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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Hacked (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Hackerman!

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When famous Valley Falls hacker, Fluk3, infiltrates the computer database of The Will Street Detective Agency, the act doesn’t follow the usual pattern of anarchy and rebellion. After discovering information in a cold case that relates to the murder of a relative, it becomes necessary to make amends and enlist the agency’s services. Now offering assistance instead of resistance, Fluk3 offers to be the eyes and ears on the web in exchange for helping bring closure to this unsolved mystery.

First Impressions:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s reveal of their newest box, Hacked, promised to feature a hacker we briefly encountered during The Secret of Easthaven Forest. It is always interesting when Deadbolt Mysteries call back to previous characters and locations, and Valley Falls and its inhabitants are always interesting to learn about, so our interest was definitely piqued by the Will Street Detective Agency’s somewhat reluctant team up with Valley Falls’ most notorious hacker!

High Points:

One of the things we like most about The Deadbolt Mystery Society is that though there is a basic, (quite successful,) formula to Deadbolt cases, the designers are constantly iterating and experimenting with said formula, ensuring that every experience is fresh and interesting. We always know what we’re getting from one of their mysteries, but we also are excited to see what new mechanic or twist comes along with every box! Hacked is no exception, as it presents us with three cold cases to connect together and solve. Each case is delivered separately, and we were encouraged to pore through each, make connections within them, and then expand our sleuthing to all three together. It was a great set up, and helped the mystery feel like an expansive, devious riddle devised by the killer! The game flows fantastically, and presents a few non-linear paths of investigation to follow across the three case files, ensuring we never felt as though we were stuck on one particular road at any point. Puzzles are clever and challenging, with one in particular I really loved. We ruminated on this one for a while, trying to determine the cryptic meaning behind the clue, and as we looked over other evidence, the purpose of the items and the ultimate solution were slowly pieced together until we reached the beautiful ah ha moment that unlocked it all!

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The game is directed subtly by well hidden, but intuitive clues, ensuring that while the next step wasn’t spelled out for us, the tools to move forward were always available. For players that enjoy tackling these boxes as groups, there are more than a few conundrums that work excellently as teamwork puzzles, though they are not inaccessible to solo players. Props included within the box are high quality, and fit convincingly into the theme while still being relevant to the puzzles at hand, ensuring nothing feels extraneous. The story is excellent, and working with FLUK3 to solve a mystery that is personal to them is a lot of fun. The culmination of the experience, and climactic finale contains a few great reveals, and finishes off the game satisfyingly. With most murder mystery boxes, it is always enjoyable to solve the crime and catch the killers, but it is even more enjoyable when you have helped someone along the way, as is the case with Hacked. Assisting FLUK3 with their personal journey for justice adds a lot to the victory of solving the cold cases, and I really enjoyed the work the designers put into fleshing out their backstory.

Low Points:

One puzzle in particular was a bit simplistic, which we aren’t quite used to with Deadbolt boxes. This one in particular had no hidden layers, so we were somewhat surprised when we solved it and the long and short of it was what it was. Another puzzle is similar, but does do a little bit of encoding before the answer is revealed. As the vast majority of puzzles we discover in Deadbolt experiences are usually rather inspired coded messages, this one stood out. 7/23/2020 Edit: One particular puzzle was brilliant, but in piecing together one of the bits of the solution, it came out a bit mangled. We went back over it and it came out the same way twice, but we were able to suss out the intended solution, so it wasn’t egregiously difficult to correct. (We’ve since gone back over this puzzle, and we probably had a case of the dumb regarding the muddled item.) One particular video included is fairly long compared to others, but is a bit unengaging due to the presentation. While it fits well with the theme, it may have been better, in our opinion, to have all the information presented through a web portal for players to read through at their convenience. We had to jump back to it once, and trying to search through a video was a little time consuming.

Verdict:

We had an awesome time working through the cold cases included within Hacked, and really enjoyed the call backs and engaging puzzling that was built into this adventure. Veterans of the Society are going to love finding the many Easter Eggs that have been worked into this box, as well as the challenging enigmas, but newcomers will find the great game flow and subtle, yet intuitive cluing provides an excellent experience as well. I recommend checking this one out, as it is the most fun you can possibly have getting hacked! 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.

At Home Games I’ve Loved Before – Recommendations for Sheltering in Place

Hi All!

In place of another review, I wanted to share some of my favorite at home experiences, and make a few recommendations should you be looking for something to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I’m missing my escape room fix, but these are some great substitutes until we can get back in the swing of things! I’m starting with some of the best subscription boxes we’ve played, and intend to deliver some recommendations regarding other at home experiences in the coming days.

Subscription Boxes:

Our favorite Subscription boxes for a rainy day, (or sunny day, or any day really,) are The Deadbolt Mystery Society, Sleuth Kings, and The Conundrum Box. I’ve linked below a few reviews for their best games.

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Deadbolt:

Always great for a excitingly themed whodunnit (or who has done this, if you prefer,) Deadbolt has put out some amazing mysteries. My favorite adventures so far have blended some incredible puzzling with entertaining deductions, injecting exciting narrative twists as we eliminate suspects and expose the killer.

The Cabin – The OG 10/10 Halloween slasher box. If it’s available, you need to play it.

Infected – This is another 10/10 that I felt really elevated the whole subscription. The closest thing to an escape room I’ve played at home, this game was an absolute joy to work through.

The Dark and Stormy Night – My current reigning favorite, and a delight for any Agatha Christie fan. I cannot recommend this mystery enough.

Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society or pick up standalone adventures 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!

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Sleuth Kings:

Ever wanted to be a private detective, but just didn’t know where to start? Join Sullivan King as you assist him in solving the various and sundry exciting cases that come across his desk every month! Specializing in code-breaking, an overall light hearted tone, and great world building, we always look forward to seeing a new Sleuth Kings box hit our doorstep.

The Haunting – Sullivan’s newest client has bought a new home, but unfortunately, it may be haunted! Help solve the mystery of what’s going bump in the night, and try not to become a ghost yourself!

Blood P.I. – She plays a vampire detective on TV, and she’s your newest client. She’s also got a stalker who has bought into the whole vampire shtick a little to much. Slick and highly creative, this remains one of my favorite of the many quirky cases Sleuth Kings has to offer.

Sparky – If “Psychotic Killer in a Mascot Suit” isn’t an immediately engaging theme for you, we can’t be friends. This review, written by my lovely wife and escape partner in crime sums up this madcap experience beautifully.

You can purchase these and many 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!

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The Conundrum Box:

One of the newest subscription boxes we’ve had the pleasure of trying out, their most recent run of games has been fantastic! Delivering not only an Agatha Christie themed mystery, but a 1001 Arabian Nights tale, they’ve been on a roll with great puzzles and wonderful storytelling. I cannot wait for their newest box, The Emerald Isle, to hit or doorstep!

The Great Explorer’s Society and The Orient Express – Being someone who loves a good Agatha Christie novel, this box was an instant favorite for me! Full of fun twists and an exciting climax, this lead in to The Storyteller series really kicked it up a notch for The Conundrum Box as a whole.

The Storyteller Part 1 – Aladdin’s Lamp – After having my heart broken by Unlock’s terrible adaptation of the tales of Scheherazade, The Conundrum Box came to the rescue with this, the first of an amazing two part adventure! Containing some of their most clever puzzling to date, this remains my favorite box of theirs.

The Storyteller Part 2 – Scheherazade –  A worthy follow up to Aladdin’s Lamp, the second half of the Storyteller… er… story, contains another set of great puzzles, some twisty narrative, and great easter eggs and revelations for long time players!

You can subscribe to The Conundrum Box as well as order previous boxes here! Use our Promo Code ERA5OFF to recieve $5 off your first box!

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Murder in 3B (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Sherlock’s got nothing on us!

Theme:

In the Deadbolt Mystery Society’s first box, you’ll become a consulting detective for the Valley Falls Police Department in order to investigate a murder at the shady Hideaway Motel. Megan Thompson, a young woman who was staying in 3B, was brutally murdered and there’s very little evidence to go on. The mayor wants this case closed as soon as possible, and you can only hold the suspects, last night’s guests and employees, for so long, so you’d better get to investigating!

First Impressions:

As you can see from the featured photo, the presentation of this box is top notch! I really liked the excellent themeing and snazzy production value on the outside, getting me excited to see what was inside, which definitely didn’t disappoint as there was quite a bit to go through!

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There’s a lot to explore with this mystery!

High Points:

I appreciated the inclusion of glossy photos of each of the suspects, which gave us a tangible and immersive way to keep tabs on and eliminate suspects as we went through the mystery. There were a couple of nice props included from the motel itself, and the evidence included was a lot of fun to pore over. The writing feels true to each character and is realistically presented through letters, case notes, and emails. Side stories and Easter eggs provided were great, and deepened the story through convincing world-building. For fans of Deadbolt’s Escape Rooms, there are even some surprises that tie in from those experiences as well, though no prior knowledge is required. The puzzle threads and investigatory logic all intertwines well together and provides an enjoyable game flow for an experience that lasts around 2 hours. The self-contained nature of the mystery was a breath of fresh air when compared to many other mystery boxes that just plod forward aimlessly from month to month! There is an online component that provides specific feedback during the mystery and provides certainty that you have succeeded in your investigation when you have solved the murder.

Low Points:

We only had a couple of points for feedback with this box, first being that while the investigation reports were thorough, we would have liked to see more props and items tied into the story. The ones that were sent with this box were excellent, but were pertinent only for a short time. One of the best things about these boxes are the surprises they contain, so we’d love to see some interesting evidence in future deliveries. Also, we did not use the hint system, as everything was intuitive and solvable, but the files you unlock while progressing through the story are mixed in with the hint files. Luckily, all files require a password to unlock, but it’d be nice to have hints and solutions separated from evidence to keep up the immersion.

Verdict:

I’m very excited about the Deadbolt Mystery Society! Even though Murder in 3B is only their first box, this subscription mystery service is easily my favorite of the ones I’ve tried so far. The story, immersion, and overall experience was a lot of fun from start to finish, and I’m already looking forward to their next mystery, Asylum! This first box was a great introduction to their world, and I’ve been told that Asylum will include even more content and immersive fun! 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.