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!

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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.

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.

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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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Wanted (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Cause I’m Wanted… Dead or Alive

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Black Rock Butcher was a serial killer who terrorized the saloon girls of Black Rock in the days when it was a burgeoning gold rush town. Because criminal investigation techniques hadn’t yet been developed, the killer was never apprehended. New evidence has recently come to light indicating that The Butcher was actually the great-great-grandfather of the founder of The Will Street Detective Agency. In other words, your boss might be related to a notorious murderer. Unlike most cases, this one is now personal, and you have been tasked to clear the family name. Although the leads in this cold case all date back to the 1800’s, you must follow each one and use all your skills as a detective to determine the true identity of The Black Rock Butcher.

First Impressions:

Wanted is an intriguing theme; a Jack the Ripper-esque killer terrorized the town of Black Rock almost two hundred years ago, and the case remained unsolved. Cut to the present, and the Will Street Detective Agency is having a slow, blessedly peaceful month. However, the founder’s family name is now at risk, since one of the myriad true crime podcasts has determined that his ancestor was The Black Rock Butcher! Similarly to Sleuth Kings’ Case 015: Fashionably Late, an unsolved mystery has come to the forefront again, and it is up to us to solve it!

High Points:

Tracking down The Black Rock Butcher was a lot of fun, and piecing together the many clues he left behind further spins the web of intrigue the folks of Black Rock were trapped in nicely. A Old West spin on the Jack the Ripper tale is also an interesting idea, and is executed well within the confines of this game without becoming overly morbid. The props included look, if not feel, authentic, and present their enigmas in challenging ways. Everything is important, and even the most innocuous item can become an important clue down the line. The back stories and relationships of the townsfolk are intriguing, and the set ups for their motives and alibis are convincing, keeping us on our toes until we’d tracked down the guilty party.

The game flow works great, with new puzzles being presented as we dived further and further into the story. Use of technology is excellent and well integrated into the story, but not overdone as to preserve the old time feel of the theme. Wanted was challenging,  and once we’d figured out one of the best ah ha moments we’d encountered in a while, all the pieces started to satisfyingly fall into place, culminating in the final reveal of our culprit. Though the box can be initiated anywhere, the game flow is presented well from any starting point, allowing the player to put together any piece of the puzzle in a non linear fashion.

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Track down the dirty varmint!

Low Points:

The story is overall intriguing, but I felt like the ending was a bit anticlimactic. The stakes feel lower during this case, since we are chasing down a killer who is long dead, and clearing the name of someone who also is long dead. The only connection we have is that our boss will be spared some embarrassment, and we’ll successfully solve an old run of serial murders. Compared to other Deadbolt mysteries, this one loses that sense of urgency and immersion. There are also fewer suspects, and the puzzles included feel a lot lighter than previous installments, so the experience definitely seems shorter than usual. In fact, it was our quickest solve in the series. The game isn’t unsatisfying by a long shot, however, just somewhat lighter fare.

Verdict:

Wanted is a great challenge, but also a fantastic jumping off point for new players, as the game is still straightforward and intuitive to solve. With layered puzzles that lead into a highly satisfying moment of revelation, I certainly recommend giving this Old West mystery a shot! 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 Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I want to play a game.

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When a strange character calling himself Mr. Mindgame kidnaps five suspects in a recent murder, you must play his twisted game in order to determine who the killer is and set the innocents free.  But is his game everything it seems to be or is there a dark secret behind all the trickery? 

First Impressions:

The Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame seemed like it would be a fresh twist on the Deadbolt formula, casting us a pawns in a game being played by a Jigsaw-esque vigilante. This sort of high-stakes mystery solving game is right up my alley, so I was excited to see what was behind the veil of the unusually light theme description that had been posted!

High Points:

I was glad to find that Mr. Mindgame would not disappoint, theme-wise. Immediately we found that we had been cast as detectives by the villainous Mindgame, tasked with deducing who had murdered Jennifer Cochran, and further, making the connections between this murder, and one that Mr. Mindgame had been falsely accused of committing! His methods of confirming our answers and helping us eliminate suspects were exciting, and lent believability to the story, which felt as though it was unfolding in real time. I really enjoy when Deadbolt stories progress in this way, casting us as active heroes, racing against time, rather than as more passive detectives looking through a case file. (Which, to be fair, is still fun, just not as immersive.) The entire experience kept me guessing, wondering what Mindgame was up to, who they could possibly be, and what would happen when we finally won his twisted game!

Puzzles continue to be excellent, with clever clues winding around each other, leading us towards our ultimate goal. Mr. Mindgame is hands down the most difficult Deadbolt case to date, but not unfairly so. For the most part, each piece of the puzzle is intuitive and will reveal their secrets after an engaging solve and terrific ah ha moment. As we peeled back each layer of the mystery, I could definitely feel a sense of momentum building from point to point, until we finally arrived at the climax. The sense of achievement from solving each part of this box was palpable, and truly delivered a satisfying sleuthing experience from start to finish.

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Mr. Mindgame is a Puzzling Poe-esque Poe-t!

Low Points:

The story, while surprising and very entertaining, ends in a way we felt came out of nowhere. While explained well after the fact, there didn’t seem to be much that led up to it, causing it to fall a little flat with us. It was also rather hard to justify our involvement with this case, so overall, we would have liked to see the story fleshed out a bit more during the game itself. Some connections made during the mystery do feel more tenuous than others, with some logical leaps we made, but looked askance at while we were doing so. There were a couple times I posited an answer, which was correct, and when asked how I came to that conclusion, I had to admit it was a degree short of a wild guess. In general, neither of these issues pop up overly often, however.

Verdict:

The Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame is an excellent mystery for Deadbolt veterans and mystery enthusiasts that are looking for a tough, but fair challenge. While newcomers may have more difficulty with this box, Deadbolt’s fantastic hints will keep players on track, allowing for engagement without frustration. I recommend giving it a shot, and look forward to their next adventure, a Wild West adventure I’m sure will not disappoint! 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Seaside Strangler (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

A quaint seaside village sporting taverns, fishing, and brutal murder.

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Will Street Detective Agency has received a tip about The Seaside Strangler murders that has led you, a consulting detective, to nearby Gold Hook Island to investigate.  The tiny island of Gold Hook is home to a mere 32 families and can only be reached by ferry.  With a few eating establishments, stretches of uninhabited beachfront, and The Kingfisher hotel, Gold Hook is a quaint tourist getaway in temperate months and is mostly cut off from the mainland in the winter.  After the National Weather Service announces that a nor’easter is headed their way, the residents of Gold Hook begin to evacuate the island using the small ferry that makes the two mile journey back and forth to the mainland. On its way back to pick up the last batch of residents, the ferry experiences a mechanical failure that renders it inoperable, leaving you and a few other people behind on the island to fend for themselves during the storm.  Not long after the storm begins to hammer the coastline of Gold Hook, one of those left behind is found strangled with a length of strangely knotted rope, leading you to conclude that The Seaside Strangler is one of those who didn’t make it back to the mainland.  The police and Coast Guard are unavailable for the next twenty-four hours due to the extreme weather so help will not be coming any time soon.  Leaving the island is not an option.  Your only choice…determine who The Seaside Strangler is and close a case that the police have been unable to close. 

First Impressions:

I love lighthouses. I bought the fantastic Dark Fall 2 back in the day because it had a lighthouse on the front cover. Also because anything Jonathan Boakes touches turns into gaming gold, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is, when I saw the preview for the newest Deadbolt Mystery Society box, I was smitten with the fog and foreboding lighthouse in the distance. Turns out there’s even more to this box than cool aesthetics, though!

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A mystery hundreds of years in the making!

High Points:

Beyond the cool theme of this month’s box, the experience itself is absolutely packed with puzzles, and as always, they are built upon a non-linear game flow that fashions layer upon layer towards the ultimate conclusion! The added bonus with this case, however, is that there isn’t just one mystery to solve! While you’re tracking down the Seaside Strangler, you’ll also happen upon a historical conundrum that has just recently come back into the public eye, for better or worse. These two mysteries intertwine, and the story slowly releases tidbits throughout while building towards the excellent climax. This box takes a cue from my favorite Deadbolt box, The Cabin, by stranding you on Gold Hook Island with the suspects and dropping story related events as you solve. This is always a great touch, and helps add to the immersion and atmosphere that this subscription has become so adept at building.

The puzzles themselves are pretty excellent, with clever bits of evidence scattered among the many items included with the box. These hints are very intuitive and making connections between the myriad of clues is an always satisfying experience. The puzzle solving is well integrated with the storyline, and gives you everything you need to jump between the modern day murders and the centuries old treasure hunt without sacrificing quality between the two. Recently, Deadbolt has taken to focusing how players intuitively approach the investigations, and the case note booklet included within the most current cases is a brilliant way to guide players without holding their hands. Finally, it is appreciated that the QR code madness has toned down a bit, and while the online presence is still there, it is handled in a different way for some parts, which was welcome. Only having one or two tabs open on my phone was a big relief.

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Low Points:

There is one particular code that has seen a lot of use not only in Deadbolt boxes, but other subscription boxes, so veterans are going to tear through it without much thought, and it’ll be fairly old hat to boot. Also, the suspects didn’t feel quite as well fleshed out in this box as they tend to in others, most likely because the real focus was the historical treasure hunt, but after catching the Seaside Strangler I felt we hadn’t really learned much about the suspects themselves. In fact, other than the obvious motive, the culprit’s characterization was pretty flat, which isn’t a spoiler since the others were definitely not quite as bombastic as some earlier boxes, Asylum and The Cabin come to mind as excellent examples.

Verdict:

The Seaside Strangler is an awesome step back into the Deadbolt Universe, and I greatly enjoyed the immersive storytelling that returned for this entry. The impending storm and multifaceted investigation is an excellent evolution for the series, and I am jazzed for the upcoming Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame! I one hundred percent recommend giving this box a try. 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.