The Fairy Tale Files – The Cinderella Murders (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $22

Theme:

From the Fairy Tale Files Website:

A grisly double-murder shocks Fairy Tale Land! Lady Tremaine and one of her two daughters are found stabbed at the manor. The prime suspect is the mistreated stepdaughter Cinderella – she had motive and opportunity. Could it be that simple?

The Fairy Tale Files are immersive escape room style experiences in which you interact with physical game components and also chat with characters, suspects, and witnesses in real-time to solve the case!

As an investigator at the Magical Mishap Agency, you are called upon to shine light on crimes and other strange events troubling this faraway land.

High Points:

The chat bot that is included online as a major part of the game, (you’ll enter all answers and interact with the world through this component,) works supremely well, reacting to everything we did comprehensively, and delivering the next steps and clues quickly once we had solved any particular puzzle. The story develops as you solve, popping up as new clues and tidbits of information within the chat bot. I really enjoyed how it evolved throughout the experience, and how the narrative was integrated into the experience seamlessly. A good mix of puzzles joins the mystery, and is set up to ensure the game flowed smoothly, with a difficulty curve that ensures the experience is highly accessible. Overall, in order to ensure the story develops as it should, the game is pretty linear, and controls the stream of information so that players won’t get overwhelmed with data, and the beautiful props are intuitively called out as players progress. The whole experience gives off a nice, Tim Burton-y/American McGee’s Alice vibe, so if you’re a fan of those properties, you’ll really enjoy the Fairy Tale Files. Accessibility wise, the inclusion of transcripts for audio and cursive items is always great to see, and ensures that more players are able to enjoy the mystery!

Low Points:

We had a lot of trouble getting started, as every mobile device we tried could not get the online interface to work properly, however, on desktop, it worked beautifully, but limited where we could play. As puzzling veterans, this one was a mite bit easier than other experiences, taking us around a half hour to complete, however, beginners will find the experience very accessible, so this is only a low point for expert puzzlers.

Final Verdict:

The Cinderella Murders is a great start to The Fairy Tale Files, and if this is how it starts, I cannot wait to see how the games develop from here! I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re into the theme and art style, and especially think this is a fantastic jumping off point for new players. Get started solving The Cinderella Murders here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a complementary mailing.

Scarlet Envelope – Episode Four: Breakfast for a Serial Killer (Review)

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

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $20 monthly

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

“Extraordinary Weekly”, 1956: “The death of a waitress at Stanley’s Diner, is being investigated in connection to similar cases…” This time, you work as a cop in the fifties. Bring justice to the victims of a serial killer who clearly has a thing for junk food! Expect case files, coroner’s reports, & footage of suspects’ interrogations with real actors!

This game really puts your detective skills to the test! The gameplay is full of puzzles but is focused on the narrative and is more linear. * Parental Advisory: Mild Content.

Yay Points

With so many types of game play out there, I really appreciate knowing what kind of puzzling experience I’m getting into. And, true to its description, Envelope 4 was very much a linear, narrative-based case. It had an interesting story, with puzzles that were a good use of its theme and setting to carry you through it. The suspect footage added to the immersion, and I especially appreciated the fact that transcripts of the videos were provided as well.

Though this envelope was more narrative-based, the handful puzzles were of a good variety and a mix of physical and virtual props. In particular, I enjoyed one of the early puzzles’ use of color as both the clue and key to solving it. For the most part, there were pretty clear indicators on what you needed to do or use at any given point, which is very helpful for those who are new to puzzles and/or those who just prefer a more chiller, guided puzzling experience.

Having had some unfortunate experiences in the past, I’ve been conditioned to save each page as a new tab with any online puzzling components as a way to keep track of and reference any items I come across. But, I was happy to find that my efforts were unnecessary since the last puzzle provided links to everything required to solve it!

Pondering Points

There were a couple of puzzles that I got stuck on. While a good concept, I felt one of them could benefit from another nudge or indication of how the clues should be interpreted. However, once the hints put me on the right path, I thought it went pretty smoothly. With the other puzzle, I knew what to do with it, but had a little harder time with executing it. Though this could be more of a personal visualization problem on my end, it may have been more helpful to have physical props for this particular one. (As an aside, there was also something in this item that clearly seemed like a clue, but I didn’t end up using it and it didn’t ever become relevant. Though, it is very possible I was completely oblivious to its intended purpose and ended up using a different way of getting to the solution.)

As previously mentioned, this is a narrative-based experience. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but because of it, I should mention that those who don’t like Sherlockian deductions (i.e., my editor) may not enjoy some of the interactions of this Envelope.

Verdict

This envelope is a good experience for those who want a more laid-back puzzling experience guided by an interesting story. I’d recommend it for those who are newer to puzzling, enjoy deductive-style puzzles, and/or story-focused experiences. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here!

6.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Last Resort (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

A group of co-workers employed by a Valley Falls travel agency have been given an incredible opportunity. The Refuge at Emerald Island is an isolated and exclusive resort that, ironically, none of the travel agents have ever heard of. What makes this opportunity even more special is that they will be the last group to stay at the tropical resort. The week after their stay, the resort is scheduled to be demolished by its owner and rebuilt as an industrial hub. Once the group arrives, they are excited for sand, sun and relaxation. That quickly changes when a member of their team is found dead with a harpoon in the back. The person who committed the crime must be one of the travel agency guests or the resort staff. Trapped on an island with a bloodthirsty killer, the body count is certain to go up as the suspect list goes down. Will you figure out who the killer is before it’s too late?

High Points:

We really enjoyed Last Resort! It reminded me a lot of an updated version of Cabin, as the story is very well written, placing you directly into the situation rather than investigating an after the fact murder. If you like slasher films, this one definitely plays out similarly. One new thing that the designers at Deadbolt have implemented is the casting of players as a specific main character, rather than a detective with the Will Street Detective Agency. This opens up greater avenues of storytelling, and it shows brilliantly in this box. From the start, there is a sense of unease built by that continues to build, and as we are drip fed revelations that all may not be as it seems, (and it seems pretty dire already,) the mystery deepens until we reach the explosive climax! As a side note, this box can get really brutal at times, which we actually really enjoyed, as it gave a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Overall, I love how the box started off very light, and quickly became much darker! On the puzzle side of things, we liked how the game flow alternated between linear and non-linear, depending on how the story was gate-kept, and we never felt like there were any major blockages to the flow, ensuring that the experience remained smooth throughout. Puzzle density was great, as there were a ton of interactions to work through, and the variety included kept our team occupied and entertained from start to finish. The final line of puzzles does an excellent job of dropping us into a frantic end sequence that really drove home what was at stake! I felt as though all the puzzles were designed in a truly intuitive way, and that the clues allowed us to make connections without feeling as if our hands were being held. There is a lot to figure out at any one moment, but Deadbolt always does an amazing job ensuring that clues subtly point the way. All in all, the combination of great story, original puzzling, and slasher movie vibes definitely delivered one of my favorite puzzle experiences this year!

Low Points:

This box had a lot more math than usual, and I know the puzzle community either loves or hates math, with very little in between, so make sure to take that under advisement if you fall into the latter group. One puzzle in particular was a pretty large leap of logic for us, and could easily be interpreted in several different ways as is, so I feel like another small clue is needed to create a more direct puzzle. Finally, this was definitely one of the easier boxes, which isn’t so much a low point as a heads up for veteran solvers looking for a bigger challenge. I will say the story absolutely makes this one worth it, however.

Verdict:

Last Resort is definitely one of Deadbolt’s most innovative new boxes; remaining familiar while switching up the formula in an exciting new way! I highly recommend checking this one out as even though we found this adventure to be on the somewhat easier side, the story and experience was more than worth the price of admission. 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Blast From The Past (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The 80’s were a decade of big hair, MTV, video games, outrageous clothing, and fun. The Valley Falls High School “Class of ‘86” is having a Blast From the Past reunion to relive the glory days of their youth and see old friends that they’ve lost touch with over the years. The reunion is a roaring success until the principal is found strangled to death in his office. Only someone attending the reunion could have killed him. But who? And why? Take a nostalgic step back into the 80’s, find out who killed the principal of Valley Falls High School, and experience a Blast From the Past!

High Points:

Everyone loves the 80’s, right? Although I am only a child of the 80’s in the most perfunctory sense, having been born in the later months of 1989, I did greatly enjoy the music and media of the 80’s as a kid. Though a knowledge of 80’s pop culture helps to appreciate this box further, in no way is it required, though one puzzle will definitely be a breeze if you’re well versed! The box itself is super dense with puzzles and 80’s nostalgia, and does a really good job of integrating some of this nostalgia into the puzzles themselves. The puzzles are also varied to a degree that even with a larger group, (though we recommend no more than 4,) everyone will be able to work on something without any dead time. Deadbolt again does a brilliant job of breaking the game into separate stages, while still allowing for a bit of non-linear detective work. I really love how there are a fair amount of items to go through at any given time, but not so many that players are drowning in evidence. A small touch we really loved in Blast From The Past is that the interviews with suspects, which usually involves a large chunk of reading we generally go through at the beginning of a case, are a bit more spread out, and feel more integrated into the game flow. I think this is a great shift, and would love to see how these are spaced out in the future. One particular puzzle we really enjoyed was spread out throughout the course of the mystery, which began with a simple, but enjoyable logic puzzle, and evolved during the later stages of the game. The props that were provided to facilitate this interaction were great, and we loved the tactile nature as well. Speaking of props, they were all used well, and were excellently woven into the game leaving no room for extraneous objects or red herrings. While there is some decoding, it isn’t arduous or basic, with one particular puzzle using a beloved 80’s item to create a really cool code. Overall, we really loved the density of puzzles and the challenge provided by Blast From The Past, and it afforded us a fantastic 2 hours of play time!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle included an audio clue that emphasized a direction that we thought was part of the game, but in the end didn’t mean anything, leading to a bit of unintended confusion. The epilogue on this one gets a little cheesy with all the on the nose references to the 80’s, but overall ties things up well. Not really a low point, but this is one of the more challenging Deadbolt boxes we’ve played recently, so new players might want to get some Deadbolt experience under their belts, or at least be open to using a hint or two!

Verdict:

Blast From The Past is a tubular new entry into the Deadbolt Mystery Society archives, and delivers an 80’s adventure that shouldn’t be missed! While it ranks on the more challenging end of things for us, we highly recommend this mystery to players new and old. 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Scavenger (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When Ernest Whitlock, the head of the Valley Falls Historical Society, is found dead from a gunshot wound inside City Hall, the first thing investigators do is check the security cameras. It’s quickly determined that someone took the cameras off-line for the night. This leaves a series of unanswered questions about how Whitlock gained access to the locked building after hours and what he might have been doing there. Those questions are soon answered by a printed invitation found in his jacket pocket. The invitation is from Walter Cline, the founder of a group called the Enigmatic Assembly. The secretive group’s mission statement is to “Shine a light on the unlit corners of the world to uncover secret truths,” and their purpose is to seek out cryptic knowledge that has been lost to history. The letter Whitlock received provides a host of details about an extreme scavenger hunt that will lead six participants to the strangest and most remote corners of Valley Falls and task them with finding the location of a life-changing fortune. Based on this information, the most likely suspects in Whitlock’s death are the five other players listed in the letter. Take up the task that Ernest Whitlock started, play the game the Enigmatic Assembly has set into motion, and be prepared to go into the deepest, darkest places in Valley Falls to find Whitlock’s killer. The Hunt is on!

High Points:

We’ve really enjoyed Deadbolt’s themes lately. They’ve definitely evolved from the standard murder mystery, branching out to different crimes and more elaborate, original styles of murder. They’ve created the murder capital of the world in Valley Falls, but manage to keep things fresh even several years on! Scavenger’s murder mystery slash treasure hunt mash up takes two well worn themes of puzzling boxes, and creates an innovative game that kept us fully entertained throughout! And for a good while as well. Although our average solving time for Deadbolt boxes tends to run about 90 minutes, this one took us a good 2 hours to complete, as the game itself was so incredibly packed with puzzles to solve! There is a fantastic difficulty curve as well, with the initial stages allowing us some easy wins in order to get warmed up, which transformed into a much more difficult challenge as we progressed! The difficulty was never arduous, however, as almost every puzzle was intuitive, and the cluing was fantastically woven into the box. I appreciated how all the puzzles felt original, including a nod to a basic cipher that doesn’t become tedious or force players into a long winded solve. In fact, almost every puzzle can be tackled with teamwork, ensuring that nothing is a solo solve. Scavenger weaves linearity with more open solving well, presenting puzzles in stages, but ensuring there is usually a few different things to explore and solve at any given time. This design does an excellent job of gatekeeping to ensure that players aren’t confused with too much information, while preventing them from feeling as though they are being railroaded through a narrow story. Sometimes open endedness can harm the narrative of a box, but this is not the case with Scavenger, and, as always, The Deadbolt Mystery Society does a brilliant job of characterization and world building to bring an immersive feel to their mysteries. I really loved that we weren’t just chasing the clues left behind by the killer, but following a treasure hunt at the center of the case, it allowed for the game to go places the killer might not have otherwise, sending us on an intense hunt to save the others on the trail of the treasure!

Low Points:

There was only one puzzle in particular that felt like it needed a little more cluing. It was an early one that evoked some musical theming, and though we eventually solved it, it definitely felt as though we were doing a lot of guess an check rather than following the hints provided.

Verdict:

Scavenger is yet another brilliant entry into the case files of the Will Street Detective Agency! Deadbolt has been mixing it up, theme-wise, a lot lately, and what they’ve come up with is pure gold! Watching the evolution of this series has been amazing, and as always, I cannot wait to see how they wow us next! I 100% recommend Scavenger to players new and old, as there is certainly something for everyone in this box. 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

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