Locurio – The Vanishing Act Online (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

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

Price: From $35 per person

Time to Escape: 70 minutes

What fun’s magic without a little possible death and dismemberment?

Theme:

From the Locurio website:

Step Right Up

The Great Noximillian, world-renowned magician, is hiding more than just tricks up his sleeve. His past five assistants have mysteriously gone missing, each after their 13th performance with Noximillian. Now his latest assistant, Casey, has contacted you for help in uncovering the truth behind these disturbing disappearances.

On the night of Casey’s 13th show, you are tasked with investigating The Great Noximillian’s private dressing room while the magician is busy on stage.

You have 70 minutes to find what Noximillian has been hiding and solve the mystery before the show is over and Casey’s time is up!

This game includes low lighting, as well as spooky elements and mature themes that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

First Impressions:

I hadn’t done an online escape room for a bit when the offer to play Locurio’s The Vanishing Act came through. I was excited to jump back in, and had heard that Locurio is pretty top notch, so I was curious to see how their games translated to the virtual space.

High Points:

The Vanishing Act began with a cool intro video that convincingly portrayed our trip to Noximillian’s dressing room. Honestly, we didn’t realize that this video was prerecorded until well after we had finished up. There are other videos involved with particular points as well as the fantastic climax, and all of them are seamlessly integrated into the experience. I really loved how the room’s story took center stage, and was woven into the puzzles, ensuring that we were just solving puzzles to unlock a door, but participating in a race against time to ensure our friend would make it out of her 13th performance alive! The jump between stages of the game was excellently executed, and while there is a cool tonal shift at one point, the experience remains light hearted on the whole, and never overtly scary. Our in game avatar did a great job of lightly hinting towards what to do next, and searched the room thoroughly for us, ensuring that we weren’t held up due to an inability to find the items we needed. The set was beautifully designed, and the dressing room, as well as what lay beneath the magical facade, are convincing.

The puzzling experience within The Vanishing Act is no slouch either, with loads of intuitive connections to be made, which lead to a myriad of ah ha moments. Best of all, almost every puzzle involves the group in some way. We haven’t seen teamwork based puzzles implemented quite this well, but Locurio has done an excellent job in utilizing Telescape, (the inventory management program,) in order to ensure that players get the cooperative feeling of working through an escape room together. This may be the best implementation of teamwork puzzles I’ve seen yet from a remote room, and the effect is uniquely satisfying. There are several moments of non-linearity, and the way things are set up, groups can work on separate things at the same time, ensuring that there is little to no down time for individual players, nor are there glaring choke points that hold progress up. The final run of puzzles was my favorite, as the ultimate task of the game requires a full set of fantastic puzzles to be solved, and culminates in an interaction that not only feels intense, but caps off the game amazingly.

Low Points:

We couldn’t be there live! I’m certain this room would only get better during a live play, but their online offering was just as good as many in person games we’ve played!

Verdict:

The Vanishing Act from Locurio was, in a word, brilliant. I absolutely recommend checking this one out as soon as possible, as the story, puzzles, and avatar interactions are top notch, and must be experienced! Beginners and Enthusiasts alike will have a great time, as many of the puzzles are a fantastic challenge, but the hint systems in place will keep groups who are struggling on the right track. Book your time saving Casey here!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Locurio provided our team with a discounted game.

The Curious Correspondence Club – Chapter II: The Warehouse on the Wharf (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:

A chill in the air and blanket of fog carried by it, you find yourself met by a rusty shipping yard. With only a handful of information and a dockmaster intently focused on your capture, you must uncover the secrets of the docks using evidence left by a faceless ally.

Can you crack the code, and uncover the secret hidden amongst the crates?

First Impressions:

After the astoundingly enjoyable Chapter I of The Curious Correspondence Club, I was thrilled to receive Chapter II: The Warehouse on the Wharf. After a couple excruciating days of waiting for a night we had clear, my wife and I cracked the envelope open, and got to puzzling!

High Points:

The Curious Correspondence Club continues to wow us with their presentation. Though the envelope their mysterious items arrive in is small, there is so much to work through every single month! The absolutely mind boggling density of their games makes the experience well worth the price of admission, but beyond that, we also love the meta story that winds through each game, and are consistently thrilled to see what new secrets we are being tasked to uncover. As the meta story continues to twist and turn, we are curious as to what all our efforts will eventually unearth. This second installment ups the ante from the introductory game excellently, with a much more challenging run of puzzles, but still manages to remain intuitive and well designed, ensuring that though puzzlers won’t have an easy time unraveling all the enigmas, they will have a great time doing so! Almost every single puzzle we came across during this chapter paid off with some excellent ah ha moments, and once we’d reached the final epilogue video, we were pretty proud of what we had accomplished. Every puzzle was immensely creative, and I was astounded to find that at no point during the experience did we feel like something was familiar or old hat. My favorite puzzle was the culmination of a couple different actions, and solving it was a beautifully tactile experience that I adored.

The props themselves were sturdy, well made items, and for such a small envelope, boy were there loads of items inside! The experience is beautifully polished, and every piece of the game not only is intricately woven into the game and its puzzles, but all of them are multi-functional, layered props that reveal new secrets at every turn! There is so much to love within each chapter of this experience so far, and the experience of the designers is heavily evident in every facet of this absolute jewel of a game. The Curious Correspondence Club is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated games every month! The story is appropriately mysterious and entertaining, the puzzles are amazingly original, the videos are well produced, and at this price point, there is so much value for money in each experience we’ve received so far. I cannot recommend this game enough.

Low Points:

One particular interaction can get pretty tedious, and the seek and find nature of it really slowed the game down in a way that did not serve the experience well. There were a few points at which the cluing could be tightened up a bit, as there were a few things that could either serve as unintended red herrings or force too much guess and check puzzling.

Verdict:

Chapter II: Warehouse on the Wharf does a great job of upping the challenge, and provides a wonderfully tactile puzzling experience in a deceptively small envelope. The game was definitely more difficult than your usual puzzling subscription, so I think enthusiasts who are looking for something a bit more difficult will absolutely love The Curious Correspondence Club, but with the tiered hint system and the patience to think things through, new players will find a lot to enjoy within these envelopes as well! I highly recommend subscribing, and you can join The Curious Correspondence Club here!

8.5/10 (Great)

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

Scarlet Envelope – Envelope Three: Distress Call from Outer Space (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-3

Price: $20 monthly

Lost in Space

Theme:

From the Scarlet Envelope website:

The year is 2220, a century into the human colonization of Mars. Humans remain the same: two planets are in constant political conflict. Your spaceship picks up a distress call from a Martian spy who has discovered how to stop the war! Now encrypted Martian files are in your hands, along with the fate of both Earth and Mars.

First Impressions:

I’ve gotta say, Canada has been knocking it out of the park lately with puzzling subscriptions. Scarlet Envelope is one of two fantastic monthly puzzling capers that I’ve picked up recently, and I have to say, they are quickly becoming some of my favorite mailings every month! With a brand new theme for every game, I really love seeing how the creators pivot from 1920’s mystery to sci-fi to horror and beyond!

High Points:

The thing I really loved about Envelope Three was how intuitive each puzzle was once you’d uncovered the requisite clues. Though the game certainly didn’t hold my hand, it did provide small clues within each puzzle to ensure that with the application of some critical thinking, the answers would reveal themselves during an excellent ah ha moment! The first half of the game flowed beautifully, with a beginning that had me scratching my head, but with just enough breadcrumbs to ensure I could find my way. One of my favorite puzzles came during the initial stages of the game, and cleverly disguised the method of solving, leaving the puzzle hidden in plain sight. Difficulty ramped up smoothly, and as the conundrums became more challenging, the ah ha moments became ever more satisfying! There are some real doozies further in, and the Experienced level games are perfect for battle hardened puzzle enthusiasts that really want a challenge. I adored one section that involved a ship’s computer, as I loved exploring the options and branching paths I could take, and the design of all the web based materials is really slick.

I’m still enamored with the overall theme of Scarlet Envelope, and am interested to see how all these time hopping good deeds I’m doing will pay off. As I mentioned before, it is awesome to receive a totally different theme from month to month, and I really love opening up new envelopes to see how these themes have been implemented. So far, Scarlet Envelope has done a top notch job ensuring that the story and puzzles are wonderfully woven into the game, and are engaging experiences, with no red herrings or puzzles that feel out of place or just there for the sake of puzzling. Though this is, I believe, (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong,) the designer’s first subscription puzzle experience, it feels like they’ve been making these forever, they’re so well designed!

Low Points:

My main critique for this particular episode is that while I understand why there is a lot of online content, due to the futuristic nature of the game, the non-linear nature of the mystery, coupled with how many branches there are for the online component, really convolutes the proceedings. I played this game over the course of two days, and it was really difficult to set back up to where I was since I essentially had to run back through everything. And when you take chaotic notes like I do… While I definitely appreciate the intent of what’s being done, a more linear approach would definitely provide a somewhat cleaner puzzling experience. The logic of one particular puzzle still eludes me, and the set up doesn’t quite have enough cluing to completely relate how the solutions are meant to line up. While I had the correct answers, it took a little more guess and check than we’d like to get the solution in order. This, joined with the solution requiring a bit of eyeballing to boot, created a situation where I was never quite sure if the answer I arrived at was truly correct, (until, of course, I verified the solution in the online component.)

Verdict:

I’m loving the journey that Scarlet Envelope has set us upon, and am looking forward to next month’s envelope, as number four promises to be right up my alley! I wholeheartedly recommend this subscription, as there’s a difficulty level for beginners and enthusiasts alike, and so much to love about the experience. Start your journey into the mysteries of the Scarlet Envelope here! The creators currently have a cool new Kickstarter on right now for Christmas Puzzle Cards here! You should check it, and their astoundingly funny outtakes video asap!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Scarlet Envelope provided a complementary review copy.

Sleuth Kings – Monster Madness: Case 204 – Monster Madness (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The Monster Mash

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan King had only heard whispers about a new criminal group – until their reign of terror made things personal for him.

The group – filled with self-proclaimed zombies, vampires, and other monsters – has its hand in everything from selling drugs to abducting people. Although they have police baffled, Sullivan is sure of one thing: he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop them.

First Impressions:

It’s finally here! The conclusion to Sleuth King’s first main-line multi-case story line comes to a close with case 204, and we were excited to see how it would end! The stakes were high coming into this case, so I was excited to see how things would play out.

High Points:

I’ve really enjoyed how the story of Monster Madness has developed over the course of the last few months. It reminded me of the Isaac Cases from years past, except instead of one every quarterly, we’d get the next part of the story every single month. This allowed for fantastic cliff hangers, slowly raising stakes, and more immersion into the narrative, and I think it has paid off well. Sleuth Kings as a subscription really fits into this mold nicely, and I’m looking forward to the next run of cases to see how the designers continue to evolve the formula. We really enjoyed the ride, and the climax and ending were spectacular; exactly what we were hoping to see from this final case of the series. The props provided were excellent, and during the epilogue, we were provided with some awesome extras that truly went the extra mile in putting a bow on things.

Puzzle wise, I think that the best has definitely been saved for last, and while we’ve enjoyed the previous three cases, case 204 knocks it out of the park. The flow is excellent, and right up to the end we were chugging along nicely, solving without artificial choke points or red herrings to stop things up. The whole experience was really intricately designed, and I loved how everything tied together well, providing a beautiful variety of conundrums to ride along with the story. The theming of the experience was woven excellently into the mystery, and I never felt as if we were jumping between story and puzzle and back to story. Rather, the experience was designed with smooth transitions and nicely blended narrative and puzzles to ensure that the game felt more like an immersive experience. I loved the inclusion of a website that confirmed answers, as it not only gave us said confirmation, but was key in furthering the story in a blended way. Everything we needed to solve the box was provided, and I greatly appreciated the inclusion of one particular item that puzzle boxes tend to reference frequently, but usually have never provided. It’s always great to have everything on hand rather than have to jump on Google, especially for things like this.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle involved a task we’re none too fond of overall, and unfortunately, this type of puzzle relies on specificity. This one in particular needed somewhat more cluing in order to really ensure the answer is intuitive, and in it’s current form was rather too vague to make complete sense in the end. Though we did enjoy the puzzles in this box the best for the series, the overall difficulty was somewhat lower. Not really a low point, generally, but we had expected the challenge to rise for the finale.

Verdict:

The ultimate case of Monster Madness provided intuitive, well thought out puzzling, as well as an excellent capstone to the story that we’ve been following for the past few months. I absolutely love how Sleuth Kings has changed things up with this four month saga, and can definitely say that I recommend checking this set of cases out as soon as you can! You can purchase this and other previous cases from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Museum Nocturnus (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I don’t remember Night at the Museum being this creepy…

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Museum Nocturnus is a paranormal museum dedicated to cursed objects, items taken from haunted locations, serial killer artifacts, and anything else weird that wouldn’t stand a chance of being curated for any other museum. Valley Falls’ resident group of ghost hunters, S.T.A.L.K., purchased the museum in hopes of turning a profit and boosting their profile within the paranormal community. Father Richter Casey agrees to spend the night inside the museum and perform a series of blessings on the place before it reopens. Things go awry, however, when the priest is found dead the following morning. Given the frightful nature of the place, the list of potential culprits includes both human and supernatural suspects. Your job is to investigate The Hall of Murderers, The Hall of Cursed Toys, and The Hall of Haunted Items in order to determine what really happened to Father Casey.

First Impressions:

Museum Nocturnus is a location that has been mentioned once before in Deadbolt’s previous adventure, The Body Farm. When I saw that a mystery would be taking place in this eerie establishment, I was very excited to see what would await us inside! I’ve really loved this run of creepy, paranormal style mysteries that have come out lately from Deadbolt, and this seemed like it would be a great capstone for spooky season!

High Points:

Museum Nocturnus focuses even more on story, which is a new, and welcome update I’ve noticed in newer Deadbolt boxes. The narrative is fantastic, and hides its secrets well, revealing revelations at just the right time to surprise and lead detectives down new avenues of investigation. I really loved the characterization of each suspect, as well as the myriad killers and haunted items housed within the museum’s walls. Each new killer and item had its own lore and teased us just enough to want more! I’m really hoping that, like Asylum and Sanitarium before, we will one day return to the Museum Nocturnus to delve deeper into the freaky exhibits we discovered. The presentation of the puzzles and clues is fantastic as ever, and each new wing of the museum that we opened provided us with thematic new props. The story is filled with foreshadowing, and unraveling each investigative thread was immensely satisfying, right up to the exciting conclusion!

Puzzles are great, and very intuitive, with each level of the game tying together with the story believably, allowing for the narrative to play out as we solved. Interactions were more linear overall, but there weren’t any specific choke points that stopped progress, and each batch of conundrums that released in each wing provided enough to do that our team of two remained completely engaged with the game for the full experience. This experience reminds me a lot of early days PC adventure games, dropping you into a location and letting you explore all the cool bits and bobs, while still giving you challenges to solve in order to progress, and find more fantastic items! One of my favorite puzzles presented us with an innocuous couple of items that colorfully revealed a secret message once we had deduced what was important. I always love messages that are hidden in plain sight, and this solve was immediately satisfying once we had it figured.

Low Points:

For enthusiasts, this box will probably come in as an easier experience. Though there is a lot to do, the puzzles feel shorter, and less layered than usual. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginners looking for a more straightforward game, I drop this here for veteran sleuths mostly as an FYI. While the puzzles included within this box are all very intuitive, some are a bit too direct. Some directions are very immediately spelled out; telling us exactly what to do, rather than presenting a conundrum to figure out.

Verdict:

Museum Nocturnus presented us with an interesting setting, strange paranormal goings on, and a fantastic mystery to solve. I’d definitely recommend this box, especially to new players looking for a good jumping in point. The story and great game flow is more than enough to entertain enthusiasts, however, and I think anyone will have a great time uncovering the secrets of this spooky museum. 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.