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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Toymaker (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Wouldn’t you like to play?

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Late last year a series of grisly murders in the town of Valley Falls captivated the world.  A handful of victims were abducted at various points throughout the month, killed in gruesome ways, decorated to resemble popular children’s toys, and gift-wrapped for the police to find.  Among those “toys” that were created and left for the authorities:  a life-sized Jack in the Box that caused a spring-loaded victim to pop out of the top when the handle was cranked, a Nutcracker doll decorated with greasepaint and blood, a robot that was created from both human and mechanical parts, and a marionette whose movements could be controlled via a series of cables that were attached the victim’s limbs.  The gift cards attached to each one were all signed by someone calling themselves “The Toymaker.” Police were closing in on the culprit when The Toymaker stopped killing, causing the trail to grow cold.  They have continued to pursue leads throughout the year, but they haven’t had any real breakthroughs in a while.  Earlier this week, a new “gift” arrived from the killer, and it is reasonable to assume that the murders will start anew.  If the pattern holds, there is only a very finite amount of time to investigate before The Toymaker goes underground again.  No doubt The Toymaker has more “toys” in mind to create so lives are at risk.  

First Impressions:

I really enjoy The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s unique brand of deductive puzzling, and hunting down deranged serial killers is a favorite theme for me, so The Toymaker sounded like it’d be right up my alley. My fiancée, however, isn’t quite as into spooky horror themes, and the creepy cover of the box remained covered for her benefit until we could begin the game. Porcelain dolls are just spooky! I definitely got a much more horror based vibe from this box, and couldn’t wait to start, however!

That being said, I think it is fair to say this case, in spots, is much more intense than usual. There were several descriptions and visuals that my fiancée did not enjoy, and I skipped over these parts of the case for her benefit. These were mostly due to a particular startling image as well as the descriptions of the murder victims. Nothing over PG-13 and luckily, nothing completely integral to the case was too intense, but I felt a trigger warning of sorts would be helpful for those trying to determine if this case is right for them. Personally, I quite enjoyed this darker turn, but I know that this sort of thing isn’t for everyone.

High Points:

This is Deadbolt’s most challenging box yet! The puzzles and clues left behind by The Toymaker are maliciously clever, and tie excellently into the theme. I especially enjoyed the broad variety of puzzles, some of which can feel very odd at first, but build towards satisfying revelations as more evidence is added to the growing pile. I am very much enjoying how new case files are compiled into booklets, and though the suspect list returns to it’s former method of inclusion, the way they are presented has been updated and fits well within this particular investigation. Further world building of the town of Valley Falls is fantastically developed during this case, and every new box of late feels like they’ve been building towards… something. It’s perhaps just speculation on my part, but there are some ominous inclusions in each box that make me feel like our investigations might be hurtling toward something big. Whether that’s just the thrill of detective work leaking over into imagined clues, or a possible big reveal, it has been a lot of fun to develop theories all the same!

The mystery itself is high quality, with a fair amount of evidence and information to sift through. I enjoyed how seemingly random bits of information become clear clues as we solved our way through the game. Attention to detail has always been important with Deadbolt Mystery Society cases, but The Toymaker truly ramps up how it layers details within each leg of the journey. I was also thrilled to see that some of the elements of real time detective work returned during this case, as we were tasked with gaining entry to particular parts of the Maroon District and talking to new and interesting characters. I really hope this is a continued trend, as it lends an amazing sense of immersion to each case.

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Delve into the seedy underbelly of The Maroon District, and bring The Toymaker to justice!

Low Points:

We solved one particular puzzle quickly and easily, but in trying to enter the password, we consistently were told it was incorrect. I am assuming that we committed a typo, but it was frustrating due to the style of the puzzle. It’d be nice to have a way to see what we are typing into the password window. A lot of the story of The Toymaker is packed into the ending of the case, and while it’s a great story, it would’ve been even more engaging to have it sprinkled throughout the game itself, with tidbits emerging via solved puzzles. The connective tissue of the experience was lighter than usual, with more tenuous logical leaps to be made, rather than the more directive puzzles of past boxes, causing the game flow to feel much more choppy. There are loads more QR codes involved with this case, and they all seemed to come into play at the same time for us, leading to a fair amount of chaos, (and so many open windows on my phone.)

Verdict:

The Toymaker is another enjoyable entry into the files of The Deadbolt Mystery Society, but burgeoning sleuths should be warned, it’s definitely one of the more challenging cases we’ve solved! Newcomers might want to hold off on this one until they have solved a case or two with the Society, but veterans will enjoy stitching together the devious clues left behind by The Toymaker! 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 – Carnival of Chaos (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Step right up!

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Shadow Brothers’ Carnival of Chaos had only been setup in Valley Falls for a little more than a day when Madame Ruby was found murdered in her fortune teller’s wagon, bludgeoned to death with her own crystal ball.  Although the killer was efficient in their killing, they left Madame Ruby before they were certain she was dead.  In a last ditch effort to provide information about the one who murdered her, Madame Ruby managed to scrawl this note before passing over into the Great Beyond:  “The spirits will tell you who did this to me.” The prime suspects for the murder come from the freak show.  Those are the people you need to focus on.  However, if they won’t talk, maybe the spirits will.  There have been reports of some strange occurrences going on at night after the midway shuts down.  The carnies are claiming that something is using the midway games to leave cryptic messages.  So you have a murder investigation, a creepy carnival, and a midway that may or may not be haunted by ghosts who are seeking to shed some light on Madame Ruby’s murder by leaving messages amongst the test-your-luck games.

First Impressions:

I’ve found that The Deadbolt Mystery Society is at it’s best when delving into the supernatural and spooky, and though their murder mysteries tend to be excellent as well, in my opinion when things get creepy, the fun factor ramps up! When I found out that our friends from S.T.A.L.K., who previously assisted on The Haunting of Indigo House, were returning to investigate the haunted midway of the Shadow Brother’s Carnival of Chaos, I was immediately excited to delve into the mystery!

High Points:

It was time to solve our first mystery at our new house! Obviously, we wanted to make sure it was great, so we grabbed the newest Deadbolt box and got to sleuthing!Continuing to innovate with some of the usual parts of a Deadbolt box, the suspects have been complied within a snazzy booklet advertising the Carnival! The haunted midway is presented excellently, and a map of the carnival itself is helpful in portraying the area. S.T.A.L.K.’s new website is excellent, and I’m really enjoying the expansion of the most recent Deadbolt boxes via substantial websites and social media pages.

The game flow is really engaging, and though there is no set path through the puzzles, it feels like everything leads into each separate piece smoothly. The tidbits of information that are hidden throughout the experiencer really help tie everything together as you solve your way through, and there are some truly clever intuitive deductions to make between pieces of evidence that we really enjoyed. The satisfaction of solving this box is real. To help new players along, a tips page has been included with this box, and those who don’t quite know where to start or are new to the whole experience will definitely benefit from giving it a once over. We’ve become experts at this, and there was still some good information included for us to keep in mind as well! A link to the finale has been included as well, circumventing the break of immersion that seeking out the Deadbolt website generally entails, and allows the box to keep the experience whole for the full game.

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Try your luck, and don’t mind the ghosts! These games are scary good! (I’m sorry, I’ll see myself out.)

Low Points:

After The Cabin’s astounding leap forward in storytelling, it was just slightly disappointing to return to the previous formula. It’s a very small change, but it was a lot of fun to solve the mystery in the moment, so we hope that returns one day! One particular puzzle shows up twice with slightly different coding, but with the exact same solving method. This type of puzzle also showed up in a previous recent box, which causes these to feel even more redundant overall. One of these in particular is very hard to differentiate between, which is much more frustrating than it needs to be. A bit clearer of a printout would help immensely in this situation. One particular elimination is circumstantial at best, and though we reasoned out the solution without help, we required the solution page in order to figure out why a certain suspect was innocent. The evidence was very light, to say the least, so an extra puzzle or story note would’ve helped clear this one up significantly.

Verdict:

Though not quite on the level of The Cabin’s masterful storytelling, the mystery conveyed within Carnival of Chaos is excellent, providing hours of supernatural puzzling and sleuthing to enjoy. I love that the most recent boxes have delved into the realm of the spooky, and am excited to see that continue with December’s The Toymaker! 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.