Webscapade – Season 0: Welcome to Argenia! (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $25 per team

Theme:

From Webscapade website:

You receive a strange letter from your Uncle Rory asking for your help. But what starts out as a simple task for a quick payday suddenly turns into a mission filled with danger and intrigue. Can you foil the plot and save the day before itโ€™s too late? Will you be the hero that Argenia longs for? Can this be yet another rhetorical question?

IMage

High Points:

I had a LOT of fun with this game. It felt very much like an escape room, but within the constraints of an online, self led experience. It required having a lot of tabs up, but they were set up similarly to an Unlock! game, so it wasn’t much of an issue, and the game specifically denotes when a tab can be removed, ensuring that you’re never overloaded with useless information. There was a beautiful variety of puzzles, and I really enjoyed how well designed the game flow and individual interactions were. I also thought how Webscapade approached searching the rooms was well done, even though it is a smaller part of the experience. Each stage of the game is a big puzzle, with various pieces sprinkled about, and I absolutely adored how so many clues led to fantastic ah ha moments! This was an involved, multi-level challenge, excellent for a intermediate or expert solver, but hints were always available, so new players will also have a great time working through the mysteries of Argenia. I solved this one solo, and it was a great time, but Webscapade includes ways for multiple players to tackle this one together, and they all seem to work reasonably well. As a heads up, my particular style of solving required me to copy, paste, and print a few things, which isn’t necessary for some, but definitely was in my case.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle required an answer to be highly specific, and even though other answers were still correct, they did not work. This led to a few “wrong” answers and frustrations that slowed the game down to a halt. Luckily, the creator was very open to changing the entry to allow for variations of the correct answer. Another puzzle involved some symbols, and a couple were very similar when implemented the way the game required, making it a little more difficult to ascertain what was happening.

Verdict:

Webscapade’s initial entry into their intended series of Argenian adventures is amazing, and their interesting methods of cluing, as well as an exciting story and intriguing scoring system make for a brilliant time! I highly recommend giving this one a shot asap. Plan your trip to Argenia here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Webscapade provided a complementary play.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Conspiracy (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 hidden message in The Valley Falls Observer leads to the conclusion that all is not what it seems. Is the message simply the result of a typo, a practical joke, or mere coincidence? Or is there a deeper conspiracy working behind the scenes of Valley Falls?

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High Points:

Conspiracy was one of those experiences that starts off very strong, and keeps that energy all the way to the finish line! The introduction to the game featured a fantastic, non-linear puzzling prop that some other companies would provide as the entire game, but for Deadbolt, this is only the beginning! I really loved that this prop is provided twice in duplicate so that multiple players can peruse and solve, while also allowing players to avoid the flipping back and forth that plagues this sort of interaction. This was easily my favorite part of the game, and fit into the “conspiracy” theme so beautifully. Honestly, this stage of the game is one of the best openings, mechanically and puzzle-wise, that I have seen in an at home game of this style! Once this part of the game is complete, there is still so much to do! Conspiracy is packed with enigmas, and will keep most players busy for a couple hours, if not more, and while each level of the game is self contained, they are non-linear and give a lot of room to work without choke points if players become stuck at any point. The ah ha moments are plentiful, and I feel that the entire experience is fully intuitive, with well designed bread crumbs available to lead detectives towards each satisfying solve. While the game is almost entirely paper based, it is polished and beautifully designed, including excellent online components while eschewing extraneous props. The story lives up to the promise of the theme as well, providing a myriad of setting and suspects to work through while trying to figure out what is really going on! You are never really sure what’s real or not, and once you’re sure you’ve figured out the reason behind it all, the game throws you for a loop, turning everything you thought you knew on its head! This, combined with fantastic integration into Valley Falls, with callbacks and references to real world conspiracies, makes Conspiracy an instant classic in our book!

Low Points:

There were a few puzzle types we weren’t thrilled with, generally banal interactions, but these were easily overshadowed and quickly over, so it wasn’t the worst offender. Otherwise, this was a pretty fantastic box!

Verdict:

Conspiracy is a great mystery that weaves some brilliant puzzling together with a twisty, turn-y story that will keep players on their toes! Including an intermediate level of difficulty that will challenge veteran and novice players, this box is a great choice for anyone interested in puzzling their way through a mystery. 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.

Sultans of Solve – The Clock Winder (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $39

Theme:

From the Sultans of Solve website:

The clock is ticking and The Clock Winder has promised to murder 7 victims. Can you stop his evil game before it is too late?

Solve puzzles, decode messages, figure out riddles. Put the pieces together to find the fiend who is murdering in Oaks Hollow as part of some sick game. Requires an internet connection, something to scan QR codes, and pen and paper. An online, progressive hint system is available in case you get stuck. This game is single play and intended for teens and adults.

High Points:

The Clock Winder is the first puzzle box from Sultans of Solve, and presents a great, introductory experience for new players. The box itself is filled with a large amount of varied puzzles, perfect for a small group or a solo puzzler that’s looking for a fun couple of hours. In terms of puzzle types, I’d say The Clock Winder collects many of the usual tropes from these sorts of subscriptions, and puts them together to form a fun and intuitive experience that would be amazing for anyone looking to get into the hobby! The experience is linear, allowing the story to develop at the intended pace, and ensures that things remain focused on the task at hand, making this a perfect choice for those who enjoy a more guided experience. The puzzles are still a fun challenge, however, and become increasingly complex as the mystery progresses. Story-wise, we liked how each step marked progression with new story bits and settings, and the search for The Clock Winder themself felt exciting and “in the moment,” rather than passive. I loved how the conclusion set up further stories while still presenting players with a satisfying conclusion, as well as a cute little souvenir! The whole experience is made up of paper based puzzles, and is easy to reset for other players if you’re careful. Though presented through a series of envelopes and paper clues, the experience was not lessened for the presentation. One favorite puzzle included pop culture references, and a highly original solve that was incredibly entertaining to piece together. There were also a few tactile interactions that we always have a great time with.

Low Points:

One late stage puzzle was interesting, but vague. The intended items were difficult to read, and though we knew what we needed to do with them, it was made unintentionally more frustrating than it should have been. Overall, this adventure is on the simpler side, and includes several basic style puzzles that will be great for new players, but might not excite veteran solvers quite as much. A few puzzles include searching for outside knowledge, which isn’t our cup of tea, but is overall fine for an at home, self guided experience. There was a particular inclusion at the end that felt a little out of place, with a somewhat crude joke that might not be for everyone.

Verdict:

The Clock Winder is a great starter box, and a fun first entry into the Sultans of Solve line. I definitely look forward to seeing how they evolve, and where the story might go next! I absolutely recommend this box to new players and veteran solvers who’d like to introduce friends to their hobby, as it is very accessible and does an excellent job of introducing the type of puzzles these subscription boxes are known for. Start your investigation into The Clock Winder here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sultans of Solve provided a complementary box.

Lockstar Escape – The Inncreeper (Review)

Location: Bluffton, SC

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

Price: $27 per person, 3 person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What a Psycho!

Theme:

From the Lockstar Escape website:

You’ve checked into the Miss Fortune Motel, and found yourself trapped in your room. You soon discover you aren’t the first guest held captive by the creepy innkeeper. Can you escape before you suffer the same fate?

*WARNING* Although the game is “creepy” rather than actually scary, The Inncreeper is a horror themed game which contains elements of and/or references to the following: stalking, murder, dismemberment, torture, mysticism (tarot cards, Ouija board, palm reading), and a balloon. Upon request, the balloon can be removed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

High Points:

Usually when visiting an escape room in a smaller town, we don’t expect blow you away set design, but The Increeper was beautifully appointed, immersing us within the motel immediately! The usual cameras in the room were not as obvious as others, and allowed the room to feel more authentic, as well as tie into the theme of “creepy innkeeper torments guests.” Each stage of the room was convincing, and the puzzles integrated into the theme excellently. In fact, there were a few surprising moments included that we absolutely did not see coming, which is always a fantastic treat! The sound and tech design included within one moment was natural, and lent a creepy vibe to the rest of the room. (And, amazingly, the bed was really comfortable to puzzle upon.) A specific atmospheric touch that we have seen a few times before was included in the best way we’ve ever seen, and provided a neat memento of our experience. The story line was great, and we loved how it included specific nods to another well known motel, and required players to uncover the mystery themselves. The puzzles were fantastic, and while the room does have some tech, it is a mostly mechanical style room, with tactile interactions that rely on player interaction rather than electronics. Searching and more basic puzzle styles are included as well, but aren’t banal, and are generally more loaded toward the initial stages of the game for some easy wins that get momentum going. One particular favorite puzzle involved an ah ha moment that went off when attempting to figure out what a specific item was used for. I really love how this room signposts players in such intuitive ways without being too obvious or overly obtuse. It is difficult to find that balance, and The Inncreeper does an excellent job! While the puzzles trend toward the easier side, they aren’t too simple, and still present a challenge that will appeal to players new and old!

Low Points:

There are some remnants of old or tweaked puzzles that we wished were still in place because the puzzles they hinted at seemed like they’d be an awesome fit for the room. One in particular, however, did create an unintended red herring for our group. There was also one instance of a repeated puzzle. These are otherwise pretty small negatives however.

Verdict:

Overall, The Inncreeper does an amazing job creating a spooky, if not overtly horrific, vibe. The marriage of the theme, puzzles, and story is well implemented, and we had a brilliant time from start to finish. The room flows beautifully, and presents an approachable, intuitive, and wholly fun experience we absolutely loved! I highly recommend checking Lockstar Escape out if you’re in the area, they are truly a gem! Book your time in the Miss Fortune Motel here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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.