The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Beneath the Surface (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 dog wanders up to the front steps of The Will Street Detective Agency. A note has been tucked into his collar. The note is written by a woman named Mary who has been kidnapped and is being held somewhere in town by a maniac who has already killed several other women. Mary has somehow managed to use the dog to carry her request for help, and now it is up to you to find her before it’s too late. Retrace the dog’s steps, use clues that the dog may have picked up unknowingly, and find the house where Mary is being kept. But beware! There is more to this case than meets the eye. See if you can find what lurks…Beneath the Surface!

High Points:

After a couple of fantastic deviations from the norm with The Watcher and The Inheritance, The Deadbolt Mystery Society returns to their favorite crime with Beneath the Surface! A killer is on the loose, and without us, Valley Falls doesn’t stand a chance… It’s good to be back! Deadbolt has really hit a stride recently that we’ve loved, coupling their old style, non-linear game play with their newer, envelope based approach that breaks the game into different stages. It has been working brilliantly for them lately, and this entry is no different in that regard! The story is fantastic, and develops as you go, allowing players to feel as though they are moving through the story in real time. This, along with some great twists and turns as new revelations are uncovered gives the game an exciting “on the clock” feel, as well as an awesome unpredictability. The whole chase for this serial killer has a beautifully creepy (without being scary,) vibe to it, and I absolutely loved the rogue’s gallery Deadbolt had in store for us this time! The puzzling itself is really original, with loads of interactions we aren’t used to seeing, which is always awesome to see from an established subscription. Even puzzle types that are a little more basic or ubiquitous to the genre are tweaked excellently to keep them interesting! Each stage of the game is non-linear, and presents a progressively more challenging slate of enigmas. The mystery starts off with a few easy wins to get players going, and ramps it up nicely as the search for Mary heats up! This is definitely one of the smoothest difficulty curves we’ve seen recently, and that, coupled with how perfectly packed with different puzzles this box is ensured that we were entertained for a good two hours!

Low Points:

One puzzle was used twice, which we weren’t used to with most puzzle subscriptions, but after a little backtracking, we were able to figure out what had been missed. Lately I have also heard from several veteran puzzlers that they aren’t fans of interactions that require cutting out, and if that’s you, this box might present some difficulty in that regard. For us, though, these were pretty small critiques for an otherwise amazing entry!

Verdict:

Beneath the Surface was brilliant! A challenging box for veteran solvers, yet still approachable enough that new players will be able to get the hang of things quickly, this entry marries a creepy, well written story with dense puzzling to create a mystery you’ll be dying to solve! I highly recommend this game, and as always, cannot recommend Deadbolt enough. 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.

The Detective Society Season 2: The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee – Episode 1 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: £168.00 for a full season, £30.00 a month for a subscription (Six episodes)

Theme:

From the Detective Society website:

Timothy Lee has fallen into a coma and no one can work out why. His doctor suspects foul play, but there’s one thing that’s missing: evidence. There’s more to Timothy’s condition than meets the eye.

You’ll need to use the tactics of a real detective, solving puzzles and using your investigative skills to discover the truth about Timothy Lee.

First Impressions:

I’m always excited to hear about new subscription boxes, and a lot of folks seemed to love The Detective Society Season 1, so when the creators reached out about reviewing Episode One of their new season, I was excited, to say the least! Once the box arrived at our door all the way from the UK, I couldn’t wait to get started!

High Points:

The first thing that really stood out to me about The Detective Society is their amazing sense of humor. I absolutely loved reading over every little bit, and taking part in a few optional interactions that didn’t move the game forward, but were definitely worth it for the chuckle. Though it was immediately obvious the experience would be much more investigative than we are used to, it was clear that this experience wouldn’t be forcing us into Sherlockian deductions or one and done guesses as to what the solution would be, instead taking a much more engaging and entertaining approach by encouraging us to make deductions as we progressed and not revealing the answer if we happened to guess wrong. Putting together the many clues and following up with characters via email was excellently implemented, and ensured the entire experience remained immersive from start to finish.

Though we received many of the clues up front, it was easy to determine what was relevant at any given time, and there were no red herrings to be found. Though the game is pretty strictly linear, (we did work on one step a little before we knew the significance, but that was more us feeling out the flow of a new game,) it doesn’t feel restrictive, and while we did not use the clues during the game, having a look afterwards confirms they are exhaustive and well layered for each part of the experience. We really enjoyed the narrative experience, and were pleased that instead of being a strictly story based adventure, there was still plenty of thinking and interaction required on our side, something narrative games sometimes tend to leave out. Overall, this first episode is a solid start, and we are very interested to see how the story and the difficulty curve develop from here!

Low Points:

The box itself is beautiful, and thin enough for easy storage, but even without being taped closed, the tabs did not want to give up the prize inside. We had to cut it open, which means it doesn’t close back very well, but it’s a minor thing in the grand scheme. We had a little trouble starting off, mostly due to not knowing quite how these boxes work, and it wasn’t totally clear that what we assumed was the ultimate objective was actually the first thing we needed to do. Mostly our bad, but it’d definitely help if it was clearer that this was our starting point. As more experienced players, this box took us a bit less time than average, and for players who are very experienced, this might be more suited as a solo adventure, just based on how things are presented. The game is more narrative and making connections based rather than outright puzzling, so folks who are looking for a more puzzle focused adventure may be disappointed. Overall, however, pretty much everything in this section is a very minor critique.

Verdict:

The Detective Society has delivered a truly exciting start to their second season with this episode! Delivering a mystery that immediately snared our interest, well designed clues that tie into each other beautifully, and a bevy of websites and characters to interact with, this is certainly an adventure that can’t be missed. I’m intrigued to see how this mystery develops, and can absolutely recommend this one without reservation! You can join the Society here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Detective Society provided a complementary copy for review.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter V: Serpents of the Sand (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.95 Monthly, $179.00 Yearly

Join the Club!

Theme:

After a harrowing hot air balloon ride, it’s time to travel to the ancient ruin referenced in Chapter 4! How does the ill fated expedition tie into your quest for the magical shards? And will the mysterious cabal that has been chasing you catch up to you again?

First Impressions:

I am always, always, always ready for The Curious Correspondence Club. There is so much amazing puzzling packed into these envelopes, and while I currently wait for the next chapter, my only anxiety is, “when will it come?” and not, “will it still be great?” So far, they’re five for five, and I trust that each and every new adventure is going to top the last!

High Points:

This was certainly the most challenging of the Curious Correspondence Club’s chapters so far! However, it wasn’t challenging in a way that frustrated us, but it did require us to do some big thinking outside of the box! While still a bit more difficult than other chapters, this is still an immensely intuitive game, but putting the clues together does take a bit more work than other experiences. Using the clues provided in game, and the nicely disguised “road map” of sorts, we found that Serpents of the Sand flows incredibly well, and even though nothing about this adventure is overt, the subtle guiding that has been integrated into the experience really does a fantastic job of ensuring that players always have a sign post to find. As always, this is a multilayered experience, with every single prop serving an important purpose, and evolving as puzzles are solved. In the course of these evolutions, there are some amazing reveals, and I am consistently surprised with how even five episodes in, The Curious Correspondence Club is able to keep us guessing with original new puzzles and deviously hidden clues! This subscription is one of the few that is able to ensure that every single puzzle included has an awesome ah ha moment, and does so in a way that absolutely cannot be beat.

Though the puzzles are certainly the star of the show, Serpents of the Sand is also narratively exciting as well, which is rare for a puzzling subscription. Usually the puzzles or the story tend to overwhelm the other, or one is completely absent, (I prefer the puzzles in this case,) but in this case, the brilliantly written introduction, as well as the story bits during the course of the game shed a little light on the overarching mystery, and convey the tale of an ill fated expedition into the ruins. Little details help bolster the story, and I really love the way the puzzles and narrative are tightly woven together to create a really exciting experience. Props are all paper, as usual, but include the great extras, paper craft, and twists we’ve come to expect from this subscription.

Low Points:

There was one particular symbol that showed up as a duplicate on one puzzle, which could lead to some confusion. There was also one interaction that provided a tool to complete, but it didn’t quite do its intended job very well, so we opted for a different household item. Though it wasn’t easy to find something that did the trick, it did break up the immersion a bit as we sought the item out.

Verdict:

Serpents of the Sand is an amazing experience, and continues to deliver the sort of puzzling I look forward to every month. There is, to my mind, no better subscription out there, and even puzzling veterans will find a beautiful challenge within each and every envelope. I cannot recommend subscribing enough, 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 IV: The Moonlight Escapade (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.95 Monthly, $179.00 Yearly

Join the Club!

Theme:

After escaping in a hot air balloon from our mysterious pursuers in Chapter III, we traveled with the Tinker to a campsite that we suspected held another of the strange items we’ve been tracking across the world. Unfortunately, that campsite is inhabited by the same organization that’s been chasing us this whole time! It’ll take some sneakiness, quick thinking, and most importantly, clever gadgetry in order to come away successful!

First Impressions:

Super special thanks to the folks at The Curious Correspondence Club for sending along another copy of Chapter IV when our original was lost in the mail. They were quick to respond and mail this one out when I notified them, and their customer service was brilliant! This ended up being a Tarantino-esque prequel for us, since we received Chapter V first and couldn’t not solve it immediately, but nothing was lost in the experience, in fact, it was a lot of fun to find out what bridged the gap between Chapters III and V.

High Points:

The Curious Correspondence Club (henceforth CCC due to laziness,) creates some of the most amazingly original experiences out there for the absolute best price! Even though more expensive experiences may have fancier props, the sheer originality of The CCC cannot be beat! In fact, putting together the paper craft items included in every envelope is one of the most entertaining parts, especially when these items are so intuitive and well crafted. Chapter IV includes some of the best items thus far, and figuring out how they work is so amazingly satisfying. Not one piece of this grand puzzle is left unused, and every single thing is important. It is so fantastic how tight the game play is, while still ensuring a dense, multilayered puzzling experience. The adventure is mostly linear, though everything is given to players at the start, so connections can begin to be made, even before you have fully overcome the previous conundrums, which ensures that you’re never one hundred percent bottlenecked into one place. So many of the items included are also multi functional, popping up again later on, and it is brilliant to watch as one thing becomes another, making the game a tactile delight!

The story is fantastically written, and while the brunt of it is delivered via the opening text and excellent closing video, bits of narrative are always hidden within the game itself, ensuring that everything is woven together well, rather than shifting back and forth between story and puzzle. The world building and characterization employed within The CCC’s games is second to none at this price point, and I can say that without reservation. My favorite thing about these games is that there is never a point at which I think, yes, I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Each and every puzzle is a revelation, and presents an original puzzling experience that I’ve never seen before. I can always rely on them to deliver something wholly new with each Chapter! And the amazing thing is that they seem to top themselves every single time. Though we thought this Chapter was probably the easiest so far, it was still an excellent challenge and required a lot of outside the box thinking to complete!

Low Points:

It is generally very difficult to find any fault with The Curious Correspondence Club, and Chapter IV is no exception! Our experience was, as always, brilliant, but there were a few points at which we think the instructions could be tightened up ever so slightly to ensure that no vagueness remains. Otherwise, this episode was a flawless romp!

Verdict:

Chapter IV of The Curious Correspondence Club was impressive, and it’s always so exciting to see what sorts of paper craft props and immensely original puzzling will be included with each installment! One of the few subscriptions that can combine a well told story with immersive puzzling without sacrificing the quality of either, this subscription remains one of my most anticipated every single month! I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

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.