The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Spider (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Not so Itsy Bitsy

Theme:

After a seemingly quiet start to the winter season, Valley Falls is once again rocked with a series of five “accidental” deaths. Cards bearing the images of spiders are found in the pockets of each corpse, indicating something more sinister must be going on. Soon, a letter is sent to the police chief from someone calling themselves The Spider. It’s up to you and the Will Street Detective Agency to bring yet another serial killer to justice, and attempt to bring peace to Valley Falls once more!

First Impressions:

35 boxes in, and The Deadbolt Mystery Society is still going strong! It’s been amazing to see how far these boxes have come in the past few years, and we are always still so excited to see a new one hit our doorstep! After a run of three more spooky boxes, it was fun to get back to the usual Valley Falls murder cases, and this one definitely kept us on our toes!

High Points:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always comes up with interesting story lines to accompany their murder mysteries, and The Spider is no exception. The murderers of Valley Falls are no slouches when it comes to getting creative with their killings, and their methods and motives are always extremely interesting. From the enigmatic start to the incredibly dramatic epilogue, The Spider definitely brings some great twists and turns to the proceedings, jumping to places we definitely did not expect the story to go! For those who enjoy wordplay, the punning is strong with this box as well.

The box is, for the most part, pretty linear, though there are a few points at which there are a couple puzzles to work on simultaneously. For my wife and I, this certainly didn’t cause any issues, however, as all the puzzles were workable with two sleuths. Paring down our suspect pool using the clues and puzzles was clear and smooth, and the puzzles tied into the mystery convincingly, as everything was woven into the theme well. On part in particular was fantastic, and the method to move on was hidden right in plain sight, waiting for us to determine it’s significance and reveal an excellent new secret! The difficulty curve worked well, with things starting out with a few easy wins, and ramping up the challenge as we moved through the experience. The props were excellent, with one in particular that was a lot of fun to play around with, and we found the puzzles and code breaking to be varied and intuitive.

Low Points:

One puzzle had an error with the color, which caused some initial confusion, but was fairly easy to overcome, and was most likely an error on the printer’s side. For enthusiasts looking for a challenge, The Spider is probably the most straightforward of recent Deadbolt Mystery Society boxes, and while we enjoyed it, it was definitely a quicker solve for us. The characters were a little flat in this adventure, and while I enjoyed the mystery, the suspects weren’t as memorable as some previous cases.

Verdict:

The Spider is a great starter box for newcomers to The Deadbolt Mystery Society, as it is a fun, beginner friendly mystery with plenty of awesome puzzles, as well as a twisty story sure to keep players guessing! Deadbolt veterans will still enjoy the game, however, as though it is more straightforward, it is still and excellent time, and provides a fun challenge for the holidays! 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.

Gruzzle – The Island (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30.00 month to month, $87.00 for 6 months, $172 for a year’s subscription

Fun, sun, and cryptography!

Theme:

From the Gruzzle website:

What would you do if you found a hidden envelope created by a secret organization that hasn’t existed for 50 years? You’d open it of course.

Can you solve the codes, ciphers, and puzzles left behind by the Cryptographers Club?

Sign up with Gruzzle HQ and receive this mystery in your mailbox. Don’t delay — the treasure of a lifetime awaits!

First Impressions:

It is always exciting to see a brand new subscription doing so well with original puzzling and friendly, approachable themes! When the third Gruzzle arrived, we were absolutely excited to see how they’d take on the “secret society” theme, and they definitely didn’t disappoint!

High Points:

Gruzzle always does an excellent job packing their boxes full of novel puzzling, and The Island is no exception, from the start, we were wowed by the array of props and one of the early game interactions really impressed us with its creativity and smooth process of solving. It definitely remains one of my favorite subscription box puzzles recently, as the whole process of solving was intuitive and uniquely satisfying. Though we did feel a little bit of decoding burnout by the end, the many ciphers don’t just repeat the same method over and over, but rather introduce new and interesting mechanics to ensure that each cipher feels like a fresh solve. These ramped up in difficulty each time, which guaranteed that each one was a new challenge to overcome! The difficulty curve of the whole box remains just a smooth, and feels fair the whole way through. Every item within the box has a purpose, and some hide extra secrets that become important later, so it is always a good idea to hold on to everything, especially that which seems to have extra information included!

The story line and puzzles for The Island are similar to previous boxes in that the experience is very family friendly, and feels like an incredibly inclusive experience. I’ve said before that despite horror being my favorite theme for anything, it is refreshing to work on Gruzzles due to the lack of grisly murders or dark storylines. I really love this approach, and Gruzzle does an excellent job of ensuring that their puzzles are challenging but solvable by all experience levels, which is a difficult task! We have also really enjoyed how Gruzzle jumps between new themes between each new box, yet still retains a overall tone. I applaud Gruzzle for how fantastically designed each of their experiences have been, and highly anticipate each new game!

Low Points:

One solution in particular did not reveal itself at all for us, and only after getting confirmation from the designers did we understand the solve. We were able to get halfway there, but the other half was a little too well hidden, to where it wasn’t easily identifiable once we had solved the initial puzzle. There is a cipher wheel included, but our batch didn’t quite line up due to a printing error, but future boxes should be fine in this regard. The theme involves a secret society of cryptographers, so a lot of decoding is to be expected, but the decoding wasn’t quite as exciting to us as previous boxes. This box felt just a tad less layered than others, and while there are still multifunctional items, they didn’t quite have the amazing level of nesting we’d seen previously.

Verdict:

The Island is another great Gruzzle that is perfect for new and veteran puzzlers alike! Filled with curious ciphers and perplexing puzzles, I absolutely recommend this subscription for folks looking for a family friendly puzzling experience! You can sign up for your trip to The Island here! You can use the promo code FIRSTTIME to get $5 off your subscription!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Gruzzle provided a complementary box.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter III: The Tinker’s Trinket (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:

Navigate the treasures that litter the walls of the Tinker’s Workshop and perhaps become the first to discover a long lost secret?

First Impressions:

As I’m writing this, I not only am reflecting on the amazing experience The Curious Correspondence Club has provided thus far, but am full of anticipation for Chapter IV. Spoiler alert, this game was brilliant, possibly their best thus far!

High Points:

I know I’ve said it twice before, but The Curious Correspondence Club continually blows my mind with how incredibly dense their experiences are, as well as how much they can do with props that are mostly paper based. These small envelopes provide such amazing challenges, and are well worth the cost of admission, as they tend to take us a good 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete. I love how many of the main props involved are used multiple times, shifting and containing new secrets as we move along the puzzling path. It not only allows for more economical packaging, but ensures that every item is absolutely filled to the brim with mystery! There was loads of tactile puzzling within this envelope, and every time we put together a new item in order to begin decoding, these interestingly designed props worked flawlessly. The manipulation of these paper based mechanisms was always smooth, and it is brilliant to see how amazingly well thought out these moments are. The game flow works fantastically, and runs along a mostly linear path, yet still provides enough to do for a small group that no one is going to feel left out at any point. There are a few great meta puzzles involved as well, and the connections between each are intuitive, but not spelled out completely, allowing for some supremely excellent ah ha moments once everything clicks into place. One in particular involved a somewhat innocuous puzzle, which we completed, but had no idea what to do with next, but when we finally discovered it’s significance, we were incredibly proud of our deduction.

The ongoing story line of The Curious Correspondence Club continues to wow, and I love how the twists and turns take us to an entirely new place each month. This month’s jaunt to a quiet old tinker’s shop is an interesting tonal shift from Chapter II, but a not unwelcome one. The cozy confines of the shop are a interesting shift from the more macro natures of the first couple chapters, and during the solving of this mystery, the whole experience feels more micro, as if we were working on the delicate gears of the included (paper) pocket watch itself. The puzzling, story, and nature of this game fits the theme so beautifully, and it is clear that the designers are masters of the genre, weaving all the disparate threads of the puzzle experience into a truly amazing adventure.

Low Points:

One particular point in the game includes a very intuitive moment, but we were second guessing ourselves due to the difficulty we had in performing the tactile interaction that we were sure came next. Though it definitely helped to keep us from performing the action too soon, making this action easier to perform would definitely prevent confusion. Some of the decoding is a bit misleading due to how the spacing works. This isn’t actively called out, so when working on this mystery, if you feel like you have the right method of decoding, keep at it, and it will probably become clear.

Verdict:

The Curious Correspondence Club continues to impress, with a Chapter III that blew our expectations out of the water! This is definitely one of the top puzzle subscriptions available right now, and I only wish I had the next chapter right now, as the original puzzling and mysterious story cannot be beat! Though these are more challenging experiences that I think enthusiasts will enjoy the most, a well implemented hint system will ensure that more casual puzzlers are not frustrated. I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

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.

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.