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.