The Conundrum Box – Sleepy Hollow Part 3: The Headless Horseman

Kara’s Note: This review comes to you from me!

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

SAVE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND SAVE YOURSELF FROM THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

This three part series takes place during American Revolution and afterwards. General Washington’s life is in danger! He has tasked you to help stop the most recent assassination plot. Your leads have led you to the small village of Sleepy Hollow where you meet the townsfolk, and soon discover their dark secrets. The second and third adventures in this season get weirder and darker.

First Impressions:

As the last box in the Sleepy Hollow series, I was excited to see how the story would end. Given the interesting twist and cliff-hanger of Part 2, there’s no telling where this one would lead!

Yay Points:

The story drops you in the middle of a predicament, and it’s not long before you’re able to escape and get some clarity on the situation. You are soon tasked with multiple sub-goals to help you toward your larger goal, and fortunately, you’re provided with a document to keep track of each one you’ve achieved. This is immensely helpful since this box is jam-packed (in a good way!) with puzzles of varying difficulty levels and a lot of satisfying solves.

The clues interacted with each other in many interesting ways. In particular, there was one set of deceivingly simple clues that played a helpful role in a couple of the puzzles, and we really enjoyed deciphering them. We had some good lightbulb moments when making connections, and also some ‘ohhhh’ moments when catching ourselves overthinking. On a potentially unrelated note, if you’re like us, please remember to look on the front and back of everything. 😀

It was pretty clear what we needed from Parts 1 and 2 to help us solve some of the puzzles, with a lot of good callbacks to them. (Side note: Though it’s taken me 3 boxes to finally learn, I will also be a little better at notetaking when I make a solve or notice something in a box series that doesn’t seem to be used in the current box.) I also really liked how one set of clues built upon a prop from a previous box to make for a new interaction, and more tactile players will benefit by having another figure to help you visualize this puzzle.

In the previous box, I noted how one of the color puzzles was tricky as I had a hard time telling some of the colors apart. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t an issue in this box!

As with all The Conundrum boxes, we really appreciate the incremental hint system that the website provides. It’s really helpful in making sure you’re on the right track, and also helps you figure out how solve it so you can learn and understand the process.

Pondering Points:

While my husband and I both agreed that this box started and ended great, the middle can be a little rough for players who don’t enjoy longer process puzzles. (Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Kara for having much more patience than I for process puzzles. My disdain for them has been well documented.) One of the puzzles involved a challenge that I found satisfying to solve, but can definitely be an exhausting experience for many players to repeat the process so many times (especially since even if you know what to do, it’s not always an easy find).

There was also one puzzle that I really relied on the hint system to help fill in the blanks on what I need to do with it to make the solve. I may have missed it, but perhaps a little more direction in the puzzle would be helpful.

We liked how one puzzle gave us an easy/hard option to choose from. However, we were a little disappointed when we found out that none of our possible solutions to the hard puzzle worked because one of the clues seemed to contradict the accepted answer (though, giving a shout-out to the hint system for instant-gratification to help us figure this out). This should hopefully be an easy fix, though.

Verdict:

This box had a lot of great puzzles that were fun to solve, though there were a couple longer ones that may be a hit or miss with players. It certainly was an interesting end to the series, and provided a surprising foreshadowing of a future box. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

 

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Jester (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

It’s all a barrel of laughs until Steve from Accounting gets murdered

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

In medieval times, most kings had a court jester to entertain and amuse them. On the night of the annual Masquerade Ball, King’s Court Technologies discovers it has its own jester. While most of the partygoers are dressed in masquerade attire complete with mask and beads, one mysterious character is seen dressed in a fool’s motley and a jester’s cap with bells. However, this jester’s purpose is not to entertain but, rather, to exact revenge on the king’s behalf. Who is this jester and why have they murdered three company employees on the roof? What has really been going on at King’s Court Technologies? Unmask The Jester and find out!

First Impressions:

Hot off the heels of the phenomenal The Dark and Stormy Night, we were thrilled to see yet another incredibly creative theme in The Jester. The Deadbolt Mystery Society has come up with some very interesting stories thematically, and the puzzles don’t slouch on the job either, so we’re always interested to see what new crime has landed on our doorstep each month.

High Points:

The Jester is definitely one of the more challenging boxes we’ve done, and though some of the long run time of this mystery was taken up by our quest for a particular office supply that had gone missing, it still took us a bit longer than usual to crack this mystery. This is not a bad thing however, as this box is full of mind bending conundrums and perplexing enigmas. One of my favorite parts of this case is the sheer number of suspects. There are quite a few more than the usual Deadbolt box, and this mechanic is handled fabulously, starting out as a seemingly overwhelming number of possible murderers, and paring down intuitively as the case progresses. The story itself is subtle, with clues slowly revealing what is really going on, and the slow burn of discovery is excellently paced out. The mystery of it all was beautifully captured, and the climax and denouement of this adventure were perfect.

The game flow is pretty great, and there are multiple avenues of investigation to head down, allowing for a non-linear solve that’s great for solo or group play. During a couple points, we split up to solve some of our favored puzzle types, and whenever we were stuck, there was always something else to explore in the mean time. There are loads of clever puzzles hidden within the evidence of this box, and it is all presented in the usual excellent fashion of a Deadbolt mystery, with a couple of great new styles of presentation that lent a sense of authenticity to the props. Several of these puzzles are also deceptively well layered, with subtle hints signposting how they connect with each other, and the use of one central item was brilliantly done. One of my favorite puzzles was a real conundrum, but was presented simply, and provided a wonderful moment of revelation once the simple, yet effective clue came into focus, shattering all the theories we developed while over thinking things.

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Low Points:

Though we really enjoyed the expanded suspect list, the experience lost that close up examination of the suspects themselves, and therefore we never got to enjoy the wild personalities that show up in many of the Deadbolt cases we’ve worked. While the epilogue delves into the personality of The Jester themselves, I missed getting a look into the mindset of the suspects during the case. One particular puzzle can be rather confusing, and needs a little more cluing in order to allow players to sort out what’s important, what isn’t, and how what is important should be organized. This particular puzzle eventually made sense, but only after a fairly big logical leap was made. The same goes for a particular code that is explained in fairly vague terms, necessitating a fair amount of guess and check before we landed on the most correct answer.

Verdict:

The Jester opens The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s 2020 slate of boxes fantastically, and continues to set a great tone for the mysteries of Valley Falls. As usual, I am looking forward to their next mysteries, and cannot wait to see what this year of sleuthing brings! The Jester is a challenging box, sure to test veteran Deadbolt detectives, but is imminently approachable for new players as well, leaving subtle clues to direct players along in their investigations. I definitely recommend checking it out when you can. 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.

Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $24.99

How is it working at the Haunted Roller Coaster?

It has it’s ups and downs. I’ll see myself out.

Theme:

From the Thames and Kosmos website:

Dark corridors, terrifying shrieks, bone-chilling monsters — sounds like a lot of fun, right? At least that’s what you thought when you decided to take a ride on the haunted roller coaster at the amusement park. But suddenly you are stuck in a really freaky place. The ride’s gates are locked tight in front of and behind you. You stumble upon a strange riddle. Can you summon up all your courage to solve the riddles and escape the haunted roller coaster?

First Impressions:

The newest Exit game’s box art really called to me, with it’s spooky yet colorful cover and promise of supernatural haunts. Even though it promised to be an easier game, (2 out of 5 on their difficulty scale, which is generally less arbitrary than most,) I was excited to give it a shot, as sometimes the easier games can still be enormously clever. At the least, I was looking forward to a creepy time escaping from things that go bump in the amusement park!

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High Points:

While a linear experience, The Haunted Roller Coaster still presents a fun challenge that can handle more than a solo player. As a couple, neither of us felt as though there was nothing for us to do, and each step of the puzzling process was engaging. The vast majority of the box, in fact, felt incredibly clever, with some amazing and tactile puzzles and interactions peppered throughout. This box might be one of the most densely packed Exit games, prop wise, and I absolutely loved every new surprise that the experience threw at us. Even after twelve other Exit games, this one was able to use parts of the game you generally wouldn’t expect in new and creative ways, keeping even veterans of the series like us on our toes. Two items in particular were amazingly well hidden, and eluded my nosy poking around that I usually do before we begin. (Pro tip: Never start our escape room briefing within the room. I am notorious bad at not immediately looking for clues and have to be reined in by one particular teammate. If he’s not there, all bets are off. I have a problem.)

The game itself gives off a playfully spooky vibe, and while still full of the supernatural fun we expected, never veers into anything too creepy, keeping the mood light and entertaining for the whole family. Some of our favorite puzzles were incredibly inventive, and used their props to the fullest and providing some fantastic moments of revelation that kept us happily puzzling at a good clip, but was never too simple as to allow us to blow right through. The game flow was excellent, and coupled with a smooth difficulty curve to provide an experience that never fell prey to choke points or obtuse frustration. There were also some great easter eggs for veteran players, calling back to other boxes in unobtrusive ways, which is always fun to see.

 

Low Points:

There was one puzzle that involved a small bit of outside knowledge, and while we think that it will generally be a non-issue, there could be some players that are tripped up by it, depending. The story starts and ends with the opening for the most part, and it is never really clear as to the whys. For instance, why were we trapped in the haunted roller coaster? It seems there was some sort of plan, but it is never explained. Why are we escaping and what are the consequences of escaping or not? Also, no details are given through puzzle solving, and the ending, while cute, doesn’t quite satisfy, as everything remains mysterious.

Verdict:

In all, The Haunted Roller Coaster is definitely one of Exit: The Game’s best experiences. While one of the easier games, and therefore a great one for new players to start with, there is enough creativity within the puzzles that veteran solvers will certainly remain entertained. I absolutely recommend giving it a shot, and look forward to seeing what Thames and Kosmos comes out with next!

9/10 (Excellent)

The Conundrum Box – Sleepy Hollow Box 2: The Awakening (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review comes to you from me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

SAVE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND SAVE YOURSELF FROM THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

This three part series takes place during American Revolution and afterwards. General Washington’s life is in danger! He has tasked you to help stop the most recent assassination plot. Your leads have led you to the small village of Sleepy Hollow where you meet the townsfolk, and soon discover their dark secrets. The second and third adventures in this season get weirder and darker.

First Impressions:

For everyone who did Part 1, the title of this one seemed pretty apropos to its interesting ending. I was excited to put my thinking cat on and see where the story would take us!

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Yay Points:

And take us through an interesting story it did! I feel like this shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler, but this box involves the story of Ichabod Crane. However, The Conundrum Box has put their own interesting spin on this classic story that makes you see these characters in a new light.

As with previous boxes, this one is packed with envelopes that contain some great and varied puzzles, with a number of unique ones that I haven’t seen before. The puzzles provided great opportunities for teamwork as well as dividing and conquering. With so many types, having a team with different approaches to solving these conundrums is really helpful. It certainly made for some satisfying moments on my end!

For the most part, this box had great, intuitive clues and interactions, and I enjoyed how the story was able to couch them. Multiple puzzles were really neat and there were many obviously hidden clues that are really helpful with the deductions. One in particular was really satisfying when I finally realized what the key was to solving it!

It can sometimes be difficult when boxes refer to materials from previous boxes, but I think this one included some great references to help point the way (FYI: the website also provides downloadable versions of the items of interest for those who choose this route!).

This mystery also had some good tactile props and visual references. In particular, their map was once again very detailed and well done.

It’s a nice touch that the website provides Extras in the form of Spotify playlists and food/drink recipes. I haven’t gotten the chance to try making any of them, but they do seem delicious!

Also, in the last box, I commented how the mobile site was a little harder to navigate. Since then, they’ve added an easily accessible navigation bar for each puzzle! They also include a great “how-to” reference on the intro page to help orient you to this. 😊

Pondering Points:

In the last section, I complimented the variety of puzzles that this box included. Unfortunately, this can also be a double-edge sword in some cases, as some of the puzzles have the potential for causing roadblocks. But! The hint system does a great job in pointing you in the right direction and guiding you toward the solution. Admittedly, we’ve gotten good use with it on a couple of the puzzles, and were able to reverse engineer the solution to see what logic we were missing.

After needing to consult one of the answers though, we were still confused how one of the numbers is part of the solution, as we’re pretty confident the puzzle provides one more than the solution indicates. As the hints acknowledge, this puzzle can be tricky – perhaps a picture with the appropriate areas highlighted would be helpful here.

The hints also identify what is likely to be the hardest part of the box, and in our experience, it was indeed. It will definitely be a hit or miss with players as it is a longer and more complicated process puzzle, involving a lot of clues to put together and things to keep in mind. The logic felt a bit arduous on our end, and there was some ambiguity on how to start solving it after putting together the information we needed.

There was one puzzle that was good overall, but the colors used can sometimes be indistinguishable in certain areas, depending on the player and room lighting. I am apparently not as good at distinguishing colors as I think I am. :/

Verdict:

Overall, this box had a lot of great interactions and satisfying solves. It certainly was a fun sequel to Part 1, and I’ll be interested to see how it ends in Part 3! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7/10 (Good)

 

Sleuth Kings – Case 027: Krampus Kidnappings (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Don’t Kramp my style!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Asuna Yukimura has been kidnapped by Krampus the Christmas Devil. Now, being held for ransom, Asuna intends to make Krampus regret ever targeting her. She has only one option – create as much trouble as she can. Luckily, she still has her cell phone, and Sullivan is only an email away. Can you work with Sullivan to help Asuna beat Krampus at his own game and escape?

First Impressions:

I’m a big fan of everyone’s favorite Christmas demon, Krampus, so it was great to see that Sullivan would be taking on a case themed after this holiday hoodlum! Even better, one of our favorite supporting characters, Asuna, would be joining the cast for this particular mystery. We couldn’t wait to dig into this holiday themed mystery and got cracking as soon as we had a free night!

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You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Krampus will throw you in a sack and drag you away.

High Points:

I said it while we were solving the case, and we immediately thought it was an appropriate quote to sum up a lot of the Sleuth Kings experience, so I share it here. If any subscription box can make a story that centers around child abduction light-hearted, it is Sleuth Kings. I mean this in the absolute best possible way. In almost any other light, the kidnapping of high schoolers by Krampus would likely be horrifying, but in this case, Asuna’s empowerment and the excellent writing and tone employed keep spirits light. The props and clues included are appropriately mysterious and sinister, and absolutely layered to the brim with puzzles, including a few points of meta-puzzling that really tie things together well. All tie excellently into the theme as well, and bring a Christmassy vibe to the proceedings that we enjoyed.

The game flow for Krampus Kidnappings is pretty great, providing an excellent flow and providing intuitive, yet subtle hints. There is a very specific point at which things become somewhat non-linear, allowing us to pick our favorite puzzle types and work on them in tandem. The puzzles build on one another even more than usual, and we loved the twisted web of clues that we had to unravel in order to uncover the secret behind Krampus and his motivations, and as the puzzles were solved, the narrative evolved nicely as well. There was a particular side story that lent some fantastic comic relief to the experience, and working with Asuna, even when she has been kidnapped, is always a joy. The climax was excellent, and the twist and epilogue deliver a satisfying end to the machinations of the kidnapper.

There were a couple moments in which some of the puzzles were fairly familiar through having been a long time Sleuth Kings subscriber, but luckily, these puzzles had evolved from their basic forms, and were utilized in a way that allowed us to discover the deeper meanings and hidden additions through some superb sleuthing. This was definitely a great box to close out the year and enjoy some great holiday themed puzzling.

Low Points:

This one was somewhat of a lighter mystery overall; once we overcame the first hurdle, we were surprised to see that we blew through it pretty quickly, so veteran solvers might find it somewhat easier than usual. The hurdle in question had to do with a couple interactions that provided less clear solutions than usual, but as we moved on, we were able to solve certain clues in an unintended way. The logic still makes sense once we reverse engineered everything, but one particular layer of this mystery isn’t quite as well signposted as we are used to. We were slightly disappointed that we only got to interact directly with Asuna once during the experience, we love how she’s written and always look forward to those interactions.

Verdict:

Krampus Kidnappings was a lot of fun to work through, and once we were able to untangle some initial hiccups, the game flow worked smoothly and revealed an awesome holiday mystery! Though it may be a quicker solve for veterans, I still recommend trying it out, as it provides many great moments of revelation, and newcomers will find this one accessible yet challenging. You can purchase this and other previous cases from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.