The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter II: The Warehouse on the Wharf (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:

A chill in the air and blanket of fog carried by it, you find yourself met by a rusty shipping yard. With only a handful of information and a dockmaster intently focused on your capture, you must uncover the secrets of the docks using evidence left by a faceless ally.

Can you crack the code, and uncover the secret hidden amongst the crates?

First Impressions:

After the astoundingly enjoyable Chapter I of The Curious Correspondence Club, I was thrilled to receive Chapter II: The Warehouse on the Wharf. After a couple excruciating days of waiting for a night we had clear, my wife and I cracked the envelope open, and got to puzzling!

High Points:

The Curious Correspondence Club continues to wow us with their presentation. Though the envelope their mysterious items arrive in is small, there is so much to work through every single month! The absolutely mind boggling density of their games makes the experience well worth the price of admission, but beyond that, we also love the meta story that winds through each game, and are consistently thrilled to see what new secrets we are being tasked to uncover. As the meta story continues to twist and turn, we are curious as to what all our efforts will eventually unearth. This second installment ups the ante from the introductory game excellently, with a much more challenging run of puzzles, but still manages to remain intuitive and well designed, ensuring that though puzzlers won’t have an easy time unraveling all the enigmas, they will have a great time doing so! Almost every single puzzle we came across during this chapter paid off with some excellent ah ha moments, and once we’d reached the final epilogue video, we were pretty proud of what we had accomplished. Every puzzle was immensely creative, and I was astounded to find that at no point during the experience did we feel like something was familiar or old hat. My favorite puzzle was the culmination of a couple different actions, and solving it was a beautifully tactile experience that I adored.

The props themselves were sturdy, well made items, and for such a small envelope, boy were there loads of items inside! The experience is beautifully polished, and every piece of the game not only is intricately woven into the game and its puzzles, but all of them are multi-functional, layered props that reveal new secrets at every turn! There is so much to love within each chapter of this experience so far, and the experience of the designers is heavily evident in every facet of this absolute jewel of a game. The Curious Correspondence Club is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated games every month! The story is appropriately mysterious and entertaining, the puzzles are amazingly original, the videos are well produced, and at this price point, there is so much value for money in each experience we’ve received so far. I cannot recommend this game enough.

Low Points:

One particular interaction can get pretty tedious, and the seek and find nature of it really slowed the game down in a way that did not serve the experience well. There were a few points at which the cluing could be tightened up a bit, as there were a few things that could either serve as unintended red herrings or force too much guess and check puzzling.

Verdict:

Chapter II: Warehouse on the Wharf does a great job of upping the challenge, and provides a wonderfully tactile puzzling experience in a deceptively small envelope. The game was definitely more difficult than your usual puzzling subscription, so I think enthusiasts who are looking for something a bit more difficult will absolutely love The Curious Correspondence Club, but with the tiered hint system and the patience to think things through, new players will find a lot to enjoy within these envelopes as well! I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

8.5/10 (Great)

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

Scarlet Envelope – Envelope Three: Distress Call from Outer Space (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: $20 monthly

Lost in Space

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

The year is 2220, a century into the human colonization of Mars. Humans remain the same: two planets are in constant political conflict. Your spaceship picks up a distress call from a Martian spy who has discovered how to stop the war! Now encrypted Martian files are in your hands, along with the fate of both Earth and Mars.

First Impressions:

I’ve gotta say, Canada has been knocking it out of the park lately with puzzling subscriptions. Scarlet Envelope is one of two fantastic monthly puzzling capers that I’ve picked up recently, and I have to say, they are quickly becoming some of my favorite mailings every month! With a brand new theme for every game, I really love seeing how the creators pivot from 1920’s mystery to sci-fi to horror and beyond!

High Points:

The thing I really loved about Envelope Three was how intuitive each puzzle was once you’d uncovered the requisite clues. Though the game certainly didn’t hold my hand, it did provide small clues within each puzzle to ensure that with the application of some critical thinking, the answers would reveal themselves during an excellent ah ha moment! The first half of the game flowed beautifully, with a beginning that had me scratching my head, but with just enough breadcrumbs to ensure I could find my way. One of my favorite puzzles came during the initial stages of the game, and cleverly disguised the method of solving, leaving the puzzle hidden in plain sight. Difficulty ramped up smoothly, and as the conundrums became more challenging, the ah ha moments became ever more satisfying! There are some real doozies further in, and the Experienced level games are perfect for battle hardened puzzle enthusiasts that really want a challenge. I adored one section that involved a ship’s computer, as I loved exploring the options and branching paths I could take, and the design of all the web based materials is really slick.

I’m still enamored with the overall theme of Scarlet Envelope, and am interested to see how all these time hopping good deeds I’m doing will pay off. As I mentioned before, it is awesome to receive a totally different theme from month to month, and I really love opening up new envelopes to see how these themes have been implemented. So far, Scarlet Envelope has done a top notch job ensuring that the story and puzzles are wonderfully woven into the game, and are engaging experiences, with no red herrings or puzzles that feel out of place or just there for the sake of puzzling. Though this is, I believe, (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong,) the designer’s first subscription puzzle experience, it feels like they’ve been making these forever, they’re so well designed!

Low Points:

My main critique for this particular episode is that while I understand why there is a lot of online content, due to the futuristic nature of the game, the non-linear nature of the mystery, coupled with how many branches there are for the online component, really convolutes the proceedings. I played this game over the course of two days, and it was really difficult to set back up to where I was since I essentially had to run back through everything. And when you take chaotic notes like I do… While I definitely appreciate the intent of what’s being done, a more linear approach would definitely provide a somewhat cleaner puzzling experience. The logic of one particular puzzle still eludes me, and the set up doesn’t quite have enough cluing to completely relate how the solutions are meant to line up. While I had the correct answers, it took a little more guess and check than we’d like to get the solution in order. This, joined with the solution requiring a bit of eyeballing to boot, created a situation where I was never quite sure if the answer I arrived at was truly correct, (until, of course, I verified the solution in the online component.)

Verdict:

I’m loving the journey that Scarlet Envelope has set us upon, and am looking forward to next month’s envelope, as number four promises to be right up my alley! I wholeheartedly recommend this subscription, as there’s a difficulty level for beginners and enthusiasts alike, and so much to love about the experience. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here! The creators currently have a cool new Kickstarter on right now for Christmas Puzzle Cards here! You should check it, and their astoundingly funny outtakes video asap!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

Sleuth Kings – Monster Madness: Case 204 – Monster Madness (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The Monster Mash

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan King had only heard whispers about a new criminal group – until their reign of terror made things personal for him.

The group – filled with self-proclaimed zombies, vampires, and other monsters – has its hand in everything from selling drugs to abducting people. Although they have police baffled, Sullivan is sure of one thing: he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop them.

First Impressions:

It’s finally here! The conclusion to Sleuth King’s first main-line multi-case story line comes to a close with case 204, and we were excited to see how it would end! The stakes were high coming into this case, so I was excited to see how things would play out.

High Points:

I’ve really enjoyed how the story of Monster Madness has developed over the course of the last few months. It reminded me of the Isaac Cases from years past, except instead of one every quarterly, we’d get the next part of the story every single month. This allowed for fantastic cliff hangers, slowly raising stakes, and more immersion into the narrative, and I think it has paid off well. Sleuth Kings as a subscription really fits into this mold nicely, and I’m looking forward to the next run of cases to see how the designers continue to evolve the formula. We really enjoyed the ride, and the climax and ending were spectacular; exactly what we were hoping to see from this final case of the series. The props provided were excellent, and during the epilogue, we were provided with some awesome extras that truly went the extra mile in putting a bow on things.

Puzzle wise, I think that the best has definitely been saved for last, and while we’ve enjoyed the previous three cases, case 204 knocks it out of the park. The flow is excellent, and right up to the end we were chugging along nicely, solving without artificial choke points or red herrings to stop things up. The whole experience was really intricately designed, and I loved how everything tied together well, providing a beautiful variety of conundrums to ride along with the story. The theming of the experience was woven excellently into the mystery, and I never felt as if we were jumping between story and puzzle and back to story. Rather, the experience was designed with smooth transitions and nicely blended narrative and puzzles to ensure that the game felt more like an immersive experience. I loved the inclusion of a website that confirmed answers, as it not only gave us said confirmation, but was key in furthering the story in a blended way. Everything we needed to solve the box was provided, and I greatly appreciated the inclusion of one particular item that puzzle boxes tend to reference frequently, but usually have never provided. It’s always great to have everything on hand rather than have to jump on Google, especially for things like this.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle involved a task we’re none too fond of overall, and unfortunately, this type of puzzle relies on specificity. This one in particular needed somewhat more cluing in order to really ensure the answer is intuitive, and in it’s current form was rather too vague to make complete sense in the end. Though we did enjoy the puzzles in this box the best for the series, the overall difficulty was somewhat lower. Not really a low point, generally, but we had expected the challenge to rise for the finale.

Verdict:

The ultimate case of Monster Madness provided intuitive, well thought out puzzling, as well as an excellent capstone to the story that we’ve been following for the past few months. I absolutely love how Sleuth Kings has changed things up with this four month saga, and can definitely say that I recommend checking this set of cases out as soon as you can! 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Museum Nocturnus (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I don’t remember Night at the Museum being this creepy…

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Museum Nocturnus is a paranormal museum dedicated to cursed objects, items taken from haunted locations, serial killer artifacts, and anything else weird that wouldn’t stand a chance of being curated for any other museum. Valley Falls’ resident group of ghost hunters, S.T.A.L.K., purchased the museum in hopes of turning a profit and boosting their profile within the paranormal community. Father Richter Casey agrees to spend the night inside the museum and perform a series of blessings on the place before it reopens. Things go awry, however, when the priest is found dead the following morning. Given the frightful nature of the place, the list of potential culprits includes both human and supernatural suspects. Your job is to investigate The Hall of Murderers, The Hall of Cursed Toys, and The Hall of Haunted Items in order to determine what really happened to Father Casey.

First Impressions:

Museum Nocturnus is a location that has been mentioned once before in Deadbolt’s previous adventure, The Body Farm. When I saw that a mystery would be taking place in this eerie establishment, I was very excited to see what would await us inside! I’ve really loved this run of creepy, paranormal style mysteries that have come out lately from Deadbolt, and this seemed like it would be a great capstone for spooky season!

High Points:

Museum Nocturnus focuses even more on story, which is a new, and welcome update I’ve noticed in newer Deadbolt boxes. The narrative is fantastic, and hides its secrets well, revealing revelations at just the right time to surprise and lead detectives down new avenues of investigation. I really loved the characterization of each suspect, as well as the myriad killers and haunted items housed within the museum’s walls. Each new killer and item had its own lore and teased us just enough to want more! I’m really hoping that, like Asylum and Sanitarium before, we will one day return to the Museum Nocturnus to delve deeper into the freaky exhibits we discovered. The presentation of the puzzles and clues is fantastic as ever, and each new wing of the museum that we opened provided us with thematic new props. The story is filled with foreshadowing, and unraveling each investigative thread was immensely satisfying, right up to the exciting conclusion!

Puzzles are great, and very intuitive, with each level of the game tying together with the story believably, allowing for the narrative to play out as we solved. Interactions were more linear overall, but there weren’t any specific choke points that stopped progress, and each batch of conundrums that released in each wing provided enough to do that our team of two remained completely engaged with the game for the full experience. This experience reminds me a lot of early days PC adventure games, dropping you into a location and letting you explore all the cool bits and bobs, while still giving you challenges to solve in order to progress, and find more fantastic items! One of my favorite puzzles presented us with an innocuous couple of items that colorfully revealed a secret message once we had deduced what was important. I always love messages that are hidden in plain sight, and this solve was immediately satisfying once we had it figured.

Low Points:

For enthusiasts, this box will probably come in as an easier experience. Though there is a lot to do, the puzzles feel shorter, and less layered than usual. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginners looking for a more straightforward game, I drop this here for veteran sleuths mostly as an FYI. While the puzzles included within this box are all very intuitive, some are a bit too direct. Some directions are very immediately spelled out; telling us exactly what to do, rather than presenting a conundrum to figure out.

Verdict:

Museum Nocturnus presented us with an interesting setting, strange paranormal goings on, and a fantastic mystery to solve. I’d definitely recommend this box, especially to new players looking for a good jumping in point. The story and great game flow is more than enough to entertain enthusiasts, however, and I think anyone will have a great time uncovering the secrets of this spooky museum. 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.

The Conundrum Box – The Artemis Rescue (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Houston, we have a puzzle.

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

BLAST OFF TO FUN!

The year is 2250 and you are stranded on a distant moon. You have limited time to reactivate an ancient alien ship and set a course to space before an impending meteor strike pulverizes the planet. Strap in and prepare to lift off on an intergalactic adventure! Puzzles revolve around spaceships, aliens, and exploration. A real choose-your-own-path type game with hard and easy mode. Suitable for all ages, the difficulty is set for new to intermediate players.

First Impressions:

I was excited to see that the newest Conundrum Box had a scoring system! I enjoyed the implementation of scoring systems from previous boxes, and really like that, for the most part, the time pressure isn’t the main part of the scoring. This also integrated into the story, which added to the fun! Of course, it was optional, so even better for puzzlers who just want to take it easy.

High Points:

I really loved the theme and story of this box, and thought that it elevated the puzzling well, without overwhelming it or drawing things out with too much reading. I loved the companion you’re partnered up with, and really enjoyed how this box sort of expanded beyond more historically based themes. While I don’t dislike those, I always love when a subscription tries out themes beyond their norm. (And the fact that, this year, I’ve pretty much only read books belonging to the Urban Fantasy and Horror genres helps.) The story is bolstered by the colorful, fun designs, and there are a few fantastic props that are simultaneously mysterious and functional. As previously mentioned, the scoring and, at some points, timing system works very well, and those points that are expressly timed are well implemented into puzzles that aren’t overly difficult to get the hang of, so it doesn’t feel needlessly punitive. In fact, with the timing bits and scoring parts tied so well into the story, I felt motivated by the system more than any other system like this for a subscription box!

The Artemis Rescue is absolutely packed to the brim with puzzles, with loads of different items to play around with, many of which are intuitively implemented on multiple occasions. While the game is overall very linear, there don’t seem to be any particular choke points, and the hints are layered in such a way that you never feel like you’re getting too much or too little to help bolster you forward when you need it. In fact, the linearity helps the story shine a bit more, and I always love it when things work out that way. Some of the puzzles in this box get really creative, and honestly, I think the Artemis Rescue might contain some of the best puzzles I’ve seen from The Conundrum Box yet! There were quite a few points where I was dazzled by the ah ha moments, and I especially loved how there are a few points where puzzles come together for a meta-puzzle surprise! The finale was exciting narratively and puzzle wise, and it absolutely capped things off on a high note.

Low Points:

I find that for most Conundrum Boxes with “movement” or “mapping out” puzzles, I’m just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I do not like these puzzles on the whole. They feel too process-y, and aren’t generally fun for us to figure out. Luckily, this box comes with a normal and hard version of the puzzle, so it was somewhat more palatable to us. The hard version, (which I tried out for review purposes,) was definitely not our cup of tea, with a very, very complicated set of rules for movement that we instantly noped out on. The normal version is much simpler, and though I am not 100% sure how I came to the correct answer, I did. A lot of the “choose your own adventure-ness” of the box is based off plotting this course correctly, so if you don’t like this type of puzzle, it may tank your experience. There was a LOT of translating in this box, especially to start, but overall, it wasn’t too bad, and I did like the cluing for this puzzle. One particular puzzle was very simplistic, to the point I kept second guessing if there was more to it. (As an enthusiast, the answer is almost always, “no, you’re overthinking.” So I don’t hold this against the box, just mention it for veteran players who will 100% overthink.)

Verdict:

The Artemis Rescue is easily one of my favorite Conundrum Boxes to date, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a couple hours of puzzling! While new players will love the level of challenge, I think there is still more than enough meaty puzzling for enthusiasts to enjoy as well. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

8.5/10 (Great)

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