The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Infected (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Outbreak!

Theme:

The city of Valley Falls is in crisis! Air raid sirens are sounding and helicopters are flying over dropping yellow flyers that inform residents they are within a Quarantine Zone! The whole city is beginning to be overrun with crazed citizens who seem to be infected with some sort of rage virus! With no choice but to remain within the QZ or risk being shot, detectives with the Will Street Detective Agency are racing against the clock to find patient zero before the town is brought to its knees!

First Impressions:

Infected is quite the tonal shift for The Deadbolt Mystery Society, and the shake-up comes at an excellent time! Copycat was an excellent capstone experience to the initial run of boxes, and Infected feels like the fresh start of a new chapter in the ongoing mysteries of Valley Falls and the Will Street Detective Agency. I was excited to see how the story and game mechanics played out over the course of this new box, and we were definitely not disappointed.

High Points:

Looking back, one of the most excellent facets of Infected is that the experience captures the feel of an escape room perfectly. While not something that is required for an at home mystery, it is certainly a great bonus for escape enthusiasts! At times, Infected is better at being an escape room than some actual, physical rooms I’ve been in. Even without a timer, the pressure of solving the mystery is present, and the game flow itself is perfectly suited to presenting the environment of an escape room in the comfort of your home. That said, Infected is able to present a few items that wouldn’t quite work in a physical room, enhancing the experience greatly. The best of both worlds is expertly presented here.

Detectives are dropped into the story in medias res; the world devolving into chaos around them immediately. Many excellent interactions deliver a fairly quick, yet highly effective dosage of world-building that sets the stage perfectly for newcomers and drops some easter eggs for veteran players. As the source of the outbreak comes into focus, the dire nature of your mission is fully impressed, and it’s clear you have your work cut out for you. The approach to figuring out who patient zero is should feel familiar to Deadbolt veterans, but it cleverly manipulated into something new, adding another satisfying deduction once we figured out who our suspects were. This running theme of familiar, yet fresh was awesome, and really cemented how fantastic this box was. The methods are highly approachable as well, and while they demand some puzzling, everything is incredibly intuitive.

On that note, the game flow of Infected is very smooth. At no point were we at a loss for what to do, and as we made connections between each prop, solution, and code, new mysteries revealed themselves. There are some really clever enigmas to be solved within this adventure, and attention to detail and organization is greatly rewarded throughout. Even the smallest hint has a story to tell, and the amount of satisfaction that is achieved by solving the puzzles was high. A challenging experience without becoming frustrating, Infected delivers a story and game experience that fires on all cylinders and delivers what has become my favorite case to date!

20190515_0938514083126122491546043.jpg

Not your average case!

Low Points:

This box flowed so excellently and shook up the usual experience so much while still retaining the feel of a Deadbolt mystery that we honestly have very little to critique.

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always delivers a fun experience, but Infected was next level! I’m really enjoying this new evolution, and look forward to seeing how future cases follow this one up. If you’re looking for a bombastic mystery that keeps the adrenaline high from start to finish, you cannot go wrong with Infected. I definitely recommend subscribing as well to see what happens next! 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

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

Sleuth Kings: Case 020 – Blood PI (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Crime and Crucifixes

Theme:

Rosalyn Neal, star of the hit vampire detective show, Blood PI, is being hounded by a mysterious and sinister stalker, and she’s reached out to Sullivan King to help discover who is behind the increasingly threatening letters she’s been receiving. Before Sullivan can make much headway, Rosalyn is shot during the filming of a new episode and police are working to keep him away from the crime scene! Sure that their prime suspect is being set up, Sullivan enlists the help of Celest St. Clair in order to gain access to the scene and the evidence within. Use the scattered clues to piece together who is behind the shooting before they can strike again!

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings is always at it’s best when exploring more outlandish themes, and an obsessed fan/wannabe vampire and a vampire detective show, (that I desperately want Netflix to pick up,) are excellent ideas for this case. I absolutely could not wait to see how everything unraveled, so as soon as we had a chance, we jumped on the case!

High Points:

I feel like it isn’t just a coincidence that this case has a fun call back to a previous favorite, Case 013: The Beast Within. Not only does this mystery feel like a spiritual sequel to that case, it is just as extremely well put together and fun to complete! The story is as out of the box and engaging as the blurb promised, and weaves spectacularly through the game flow, with new narrative threads popping up throughout to keep things exciting. Though the case could end up being rather dark based on the theme, the subject matter is handled excellently, keeping things light hearted enough while still presenting the urgency of the matter as you make your way through the clues. The included props are great, and the Blood PI promotional material feels just camp enough to make me wish this show actually existed. The ending was delivered via a nail biter of a climax, and I could not wait to see how things resolved via the epilogue letter.

The game flow itself is superb, with several interlocking puzzles winding through the experience. The difficulty curve works well, building from more up front enigmas and towards more layered and involved interactions as the case evolves. Each step of the way feels significant, and the myriad moments of revelation and clever solutions rewarded our engagement throughout. The way each clue builds upon one another is a hallmark of Sleuth Kings cases, but this one in particular feels especially natural to me, as this adventure felt extra rewarding! My favorite puzzle was a joy to solve, combining tactile interaction with another clue we had uncovered to deliver the reveal of yet another hidden piece of evidence. Overall, this case is really something special.

20190508_1012293540923363100196237.jpg

Low Points:

Unfortunately, there aren’t any actual vampires in the Sleuth Kings Universe and Blood PI isn’t a real show. Woe!

Verdict:

Blood PI is easily the best case Sleuth Kings has created yet! Once again taking a fantastically original premise and melding it with an astoundingly great game flow and colorful cast of characters, this mystery absolutely knocks it out of the park! We recommend this adventure one hundred percent. You can purchase it when it arrives on 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Exit: The Game – The Sinister Mansion (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $14.99

Guess who’s back, back again?

Theme:

From the Thames and Kosmos website:

You are invited to be a guest at a palatial mansion, but upon arrival, you find yourselves forced to take part in a macabre game. The clock is ticking, and there is not much time left to solve the puzzles. Can you escape the mansion before it’s too late?

First Impressions:

Exit: The Game is easily my favorite at home escape game series, as none of their products have yet to disappoint. When I bought the newest set of games, none excited me quite as much as The Sinister Mansion, as I can’t resist an old, spooky, possibly haunted setting!

High Points:

Exit games always appear to have only a few props, but explode into giant adventures as you progress, and The Sinister Mansion is no exception. Utilizing almost every item in the box in increasingly clever ways, there is much more than meets the eye to this game. Per usual, the mystery involves around ten puzzles of varying difficulty, and for the most part, each one is clearly solvable using the items as presented, though some may take a fair bit more pondering than others. The initial puzzle is a great start, and provides a perfect moment of revelation as part of the solve, without being so simplistic that it feels like a gimme. From there, the puzzles continue to be fairly devious, challenging the players to think outside the box during every step of the way. The game flow is astounding, and involves a lot of tactile steps, keeping everyone engaged with the mystery. Though it is linear, at points, we had to ensure we knew what exactly we needed to be working on at any given time, adding to the challenge as we parsed through what we had been given.

While the storyline isn’t quite at the forefront as in The Sunken Treasure, this game is a sequel to previous games, The Abandoned Cabin and The Forbidden Castle. While those are not required to play this game, I recommend giving those a try first to keep chronology in order. (And they’re great fun to boot!) However, if you decide to Tarantino the storyline, you won’t miss anything super important. There are also nice little callbacks to other Exit games, and it’s always fun to think back to previous adventures. The revelation about your mysterious captor is an enjoyable payoff to years of Exit games, and keeping with tradition, the adventure ends on another cliffhanger that teases another sequel!

20190428_213919445276099256857628.jpg

Your ever spooky captor has given you another set of props! He’s too kind.

Low Points:

One early stage puzzle doesn’t quite give enough hints to remove the guess and check elements from the game, requiring us to fiddle around to figure out which answer is the most correct. This feels like either a puzzle that hasn’t been tested quite enough, or a cheap way to pad the play time. For new players, there’s also fairly little to clue one into some of the more eccentric ways an Exit game is tackled, so this may end up being much more difficult for folks who aren’t used to the way these games are played. Playing through an earlier game or two should alleviate this problem, but the barrier to entry is a mite bit higher than usual for The Sinister Mansion. Finally, the linearity of play may limit how many players you’ll want to have around the table, and since this experience can only be played once, that could diminish the value for people that like to play with a larger group.

Verdict:

The Sinister Mansion is a great addition to the Exit series, and I look forward to meeting the evil escape room master behind these stories again soon! Veterans of the Exit series will absolutely love this entry, though newer players should be warned that this one does rely on a fair familiarity with some of the more unconventional solving methods of Exit games, so a run with another game might be helpful. Buy your copy from your friendly local game store today! We recommend checking out Atomic Empire in Durham, NC, check out their online store here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Sleuth Kings – Case 019: My Brother’s Reaper (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Always bet on King.

Theme:

Rival Private Investigator John Malvone returns, but this time, instead of seeking to beat Sullivan to the punch, he’s asking for our help. Well, perhaps not “asking” as much as “breaking and entering” and “telling,” but being the altruistic and ultimately curious PI he is, Sullivan is willing to assist. Malvone’s brother was killed in the line of duty during his work as a cop, but he suspects it wasn’t the accident the police department has chalked it up to be. He suspects this goes all the way to the local Moretti Crime Family, and he’s determined to take them down in retribution. There’s a small window to do so, however, as the Morettis aren’t known for their inattention to detail or gentle hand when it comes to outsiders meddling in their business!

First Impressions:

After our latest showdown with the mysterious organization responsible for Sullivan’s father’s disappearance, it was time to get back to the day to day business of Sleuth Kings. Only this time, we were greeted with a letter from one of our known rivals, John Malvone! An excellent twist to get things going, the adventure only becomes more exciting from there!

High Points:

After an receiving our briefing from Malvone, we began to unravel the meaning of the many excellent Moretti Gaming props that were the centerpiece of this experience. From the start, the mystery really fires on all cylinders, and doesn’t let up until the conclusion. The initial puzzle is ingenious in it’s elegance, and I really enjoyed the hugely satisfying ah ha moment it delivered. This led smoothly in to the next clue, and each subsequent puzzle built upon the next with a extremely rewarding difficulty curve that kept things challenging without becoming vague or poorly clued. The layouts of each prop and puzzle present themselves superbly, and look convincing without giving away their secrets willingly. The layers of puzzling packed into each bit is amazing, and I really think this is one of the most tightly layered experiences that Sleuth Kings has come up with yet!

The story is fantastic, and the mystery is full of easter eggs and callbacks to previous cases, tying in to the overall universe nicely. Veterans of the series will love how this case pulls from older capers, bringing back interesting characters and delivering an experience that is wholly grounded in the Sleuth Kings Universe, while still being a fresh adventure to engage with. Everything is still accessible, however, so new players need not worry about getting their hands on older boxes before they can fully enjoy this one. Sullivan’s interactions with Malvone are humorously written, and provide great levity to the overarching revenge story being told. By the end, the sometimes rival becomes yet another great, and multifaceted character that we look forward to seeing more from in future Sleuth Kings cases!

20190424_1049526751229667528093898.jpg

All the glitz and glamour of a Mafioso casino!

Low Points:

My only real issue with this box was the strange red herring we came across during the latter part our investigation. Usually, everything within a Sleuth Kings box is important, especially those pieces that stand out, but there was one specific item that seemed like a fairly obvious clue, but didn’t bear fruit. It was a weird side trail we got caught up in that we couldn’t muster any meaning from. Otherwise, the whole case was tightly plotted and amazing!

Verdict:

My Brother’s Reaper is one of the best cases Sleuth Kings has put out yet, and a prime example of how their product has continued to improve every month! We loved this case, and absolutely think detectives new and old will too. Absolutely give this one a try when it is added to 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Copycat (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Let’s get meta!

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

A new series of victims belonging to The Toymaker, The Seaside Strangler, and The Black Rock Butcher have been found. The only problem? Those maniacs are either incarcerated, institutionalized, or dead. That can only mean one thing: a copycat is on the loose!

First Impressions:

I love a good meta case, and copycat fits the bill nicely! Promising a look back at the previous Deadbolt Mystery Society Cases and a return of the methods of several notorious killers, I was excited to see how this case would unfold. With several interesting threads having woven throughout a few of the previous cases to lead to this mystery, we were ready to get started as soon as our box arrived!

High Points:

The storyline for Copycat is excellent, weaving together the themes of a few cases, with the puzzle styles and locations coming together to create an entirely new case. Though this could create a sense of deja vu, in this case, everything is kept feeling fresh, so no worries there! Evidence continues to become ever more high quality as Deadbolt enters its second year, and everything looks sharp and engaging as we puzzle. For veteran Deadbolt investigators, this case will absolutely hit some excellently familiar points, while presenting an insidious new enemy via The Chimera.

The game flow works excellently, and the entire experience is presented strictly non-linearly, so there is always a lot to do. Several times, we were stuck on an interaction, so we had the freedom to jump to a different puzzle and once we returned with fresh eyes, everything clicked into place. There are a few great moments of revelation, and poring over evidence while puzzling can trigger these amazing ah ha moments in a most satisfying fashion. Small clues and reports hidden within the interviews and ciphers become important, and the game challenges players to keep a keen eye out for buried details.

20190417_1013241525695254735017994.jpg

Not merely a copy, but an evolution!

Low Points:

A particular puzzle can become much easier with prior knowledge of previous cases, which is thematically appropriate, but might frustrate some players. The puzzle is solvable via process of elimination, though some parts may feel vague to some, and a particular answer pops up in a way that is contrary to the initial internal logic of the puzzle. Another puzzle contains some outside knowledge that is slight, but doesn’t quite have enough cluing to make the required connections without a logical leap.

As an aside, I’ve come to miss the evidence notebooks that were a staple of a run of some previous mysteries. Tossing the suspect cards in the box as we eliminate them is quite satisfying, however, so it’s sort of a neutral point, if anything. They make a lovely “thonk” sound.

Verdict:

Copycat is an excellent capstone adventure for veteran sleuths, while still presenting an accessible challenge to newer players. Though I’d definitely recommend completing, at the very least, The Toymaker, The Seaside Stranger, and Wanted before taking on Copycat, it is eminently playable as a stand alone case. 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!

8/10 (Great)

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