Mystery Mansion Regina – D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-10 (We recommend 4-5 players)

Price: $25 CAD per person (About $19.73 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

It ain’t Cruella’s shop, that’s for sure.

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

Local paranormal Youtuber, Estelle Jacobs, was searching for her missing boyfriend, Alex. Shortly after visiting D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe, Estelle vanished without a trace. It’s time to venture inside the Curio Shoppe through a live video feed and find out the truth about Estelle’s disappearance…

We recommend playing Night Terrors before playing this room for story continuity.

First Impressions:

Mystery Mansion Regina is one of the escape room companies out there who we recognize as doing an amazing job adapting to virtual play. They’ve created rooms that are specifically built from the ground up to be online experiences, and because of this, their games shine as few others can. It is always a massive treat to explore one of their rooms, and we were very pleased to be returning for D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe!

High Points:

As I mentioned, this room is tailor made for online groups. While the room can be played live, the online version has been adjusted for online play, and ties into their amazing Night Terrors room beautifully. It was brilliant to return to the world of The Sleepy Man, and with this room ending on an exciting cliff hanger, I can’t wait to see what comes next! Per usual, the acting from our avatar and special guests was fun and immersive, and they tailored their performance to our shenanigans. I always appreciate versatile GMs, especially those that don’t mind playing along with us, and Mystery Mansion Regina’s GMing is top-notch. The room itself was wonderfully spooky, using lighting and sound excellently in order to create a dynamic, creepy atmosphere for us to puzzle in from the safety of our own homes. The entire space feels lived in, and there was so much more than what meets the eye hidden in the dark crevices of the Curio Shoppe. The props involved were devilishly fun, and just soaking in the ambiance and investigating all the weird and wonderful items in the Shoppe was hugely entertaining. All this comes together with a seamless integration into Telescape to translate the game into one of the best remote experiences we’ve played!

Puzzles are fantastic, and have been tweaked from the original room to fit the modified theme, ensuring nothing feels out of place. Some of my favorite enigmas within play with the remote nature of the game fantastically, and I really enjoy seeing how creative the room can get. Mystery Mansion Regina really does an amazing job crafting interactions that work beautifully within the virtual space, and provide an experience that not only feels like an authentic escape room adventure, but is also a one of a kind mystery you won’t find elsewhere! The game is densely packed with puzzling, and there is more than enough included to keep an experienced team busy, ensuring players will receive a good value for the cost. Intuitive and smoothly flowing, D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe absolutely ups the ante for Mystery Mansion Regina’s virtual experiences, and ranks up there with some of our favorite rooms of all time!

Low Points:

Only one puzzle didn’t work flawlessly, and though we felt it was a little unwieldly, we like the idea overall. It definitely tries to play with the game’s tools in a way that is married well to the theme, but it just doesn’t quite work perfectly. A slight adjustment, though, and this is a flawless room!

Verdict:

D’Vile Curio Shoppe is one of those games that I couldn’t wait to play, was 100% enthralled with during, and would recommend to anyone! As always, Mystery Mansion Regina has done a beautiful job creating a one of a kind experience that combines excellent storytelling, creative puzzling, and masterful GMing. You should absolutely check this, and their other brilliant rooms out here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Spider (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Not so Itsy Bitsy

Theme:

After a seemingly quiet start to the winter season, Valley Falls is once again rocked with a series of five “accidental” deaths. Cards bearing the images of spiders are found in the pockets of each corpse, indicating something more sinister must be going on. Soon, a letter is sent to the police chief from someone calling themselves The Spider. It’s up to you and the Will Street Detective Agency to bring yet another serial killer to justice, and attempt to bring peace to Valley Falls once more!

First Impressions:

35 boxes in, and The Deadbolt Mystery Society is still going strong! It’s been amazing to see how far these boxes have come in the past few years, and we are always still so excited to see a new one hit our doorstep! After a run of three more spooky boxes, it was fun to get back to the usual Valley Falls murder cases, and this one definitely kept us on our toes!

High Points:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always comes up with interesting story lines to accompany their murder mysteries, and The Spider is no exception. The murderers of Valley Falls are no slouches when it comes to getting creative with their killings, and their methods and motives are always extremely interesting. From the enigmatic start to the incredibly dramatic epilogue, The Spider definitely brings some great twists and turns to the proceedings, jumping to places we definitely did not expect the story to go! For those who enjoy wordplay, the punning is strong with this box as well.

The box is, for the most part, pretty linear, though there are a few points at which there are a couple puzzles to work on simultaneously. For my wife and I, this certainly didn’t cause any issues, however, as all the puzzles were workable with two sleuths. Paring down our suspect pool using the clues and puzzles was clear and smooth, and the puzzles tied into the mystery convincingly, as everything was woven into the theme well. On part in particular was fantastic, and the method to move on was hidden right in plain sight, waiting for us to determine it’s significance and reveal an excellent new secret! The difficulty curve worked well, with things starting out with a few easy wins, and ramping up the challenge as we moved through the experience. The props were excellent, with one in particular that was a lot of fun to play around with, and we found the puzzles and code breaking to be varied and intuitive.

Low Points:

One puzzle had an error with the color, which caused some initial confusion, but was fairly easy to overcome, and was most likely an error on the printer’s side. For enthusiasts looking for a challenge, The Spider is probably the most straightforward of recent Deadbolt Mystery Society boxes, and while we enjoyed it, it was definitely a quicker solve for us. The characters were a little flat in this adventure, and while I enjoyed the mystery, the suspects weren’t as memorable as some previous cases.

Verdict:

The Spider is a great starter box for newcomers to The Deadbolt Mystery Society, as it is a fun, beginner friendly mystery with plenty of awesome puzzles, as well as a twisty story sure to keep players guessing! Deadbolt veterans will still enjoy the game, however, as though it is more straightforward, it is still and excellent time, and provides a fun challenge for the holidays! 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.

Gruzzle – The Island (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30.00 month to month, $87.00 for 6 months, $172 for a year’s subscription

Fun, sun, and cryptography!

Theme:

From the Gruzzle website:

What would you do if you found a hidden envelope created by a secret organization that hasn’t existed for 50 years? You’d open it of course.

Can you solve the codes, ciphers, and puzzles left behind by the Cryptographers Club?

Sign up with Gruzzle HQ and receive this mystery in your mailbox. Don’t delay — the treasure of a lifetime awaits!

First Impressions:

It is always exciting to see a brand new subscription doing so well with original puzzling and friendly, approachable themes! When the third Gruzzle arrived, we were absolutely excited to see how they’d take on the “secret society” theme, and they definitely didn’t disappoint!

High Points:

Gruzzle always does an excellent job packing their boxes full of novel puzzling, and The Island is no exception, from the start, we were wowed by the array of props and one of the early game interactions really impressed us with its creativity and smooth process of solving. It definitely remains one of my favorite subscription box puzzles recently, as the whole process of solving was intuitive and uniquely satisfying. Though we did feel a little bit of decoding burnout by the end, the many ciphers don’t just repeat the same method over and over, but rather introduce new and interesting mechanics to ensure that each cipher feels like a fresh solve. These ramped up in difficulty each time, which guaranteed that each one was a new challenge to overcome! The difficulty curve of the whole box remains just a smooth, and feels fair the whole way through. Every item within the box has a purpose, and some hide extra secrets that become important later, so it is always a good idea to hold on to everything, especially that which seems to have extra information included!

The story line and puzzles for The Island are similar to previous boxes in that the experience is very family friendly, and feels like an incredibly inclusive experience. I’ve said before that despite horror being my favorite theme for anything, it is refreshing to work on Gruzzles due to the lack of grisly murders or dark storylines. I really love this approach, and Gruzzle does an excellent job of ensuring that their puzzles are challenging but solvable by all experience levels, which is a difficult task! We have also really enjoyed how Gruzzle jumps between new themes between each new box, yet still retains a overall tone. I applaud Gruzzle for how fantastically designed each of their experiences have been, and highly anticipate each new game!

Low Points:

One solution in particular did not reveal itself at all for us, and only after getting confirmation from the designers did we understand the solve. We were able to get halfway there, but the other half was a little too well hidden, to where it wasn’t easily identifiable once we had solved the initial puzzle. There is a cipher wheel included, but our batch didn’t quite line up due to a printing error, but future boxes should be fine in this regard. The theme involves a secret society of cryptographers, so a lot of decoding is to be expected, but the decoding wasn’t quite as exciting to us as previous boxes. This box felt just a tad less layered than others, and while there are still multifunctional items, they didn’t quite have the amazing level of nesting we’d seen previously.

Verdict:

The Island is another great Gruzzle that is perfect for new and veteran puzzlers alike! Filled with curious ciphers and perplexing puzzles, I absolutely recommend this subscription for folks looking for a family friendly puzzling experience! You can sign up for your trip to The Island here! You can use the promo code FIRSTTIME to get $5 off your subscription!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Gruzzle provided a complementary box.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter III: The Tinker’s Trinket (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:

Navigate the treasures that litter the walls of the Tinker’s Workshop and perhaps become the first to discover a long lost secret?

First Impressions:

As I’m writing this, I not only am reflecting on the amazing experience The Curious Correspondence Club has provided thus far, but am full of anticipation for Chapter IV. Spoiler alert, this game was brilliant, possibly their best thus far!

High Points:

I know I’ve said it twice before, but The Curious Correspondence Club continually blows my mind with how incredibly dense their experiences are, as well as how much they can do with props that are mostly paper based. These small envelopes provide such amazing challenges, and are well worth the cost of admission, as they tend to take us a good 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete. I love how many of the main props involved are used multiple times, shifting and containing new secrets as we move along the puzzling path. It not only allows for more economical packaging, but ensures that every item is absolutely filled to the brim with mystery! There was loads of tactile puzzling within this envelope, and every time we put together a new item in order to begin decoding, these interestingly designed props worked flawlessly. The manipulation of these paper based mechanisms was always smooth, and it is brilliant to see how amazingly well thought out these moments are. The game flow works fantastically, and runs along a mostly linear path, yet still provides enough to do for a small group that no one is going to feel left out at any point. There are a few great meta puzzles involved as well, and the connections between each are intuitive, but not spelled out completely, allowing for some supremely excellent ah ha moments once everything clicks into place. One in particular involved a somewhat innocuous puzzle, which we completed, but had no idea what to do with next, but when we finally discovered it’s significance, we were incredibly proud of our deduction.

The ongoing story line of The Curious Correspondence Club continues to wow, and I love how the twists and turns take us to an entirely new place each month. This month’s jaunt to a quiet old tinker’s shop is an interesting tonal shift from Chapter II, but a not unwelcome one. The cozy confines of the shop are a interesting shift from the more macro natures of the first couple chapters, and during the solving of this mystery, the whole experience feels more micro, as if we were working on the delicate gears of the included (paper) pocket watch itself. The puzzling, story, and nature of this game fits the theme so beautifully, and it is clear that the designers are masters of the genre, weaving all the disparate threads of the puzzle experience into a truly amazing adventure.

Low Points:

One particular point in the game includes a very intuitive moment, but we were second guessing ourselves due to the difficulty we had in performing the tactile interaction that we were sure came next. Though it definitely helped to keep us from performing the action too soon, making this action easier to perform would definitely prevent confusion. Some of the decoding is a bit misleading due to how the spacing works. This isn’t actively called out, so when working on this mystery, if you feel like you have the right method of decoding, keep at it, and it will probably become clear.

Verdict:

The Curious Correspondence Club continues to impress, with a Chapter III that blew our expectations out of the water! This is definitely one of the top puzzle subscriptions available right now, and I only wish I had the next chapter right now, as the original puzzling and mysterious story cannot be beat! Though these are more challenging experiences that I think enthusiasts will enjoy the most, a well implemented hint system will ensure that more casual puzzlers are not frustrated. I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

Locurio – The Vanishing Act Online (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 3-5 players)

Price: From $35 per person

Time to Escape: 70 minutes

What fun’s magic without a little possible death and dismemberment?

Theme:

From the Locurio website:

Step Right Up

The Great Noximillian, world-renowned magician, is hiding more than just tricks up his sleeve. His past five assistants have mysteriously gone missing, each after their 13th performance with Noximillian. Now his latest assistant, Casey, has contacted you for help in uncovering the truth behind these disturbing disappearances.

On the night of Casey’s 13th show, you are tasked with investigating The Great Noximillian’s private dressing room while the magician is busy on stage.

You have 70 minutes to find what Noximillian has been hiding and solve the mystery before the show is over and Casey’s time is up!

This game includes low lighting, as well as spooky elements and mature themes that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

First Impressions:

I hadn’t done an online escape room for a bit when the offer to play Locurio’s The Vanishing Act came through. I was excited to jump back in, and had heard that Locurio is pretty top notch, so I was curious to see how their games translated to the virtual space.

High Points:

The Vanishing Act began with a cool intro video that convincingly portrayed our trip to Noximillian’s dressing room. Honestly, we didn’t realize that this video was prerecorded until well after we had finished up. There are other videos involved with particular points as well as the fantastic climax, and all of them are seamlessly integrated into the experience. I really loved how the room’s story took center stage, and was woven into the puzzles, ensuring that we were just solving puzzles to unlock a door, but participating in a race against time to ensure our friend would make it out of her 13th performance alive! The jump between stages of the game was excellently executed, and while there is a cool tonal shift at one point, the experience remains light hearted on the whole, and never overtly scary. Our in game avatar did a great job of lightly hinting towards what to do next, and searched the room thoroughly for us, ensuring that we weren’t held up due to an inability to find the items we needed. The set was beautifully designed, and the dressing room, as well as what lay beneath the magical facade, are convincing.

The puzzling experience within The Vanishing Act is no slouch either, with loads of intuitive connections to be made, which lead to a myriad of ah ha moments. Best of all, almost every puzzle involves the group in some way. We haven’t seen teamwork based puzzles implemented quite this well, but Locurio has done an excellent job in utilizing Mofang One, (the inventory management program,) in order to ensure that players get the cooperative feeling of working through an escape room together. This may be the best implementation of teamwork puzzles I’ve seen yet from a remote room, and the effect is uniquely satisfying. There are several moments of non-linearity, and the way things are set up, groups can work on separate things at the same time, ensuring that there is little to no down time for individual players, nor are there glaring choke points that hold progress up. The final run of puzzles was my favorite, as the ultimate task of the game requires a full set of fantastic puzzles to be solved, and culminates in an interaction that not only feels intense, but caps off the game amazingly.

Low Points:

We couldn’t be there live! I’m certain this room would only get better during a live play, but their online offering was just as good as many in person games we’ve played!

Verdict:

The Vanishing Act from Locurio was, in a word, brilliant. I absolutely recommend checking this one out as soon as possible, as the story, puzzles, and avatar interactions are top notch, and must be experienced! Beginners and Enthusiasts alike will have a great time, as many of the puzzles are a fantastic challenge, but the hint systems in place will keep groups who are struggling on the right track. Book your time saving Casey here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Locurio provided our team with a discounted game.