Lockstar Escape – The Inncreeper (Review)

Location: Bluffton, SC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $27 per person, 3 person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What a Psycho!

Theme:

From the Lockstar Escape website:

You’ve checked into the Miss Fortune Motel, and found yourself trapped in your room. You soon discover you aren’t the first guest held captive by the creepy innkeeper. Can you escape before you suffer the same fate?

*WARNING* Although the game is “creepy” rather than actually scary, The Inncreeper is a horror themed game which contains elements of and/or references to the following: stalking, murder, dismemberment, torture, mysticism (tarot cards, Ouija board, palm reading), and a balloon. Upon request, the balloon can be removed. 😉

High Points:

Usually when visiting an escape room in a smaller town, we don’t expect blow you away set design, but The Increeper was beautifully appointed, immersing us within the motel immediately! The usual cameras in the room were not as obvious as others, and allowed the room to feel more authentic, as well as tie into the theme of “creepy innkeeper torments guests.” Each stage of the room was convincing, and the puzzles integrated into the theme excellently. In fact, there were a few surprising moments included that we absolutely did not see coming, which is always a fantastic treat! The sound and tech design included within one moment was natural, and lent a creepy vibe to the rest of the room. (And, amazingly, the bed was really comfortable to puzzle upon.) A specific atmospheric touch that we have seen a few times before was included in the best way we’ve ever seen, and provided a neat memento of our experience. The story line was great, and we loved how it included specific nods to another well known motel, and required players to uncover the mystery themselves. The puzzles were fantastic, and while the room does have some tech, it is a mostly mechanical style room, with tactile interactions that rely on player interaction rather than electronics. Searching and more basic puzzle styles are included as well, but aren’t banal, and are generally more loaded toward the initial stages of the game for some easy wins that get momentum going. One particular favorite puzzle involved an ah ha moment that went off when attempting to figure out what a specific item was used for. I really love how this room signposts players in such intuitive ways without being too obvious or overly obtuse. It is difficult to find that balance, and The Inncreeper does an excellent job! While the puzzles trend toward the easier side, they aren’t too simple, and still present a challenge that will appeal to players new and old!

Low Points:

There are some remnants of old or tweaked puzzles that we wished were still in place because the puzzles they hinted at seemed like they’d be an awesome fit for the room. One in particular, however, did create an unintended red herring for our group. There was also one instance of a repeated puzzle. These are otherwise pretty small negatives however.

Verdict:

Overall, The Inncreeper does an amazing job creating a spooky, if not overtly horrific, vibe. The marriage of the theme, puzzles, and story is well implemented, and we had a brilliant time from start to finish. The room flows beautifully, and presents an approachable, intuitive, and wholly fun experience we absolutely loved! I highly recommend checking Lockstar Escape out if you’re in the area, they are truly a gem! Book your time in the Miss Fortune Motel here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Gruzzle – The Musician (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

Theme:

From the Gruzzle website:

World famous conductor and composer, Frank Siltz, is missing. His partner and musical collaborator, Clara Munschan, reported that after completing his latest concert tour, Art did not return home.

Clara went to the Concert Hall to check Frank’s dressing room for clues to his whereabouts. There, she found a number of puzzling items clearly left behind by Frank. Despite being a major force in the musical world herself, Clara feels inadequate to tackle this puzzling challenge.

Please help Clara, and the whole musical community, discover what has happened to Frank Siltz!

the-musician.jpg

High Points:

It is rare that a puzzle box is so effortlessly complex, yet intuitive and family friendly, yet Gruzzle is consistently just that! Each new experience from Gruzzle contains some of the most original puzzles I’ve encountered, and even though many are brilliant challenges, the experience is still completely accessible to new players. Puzzlers of any experience level will have a great time working through the disappearance of Frank Siltz, and veteran solvers will find there are a bevy of challenges that will keep them busy for a while! The Musician is filled with varied puzzles as well, and kept us busy for a good couple of hours. Our team of two found that during our solve, though the experience is mostly linear overall, there were no choke points that stymied progress, as everything was intuitive, and contained enough clues that even if we weren’t one hundred percent sure of what to do next, it only took a little more thinking to make the connections! The story is interesting, and builds upon itself as more puzzles are solved and envelopes are opened. It is per usual, a great, mysterious, but still family friendly affair, that allows puzzlers to take things casually without having to worry over much about a murderer lurking around the corner. While we love tracking down murderers and monsters, it is always wonderful to kick back and take it a little bit easier with a Gruzzle box. As usual, this box can be solved almost completely offline, (the final solution needs to be entered on a webpage, but the rest of the game can be played without the need for any tech,) and it is great not to have to worry about flipping through a bunch of webpages or sorting through evidence on your phone. Every single bit of the game is important, with no extraneous bits or red herrings, and it is always fascinating to see how props, sometimes literally, fold in upon each other. The difficulty curve is smooth, and ensures a few easy wins are doled out to get your momentum going, but ramps up the challenge once players are warmed up!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle included a fun reveal as it’s solution, but the method of getting there was amazingly tedious. Definitely worth it, but similar to puzzles that involve a lot of cutting, or long decryptions, the process became a little arduous.

Verdict:

As always, Gruzzle has done an amazing job creating an experience that is more than worth the price of admission. One of the few mystery subscription boxes out there that can appeal to puzzlers young and old, neophyte and veteran, I highly recommend subscribing to this excellent puzzling experience! Start your search for Frank Siltz here! You can use the promo code FIRSTTIME to get $5 off your subscription!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Gruzzle provided a complementary box.

The Fairy Tale Files – The Cinderella Murders (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $22

Theme:

From the Fairy Tale Files Website:

A grisly double-murder shocks Fairy Tale Land! Lady Tremaine and one of her two daughters are found stabbed at the manor. The prime suspect is the mistreated stepdaughter Cinderella – she had motive and opportunity. Could it be that simple?

The Fairy Tale Files are immersive escape room style experiences in which you interact with physical game components and also chat with characters, suspects, and witnesses in real-time to solve the case!

As an investigator at the Magical Mishap Agency, you are called upon to shine light on crimes and other strange events troubling this faraway land.

High Points:

The chat bot that is included online as a major part of the game, (you’ll enter all answers and interact with the world through this component,) works supremely well, reacting to everything we did comprehensively, and delivering the next steps and clues quickly once we had solved any particular puzzle. The story develops as you solve, popping up as new clues and tidbits of information within the chat bot. I really enjoyed how it evolved throughout the experience, and how the narrative was integrated into the experience seamlessly. A good mix of puzzles joins the mystery, and is set up to ensure the game flowed smoothly, with a difficulty curve that ensures the experience is highly accessible. Overall, in order to ensure the story develops as it should, the game is pretty linear, and controls the stream of information so that players won’t get overwhelmed with data, and the beautiful props are intuitively called out as players progress. The whole experience gives off a nice, Tim Burton-y/American McGee’s Alice vibe, so if you’re a fan of those properties, you’ll really enjoy the Fairy Tale Files. Accessibility wise, the inclusion of transcripts for audio and cursive items is always great to see, and ensures that more players are able to enjoy the mystery!

Low Points:

We had a lot of trouble getting started, as every mobile device we tried could not get the online interface to work properly, however, on desktop, it worked beautifully, but limited where we could play. As puzzling veterans, this one was a mite bit easier than other experiences, taking us around a half hour to complete, however, beginners will find the experience very accessible, so this is only a low point for expert puzzlers.

Final Verdict:

The Cinderella Murders is a great start to The Fairy Tale Files, and if this is how it starts, I cannot wait to see how the games develop from here! I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re into the theme and art style, and especially think this is a fantastic jumping off point for new players. Get started solving The Cinderella Murders here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a complementary mailing.

Scarlet Envelope – Episode Four: Breakfast for a Serial Killer (Review)

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

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $20 monthly

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

“Extraordinary Weekly”, 1956: “The death of a waitress at Stanley’s Diner, is being investigated in connection to similar cases…” This time, you work as a cop in the fifties. Bring justice to the victims of a serial killer who clearly has a thing for junk food! Expect case files, coroner’s reports, & footage of suspects’ interrogations with real actors!

This game really puts your detective skills to the test! The gameplay is full of puzzles but is focused on the narrative and is more linear. * Parental Advisory: Mild Content.

Yay Points

With so many types of game play out there, I really appreciate knowing what kind of puzzling experience I’m getting into. And, true to its description, Envelope 4 was very much a linear, narrative-based case. It had an interesting story, with puzzles that were a good use of its theme and setting to carry you through it. The suspect footage added to the immersion, and I especially appreciated the fact that transcripts of the videos were provided as well.

Though this envelope was more narrative-based, the handful puzzles were of a good variety and a mix of physical and virtual props. In particular, I enjoyed one of the early puzzles’ use of color as both the clue and key to solving it. For the most part, there were pretty clear indicators on what you needed to do or use at any given point, which is very helpful for those who are new to puzzles and/or those who just prefer a more chiller, guided puzzling experience.

Having had some unfortunate experiences in the past, I’ve been conditioned to save each page as a new tab with any online puzzling components as a way to keep track of and reference any items I come across. But, I was happy to find that my efforts were unnecessary since the last puzzle provided links to everything required to solve it!

Pondering Points

There were a couple of puzzles that I got stuck on. While a good concept, I felt one of them could benefit from another nudge or indication of how the clues should be interpreted. However, once the hints put me on the right path, I thought it went pretty smoothly. With the other puzzle, I knew what to do with it, but had a little harder time with executing it. Though this could be more of a personal visualization problem on my end, it may have been more helpful to have physical props for this particular one. (As an aside, there was also something in this item that clearly seemed like a clue, but I didn’t end up using it and it didn’t ever become relevant. Though, it is very possible I was completely oblivious to its intended purpose and ended up using a different way of getting to the solution.)

As previously mentioned, this is a narrative-based experience. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but because of it, I should mention that those who don’t like Sherlockian deductions (i.e., my editor) may not enjoy some of the interactions of this Envelope.

Verdict

This envelope is a good experience for those who want a more laid-back puzzling experience guided by an interesting story. I’d recommend it for those who are newer to puzzling, enjoy deductive-style puzzles, and/or story-focused experiences. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here!

6.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Last Resort (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 group of co-workers employed by a Valley Falls travel agency have been given an incredible opportunity. The Refuge at Emerald Island is an isolated and exclusive resort that, ironically, none of the travel agents have ever heard of. What makes this opportunity even more special is that they will be the last group to stay at the tropical resort. The week after their stay, the resort is scheduled to be demolished by its owner and rebuilt as an industrial hub. Once the group arrives, they are excited for sand, sun and relaxation. That quickly changes when a member of their team is found dead with a harpoon in the back. The person who committed the crime must be one of the travel agency guests or the resort staff. Trapped on an island with a bloodthirsty killer, the body count is certain to go up as the suspect list goes down. Will you figure out who the killer is before it’s too late?

High Points:

We really enjoyed Last Resort! It reminded me a lot of an updated version of Cabin, as the story is very well written, placing you directly into the situation rather than investigating an after the fact murder. If you like slasher films, this one definitely plays out similarly. One new thing that the designers at Deadbolt have implemented is the casting of players as a specific main character, rather than a detective with the Will Street Detective Agency. This opens up greater avenues of storytelling, and it shows brilliantly in this box. From the start, there is a sense of unease built by that continues to build, and as we are drip fed revelations that all may not be as it seems, (and it seems pretty dire already,) the mystery deepens until we reach the explosive climax! As a side note, this box can get really brutal at times, which we actually really enjoyed, as it gave a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Overall, I love how the box started off very light, and quickly became much darker! On the puzzle side of things, we liked how the game flow alternated between linear and non-linear, depending on how the story was gate-kept, and we never felt like there were any major blockages to the flow, ensuring that the experience remained smooth throughout. Puzzle density was great, as there were a ton of interactions to work through, and the variety included kept our team occupied and entertained from start to finish. The final line of puzzles does an excellent job of dropping us into a frantic end sequence that really drove home what was at stake! I felt as though all the puzzles were designed in a truly intuitive way, and that the clues allowed us to make connections without feeling as if our hands were being held. There is a lot to figure out at any one moment, but Deadbolt always does an amazing job ensuring that clues subtly point the way. All in all, the combination of great story, original puzzling, and slasher movie vibes definitely delivered one of my favorite puzzle experiences this year!

Low Points:

This box had a lot more math than usual, and I know the puzzle community either loves or hates math, with very little in between, so make sure to take that under advisement if you fall into the latter group. One puzzle in particular was a pretty large leap of logic for us, and could easily be interpreted in several different ways as is, so I feel like another small clue is needed to create a more direct puzzle. Finally, this was definitely one of the easier boxes, which isn’t so much a low point as a heads up for veteran solvers looking for a bigger challenge. I will say the story absolutely makes this one worth it, however.

Verdict:

Last Resort is definitely one of Deadbolt’s most innovative new boxes; remaining familiar while switching up the formula in an exciting new way! I highly recommend checking this one out as even though we found this adventure to be on the somewhat easier side, the story and experience was more than worth the price of admission. 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.