fantastically through each of the challenges, and it is a lot of fun to work through all the way through. Once all the information has been collected in order to solve this enigma, the logic puzzle at the end is properly challenging, but immediately intuitive, ensuring that players aren’t led to logical leaps or red herrings. The whole experience flows beautifully, and it is a brilliant time to work through each logical step in order to finally locate the VOC treasure!

The VOC Treasure is a moderate to high challenge game, and it definitely took our experienced team a full two hours in order to fully complete the game. While some of the conundrums included are very difficult, they were always fair, and just required us to look at things from a different angle to test out a new theory borne from a new piece of information. Once methods of solving have been set up and the ah ha moments have been arrived at, it is generally easy to complete the solve, and there are no arduous processes to muddle through during these puzzles. The experience remains fast paced and enjoyable throughout, and while the complexity of the game has not been sacrificed, Modern Treasure Hunt has ensured that the entire adventure remains an absolute joy throughout.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle can be easily skipped, and though we went back to reveal its secrets, it didn’t quite have the ah ha moment coolness it could have, had it been gatekept better. Another puzzle that underwhelmed took place on a really cool prop, but ended up being a bit too seek and find-y for our tastes. Though the story set up is cool, there isn’t a proper climax, so things felt as though they were left hanging.

Verdict:

The VOC Treasure is a wonderful time, and we absolutely enjoyed every second we spent with this box of excellent puzzling! I absolutely recommend this experience to enthusiasts, as the challenge was more than worthy of our time, but new players will be able to enjoy this one as well, as the intuitive nature of the game and the well layered hint system ensures that players of all skill levels will find something to love. Order your search for The VOC Treasure here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Modern Treasure Hunt provided a complementary box.

Mystery Mansion Regina – DTF: Drag Task Force (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-10 (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: $20 CAD per person (About $15.11 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Work it!

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

The devious Ruby Hymen has betrayed the Drag Task Force and has stolen all of their powers. The leader of the DTF, Flo Mingo, has selected you and your team to help the DTF infiltrate Ruby’s secret lair. You must find a way to stop Ruby and help the members of the DTF get their powers back!

A portion of each ticket will be donated to the Regina non-profit organization, Lulu’s Lodge.

*All content of this room has been reviewed and approved by the Drag Community and is not intended to offend any parties*

First Impressions:

DTF: Drag Task Force might be the most creative theme I’ve ever seen. Drag Queen superheroes, a robot avatar, and a puzzle that involves making a mixed drink for your avatar to choke down all come together to create what can only be described as one of the wildest online escape rooms we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing!

High Points:

DTF is a hilarious game, and if players relax and let themselves joke around with the avatar, they’re in for a fantastic time! Our game master was, as always with Mystery Mansion Regina, brilliantly quick on their feet, dishing out jokes and responses at lightening speed. Everything was incorporated with the awesome story, and I loved how much humor was injected into the experience. It is rare to see an escape room that truly excels at being funny, and the folks at Mystery Mansion Regina really know how to develop a fun puzzling flow while bringing the laughs. Just like their Night Terrors room, DTF is built from the ground up to be an online only experience, ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation. A favorite mechanic of this room is made possible by its online only nature, as one of the main goals of the game is to upgrade our robotic avatar using items that give the Drag Task Force their powers. Though it is as simple as finding a prop and asking to activate a power, it really lends a satisfying sense of progression to the experience, and adds a little extra something that we wouldn’t see in an in person room.

The puzzles themselves are very clever, and one in particular was an astoundingly fun interaction that had us laughing even after the game was over. At several points in the game, telescape was incorporated, allowing our team to solve in room puzzles concurrently with online puzzles, shaking up the usual linear nature of online, avatar based games and allowing for more non-linear progress to be made. This is great for bigger teams or players who like to break off to solve on their own, as it ensures that everyone can remain engaged without trying to lead an avatar to look at something across the room while others are attempting to solve something else entirely. Though the puzzles themselves were, for us, on the easier side of things, they were no less fun, and the room is absolutely packed with interactions, so we didn’t blow through the experience either. Overall, DTF is all about having a great time, and it definitely succeeds in its mission!

Low Points:

During our play, the decor was still in development, so the room didn’t quite have as much personality as it could’ve, however, it should be even more decked out now, so no worries here! The puzzling can sometimes ride on the easier, more basic side, so enthusiasts looking for an intense challenge may be disappointed, but we had more than enough fun running through the flow of the game and just enjoying the great story and banter with our game master/avatar!

Verdict:

DTF: Drag Task Force is easily one of the most creative, fun filled online escape rooms available. I whole heartedly recommend trying it out, as the entertaining puzzling flow and laugh a minute interactions with our game master delivered one of our favorite experiences of the pandemic. Book your time helping the Drag Task Force regain their fabulous powers here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.