The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Watcher (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review is brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I always feel like… somebody’s watching me… and I get no privacy!

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Allison Zeller has a secret admirer. She thinks the mysterious guy is sweet enough at first until his behavior escalates past simple admiration and spirals into full-blown obsession. Someone is stalking her and growing impatient that they can’t have her. This infatuation culminates in a full-blown attack on Allison’s life, leaving her at death’s door. It’s likely that whoever did this to her will come back to finish what they started. Can you find out the identity of Allison’s stalker before it’s too late? Can you unmask The Watcher?

First Impressions:

*Trigger warning!* We really enjoyed solving this case, but due to the subject matter, it is unfortunately probably one of the more realistic “everyday” scenarios. As it pertains to stalking, I do want to note that this case could be triggering for some individuals, so just keep that in mind before doing this box.

Yay Points:

Deadbolt has remained steadfast in being one of my favorite subscription boxes, and it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown over the years. Not only have they been able to churn out quality content each month, but also, they’ve been able to refine and improve upon what I would’ve already considered pretty good set-ups. “The Watcher” is a fantastic example of how they’ve been able to take the best elements of previous boxes and apply them to provide a really fun puzzling experience.  

This was one of the longer Deadbolt boxes we’ve done recently, containing a multitude of conundrums that were all very intuitive. It was very clear which clues matched with their respective puzzles (even with some items containing elements for different puzzles), and their uniqueness ensured the gatekeeping of each solve was built into the experience. There wasn’t any “run of the mill” code breaking and you really get to use your detective skills to piece together the different bits of evidence to find out who the suspect really is. We were pleased to find that the suspect elimination method was more involved than previous boxes, and it was a very interesting way to flesh out the story while keeping us in suspense for who the culprit actually would be.

The story was presented in a more non-linear fashion than that of recent boxes, and was well crafted with intriguing characters. The design and style of props were varied and fit excellently into this story’s theme. In particular, the method of learning background information from and about the suspects was a thematically appropriate and effective way to learn about them. The thoughtfulness behind the design of another multifunctional item was appreciated and it was interesting to work with.

Pondering Points:

We found ourselves stumped at one point and weren’t sure what we were missing. After consulting the hints, we realized we completely overlooked what the answer was (despite recently solving it) due to its more ambiguous nature.

One of the items contained multiple pieces of evidence for the story. Although this approach was certainly efficient, it may have been helpful for some of the items to exist on their own, rather than just as a visual. This presentation made some a little easier to overlook when we were looking for what went with their respective puzzles.

Verdict:

“The Watcher” is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a well-designed case to solve! But don’t just take my word for it, 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.

Daydream Adventures – A Witchy Christmas

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 1-8 (We recommend 4-5 players)

Price: Starting at $110 CAD for up to 4 players

Time to Escape: 90 minutes

Theme:

From the Daydream Adventures’ website:

Hilda, a mischievous witch, lives in a wondrous forest. There was a time when she had tricks and traps for humans sneaking into her home. After nearly a year of humans hiding away, Hilda has become very bored and lonesome, so she casted her magic to travel through a portal to find the humans.

The lights and snow, the joy and delight…it was all so frightful and magical. Although she is yet to understand, this witch has discovered Christmas. Hilda wants it all to herself. Back in the safety of her forest, Hilda seeks help from the forest creatures and spirits. Spirits of the forest, such as yourself, are very wise. Will you help this witch unravel the curiosities of Christmas?

First Impressions

Sequel to The Witch’s Forest? Heck yes, sign me up! I was glad to find that our team had the same Hilda from before (is there only one game master for Hilda?) leading us again on this adventure. I always love this twist on the holidays, and was excited to see how Hilda would make it her own. Back to Dreamlands!

Yay Points

Once again, Hilda set such a fun and great tone from the beginning. She took the time to greet each one of us individually before the game took off, and her banter was always on point. Her personality shined through, providing a unique experience. Her charisma and ability for improv is one of my favorite aspects, as she can really tailor the experience for each group. In addition, Hilda was able to make the logistics of our virtual experience easier. She started the game with a tour around the house, providing a smooth way to include puzzle introductions and places of interest. And there were small actions she took to help nudge us without overdoing it, such as stepping back to adjust the camera view when we needed to focus on a wider picture or the subtle suggestions she provided while describing something.

As a sequel, A Witchy Christmas made excellent use of the previous set. Naturally, this provided various easter eggs, but I was also impressed by how they were able to recycle some props and use them in a completely new way for the current game. (Also, hope this isn’t a spoiler, but I was super excited for the gnomes again!). The new puzzle and story elements that Daydream Adventures devised were very in-theme as Hilda learned about Christmas, and included some interesting surprises along the way. There was a particular animation aspect I especially enjoyed, and I found Hilda’s name for this character hilarious and adorable. The puzzles were interesting, and provided a lot of opportunities for interaction and audience choice/participation.

With The Witch’s Forest, I was impressed with the specific webpages associated with each puzzle or event that occurred. These pages had included relevant information about scenarios, as well as videos depicting what occurs when we solved puzzles, interactions with other in-game characters, and the magic Hilda was seeing around her. Not only were videos included for A Witchy Christmas, but also they were integrated directly into our Zoom experience without us even having to click on a different Zoom video to see it. Actually, our overall need to click on things was decreased as we didn’t have to enter passwords, and instead were able to focus on the visuals presented through Hilda’s camera. However, Daydream Adventures did thoughtfully sent us pictures of different puzzle stimuli so we could take a closer look without the camera having to zoom in or move back and forth.

Pondering Points

One puzzle in particular was a little confusing for me, though the other players in my team seemed to understand it just fine. Related to this though, there was a clue that I felt like could’ve been emphasized a little more, or at least lingered on a little longer as it wasn’t initially obvious to us that it was supposed to clue us into something.

There was one or two more puzzles where I feel like we could’ve benefited from pictures of the clues. We discussed this with the game masters after the game though, so this might be changed now!

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for an entertaining Christmas-themed virtual escape room, then you should definitely check out A Witchy Christmas! Don’t take my word for it though, you can see for yourself and book them here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Daydream Adventures provided our team with a complementary game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society Mini-Mystery – Sweet Tooth (Mini-Review)

Kara’s Note: This mini-review was brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $12.99 for this Mini Mystery

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Investigate the cutthroat world of baking in our newest mini-mystery as a famous food critic is found murdered after planning a visit to Valley Falls to review its finest culinary establishments.

Note: This is a mystery that is half the size of our normal boxes and takes about half the amount of time to complete. The mini will be delivered in an envelope, not a box.

First Impressions

Like many others during this pandemic, I have watched a whole bunch of The Great British Bake Off and caught the baking bug. So I was super excited to dive into Sweet Tooth, and was definitely happy to find there to be a recipe included!

Yay Points

Though shorter than the usual Deadbolt boxes, Sweet Tooth met the high standards we’ve come to expect with their full-length mysteries. I’m impressed with the creativity that went into everything that filled the envelope. Incorporating their story and theme into each problem, clue, and prop, Sweet Tooth delivered us an intuitive puzzle experience along with an interesting conundrum. And, like Deadbolt’s other boxes, there was definitely more than meets the eye with this mystery. We were pleasantly surprised at how things unfolded and tied together from the beginning.

This experience seemed a little easier in difficulty level, but still very enjoyable. The clues were straightforward and we were able to tie different clues together very seamlessly. It was very intuitive to figure out the solution process for each puzzle as well. And, as always, the different personalities that come through the various pieces of evidence (even with minor characters) are always entertaining. Though, as PSA, the candy theme made me hungry, so if you fall into easy cravings like me, definitely keep some chocolate on hand when you solve this box!

Pondering Points

One aspect of the mystery can be deduced early on in the experience. My partner and I had differing opinions on how we felt about this, so there may be some players who enjoy catching this where others may feel like it makes some other puzzles unnecessary. Regardless, I don’t think it detracts from the overall experience.

Final Verdict

As a mini-mystery, Sweet Tooth is a great introduction into the world of Valley Falls and is a great sampler of the types of boxes you can expect with the Deadbolt Mystery Society. Check it out for yourself 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 envelope.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter 1: The Custodian’s Keys (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:

Welcome to the M.B. Franklin Museum of Natural History, a place of knowledge, learning, and curiosity.

When a serendipitous discovery grants you an audience with the Museum’s Custodian, a peculiar occurrence launches the hunt for a secret hidden within this storied institution.

Will you be able to unlock the secrets?

First Impressions:

The Curious Correspondence Club’s first chapter arrived in a small to medium sized envelope, but I was impressed with how much was packed into the game, as well as how high quality everything was!

High Points:

The Curious Correspondence Club is absolutely dense with puzzling, and for $19.95 (or less with a yearly subscription,) this game is more than worth the price of admission. The clever inclusion of every single item as part of the puzzling or story is extremely well executed, and upon opening the envelope, I was intrigued to see that even this was used as part of the experience, delivering the mysterious introductory story as it folded out. I was consistently thrilled to see that even the most innocuous of props became a part of the story, and the many ah ha moments that were delivered via connecting these props together were supremely satisfying. Though this game mostly relies on paper props, the experience always feels incredibly polished and fun to work through, and the adventure’s theme is well portrayed by the myriad items included. The story itself is highly mysterious, and had us hooked from the start, it sort of reminded me of a somewhat more grounded version of the video game Control, and that is absolutely a good thing. The videos that are included as an intro and epilogue are well voice acted, and they started and capped off the experience fantastically.

The game flow is incredibly smooth, and allows players to work on the initial puzzles non-linearly at their own pace, and great, tiered hints are provided for those who need a little more direction, ensuring that frustration remains absent from this game. The variety of puzzles is excellent, and I really love how everything fits together intuitively from start to finish. I really love how puzzles built on each other over the various exhibits, and reading through everything helped narrow our investigative routes organically. The meta puzzle was easily my favorite part, as all the information we’d collected came together into a really cool and climactic finale, introducing us to a mysterious world of secret societies, and setting up upcoming adventures amazingly. Without a doubt, this was one of the most exciting at home games we’d played recently!

Low Points:

The set up of the game can allow players to skip one puzzle by process of elimination, though that may be a high point for players who come across a more difficult puzzle they’d like to jump over. For players that are looking to complete every puzzle, the final conundrum they solve will be spoiled somewhat. One puzzle combines a couple more banal interactions, including seek and find and counting elements that aren’t overly exciting.

Verdict:

Without a doubt, I can say that I recommend The Curious Correspondence Club to anyone looking for a new puzzling subscription to try! Enthusiasts and newcomers to the hobby alike can look forward to a beautifully crafted hour or two of engaging puzzling that’s well worth the price. I absolutely love the clever puzzling, as well as look forward to seeing how the intriguing meta-story plays out, and cannot wait for the next envelope to arrive! Join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

Modern Treasure Hunt – The VOC Treasure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: €49.95 ($59.02 at the time of writing)

Hunting for treasure in the comfort of your own home!

Theme:

From the Modern Treasure Hunt website:

The VOC Treasure is an #AtHomeMystery treasure hunt. It is an adventure based on a true story that took place at the end of the Dutch Golden Age. It is a 1-4 player (maximum of 6) experience allowing you to play solo or coöperatively. Larger groups can compete or also work together using multiple boxes.

First Impressions:

The VOC Treasure came to us from the Netherlands one day, packed inside a nice wooden box, and holding some very interesting treasures to puzzle through. We had quite a backlog to work through, but the tempting wooden box continued to call to me until we finally got a chance to uncover its secrets! Spoiler alert, it was absolutely worth the wait.

High Points:

One thing that is immediately apparent about The VOC Treasure is that it is a beautifully designed game. The props are all authentic feeling and sturdy, and feel as though they are made to last. Each item is important, and beyond looking good, even the most standard piece of the game plays a major role in the puzzle solving. Not one bit felt extraneous, and it is always wonderful to find a game that has zero fluff included. This amazing attention to detail and design doesn’t end with the presentation, as the puzzles and game flow are excellent as well. Even a particular puzzle that seemed, at first glance, like it would be a slog proved to be an engaging and challenging solve. Code breaking is included, but is non-standard, ensuring that the process to solving is interesting and allows players to engage with something beyond the usual pig-pen/ceasar cipher banality that some games can fall into. The meta-puzzle for this game builds fantastically through each of the challenges, and it is a lot of fun to work through all the way through. Once all the information has been collected in order to solve this enigma, the logic puzzle at the end is properly challenging, but immediately intuitive, ensuring that players aren’t led to logical leaps or red herrings. The whole experience flows beautifully, and it is a brilliant time to work through each logical step in order to finally locate the VOC treasure!

The VOC Treasure is a moderate to high challenge game, and it definitely took our experienced team a full two hours in order to fully complete the game. While some of the conundrums included are very difficult, they were always fair, and just required us to look at things from a different angle to test out a new theory borne from a new piece of information. Once methods of solving have been set up and the ah ha moments have been arrived at, it is generally easy to complete the solve, and there are no arduous processes to muddle through during these puzzles. The experience remains fast paced and enjoyable throughout, and while the complexity of the game has not been sacrificed, Modern Treasure Hunt has ensured that the entire adventure remains an absolute joy throughout.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle can be easily skipped, and though we went back to reveal its secrets, it didn’t quite have the ah ha moment coolness it could have, had it been gatekept better. Another puzzle that underwhelmed took place on a really cool prop, but ended up being a bit too seek and find-y for our tastes. Though the story set up is cool, there isn’t a proper climax, so things felt as though they were left hanging.

Verdict:

The VOC Treasure is a wonderful time, and we absolutely enjoyed every second we spent with this box of excellent puzzling! I absolutely recommend this experience to enthusiasts, as the challenge was more than worthy of our time, but new players will be able to enjoy this one as well, as the intuitive nature of the game and the well layered hint system ensures that players of all skill levels will find something to love. Order your search for The VOC Treasure here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Modern Treasure Hunt provided a complementary box.