The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Jester (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

It’s all a barrel of laughs until Steve from Accounting gets murdered

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

In medieval times, most kings had a court jester to entertain and amuse them. On the night of the annual Masquerade Ball, King’s Court Technologies discovers it has its own jester. While most of the partygoers are dressed in masquerade attire complete with mask and beads, one mysterious character is seen dressed in a fool’s motley and a jester’s cap with bells. However, this jester’s purpose is not to entertain but, rather, to exact revenge on the king’s behalf. Who is this jester and why have they murdered three company employees on the roof? What has really been going on at King’s Court Technologies? Unmask The Jester and find out!

First Impressions:

Hot off the heels of the phenomenal The Dark and Stormy Night, we were thrilled to see yet another incredibly creative theme in The Jester. The Deadbolt Mystery Society has come up with some very interesting stories thematically, and the puzzles don’t slouch on the job either, so we’re always interested to see what new crime has landed on our doorstep each month.

High Points:

The Jester is definitely one of the more challenging boxes we’ve done, and though some of the long run time of this mystery was taken up by our quest for a particular office supply that had gone missing, it still took us a bit longer than usual to crack this mystery. This is not a bad thing however, as this box is full of mind bending conundrums and perplexing enigmas. One of my favorite parts of this case is the sheer number of suspects. There are quite a few more than the usual Deadbolt box, and this mechanic is handled fabulously, starting out as a seemingly overwhelming number of possible murderers, and paring down intuitively as the case progresses. The story itself is subtle, with clues slowly revealing what is really going on, and the slow burn of discovery is excellently paced out. The mystery of it all was beautifully captured, and the climax and denouement of this adventure were perfect.

The game flow is pretty great, and there are multiple avenues of investigation to head down, allowing for a non-linear solve that’s great for solo or group play. During a couple points, we split up to solve some of our favored puzzle types, and whenever we were stuck, there was always something else to explore in the mean time. There are loads of clever puzzles hidden within the evidence of this box, and it is all presented in the usual excellent fashion of a Deadbolt mystery, with a couple of great new styles of presentation that lent a sense of authenticity to the props. Several of these puzzles are also deceptively well layered, with subtle hints signposting how they connect with each other, and the use of one central item was brilliantly done. One of my favorite puzzles was a real conundrum, but was presented simply, and provided a wonderful moment of revelation once the simple, yet effective clue came into focus, shattering all the theories we developed while over thinking things.

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Low Points:

Though we really enjoyed the expanded suspect list, the experience lost that close up examination of the suspects themselves, and therefore we never got to enjoy the wild personalities that show up in many of the Deadbolt cases we’ve worked. While the epilogue delves into the personality of The Jester themselves, I missed getting a look into the mindset of the suspects during the case. One particular puzzle can be rather confusing, and needs a little more cluing in order to allow players to sort out what’s important, what isn’t, and how what is important should be organized. This particular puzzle eventually made sense, but only after a fairly big logical leap was made. The same goes for a particular code that is explained in fairly vague terms, necessitating a fair amount of guess and check before we landed on the most correct answer.

Verdict:

The Jester opens The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s 2020 slate of boxes fantastically, and continues to set a great tone for the mysteries of Valley Falls. As usual, I am looking forward to their next mysteries, and cannot wait to see what this year of sleuthing brings! The Jester is a challenging box, sure to test veteran Deadbolt detectives, but is imminently approachable for new players as well, leaving subtle clues to direct players along in their investigations. I definitely recommend checking it out when you can. 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.

Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-2

Price: $24.99

How is it working at the Haunted Roller Coaster?

It has it’s ups and downs. I’ll see myself out.

Theme:

From the Thames and Kosmos website:

Dark corridors, terrifying shrieks, bone-chilling monsters — sounds like a lot of fun, right? At least that’s what you thought when you decided to take a ride on the haunted roller coaster at the amusement park. But suddenly you are stuck in a really freaky place. The ride’s gates are locked tight in front of and behind you. You stumble upon a strange riddle. Can you summon up all your courage to solve the riddles and escape the haunted roller coaster?

First Impressions:

The newest Exit game’s box art really called to me, with it’s spooky yet colorful cover and promise of supernatural haunts. Even though it promised to be an easier game, (2 out of 5 on their difficulty scale, which is generally less arbitrary than most,) I was excited to give it a shot, as sometimes the easier games can still be enormously clever. At the least, I was looking forward to a creepy time escaping from things that go bump in the amusement park!

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High Points:

While a linear experience, The Haunted Roller Coaster still presents a fun challenge that can handle more than a solo player. As a couple, neither of us felt as though there was nothing for us to do, and each step of the puzzling process was engaging. The vast majority of the box, in fact, felt incredibly clever, with some amazing and tactile puzzles and interactions peppered throughout. This box might be one of the most densely packed Exit games, prop wise, and I absolutely loved every new surprise that the experience threw at us. Even after twelve other Exit games, this one was able to use parts of the game you generally wouldn’t expect in new and creative ways, keeping even veterans of the series like us on our toes. Two items in particular were amazingly well hidden, and eluded my nosy poking around that I usually do before we begin. (Pro tip: Never start our escape room briefing within the room. I am notorious bad at not immediately looking for clues and have to be reined in by one particular teammate. If he’s not there, all bets are off. I have a problem.)

The game itself gives off a playfully spooky vibe, and while still full of the supernatural fun we expected, never veers into anything too creepy, keeping the mood light and entertaining for the whole family. Some of our favorite puzzles were incredibly inventive, and used their props to the fullest and providing some fantastic moments of revelation that kept us happily puzzling at a good clip, but was never too simple as to allow us to blow right through. The game flow was excellent, and coupled with a smooth difficulty curve to provide an experience that never fell prey to choke points or obtuse frustration. There were also some great easter eggs for veteran players, calling back to other boxes in unobtrusive ways, which is always fun to see.

 

Low Points:

There was one puzzle that involved a small bit of outside knowledge, and while we think that it will generally be a non-issue, there could be some players that are tripped up by it, depending. The story starts and ends with the opening for the most part, and it is never really clear as to the whys. For instance, why were we trapped in the haunted roller coaster? It seems there was some sort of plan, but it is never explained. Why are we escaping and what are the consequences of escaping or not? Also, no details are given through puzzle solving, and the ending, while cute, doesn’t quite satisfy, as everything remains mysterious.

Verdict:

In all, The Haunted Roller Coaster is definitely one of Exit: The Game’s best experiences. While one of the easier games, and therefore a great one for new players to start with, there is enough creativity within the puzzles that veteran solvers will certainly remain entertained. I absolutely recommend giving it a shot, and look forward to seeing what Thames and Kosmos comes out with next!

9/10 (Excellent)

The Conundrum Box – Sleepy Hollow Box 2: The Awakening (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review comes to you from me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

SAVE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND SAVE YOURSELF FROM THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

This three part series takes place during American Revolution and afterwards. General Washington’s life is in danger! He has tasked you to help stop the most recent assassination plot. Your leads have led you to the small village of Sleepy Hollow where you meet the townsfolk, and soon discover their dark secrets. The second and third adventures in this season get weirder and darker.

First Impressions:

For everyone who did Part 1, the title of this one seemed pretty apropos to its interesting ending. I was excited to put my thinking cat on and see where the story would take us!

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Yay Points:

And take us through an interesting story it did! I feel like this shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler, but this box involves the story of Ichabod Crane. However, The Conundrum Box has put their own interesting spin on this classic story that makes you see these characters in a new light.

As with previous boxes, this one is packed with envelopes that contain some great and varied puzzles, with a number of unique ones that I haven’t seen before. The puzzles provided great opportunities for teamwork as well as dividing and conquering. With so many types, having a team with different approaches to solving these conundrums is really helpful. It certainly made for some satisfying moments on my end!

For the most part, this box had great, intuitive clues and interactions, and I enjoyed how the story was able to couch them. Multiple puzzles were really neat and there were many obviously hidden clues that are really helpful with the deductions. One in particular was really satisfying when I finally realized what the key was to solving it!

It can sometimes be difficult when boxes refer to materials from previous boxes, but I think this one included some great references to help point the way (FYI: the website also provides downloadable versions of the items of interest for those who choose this route!).

This mystery also had some good tactile props and visual references. In particular, their map was once again very detailed and well done.

It’s a nice touch that the website provides Extras in the form of Spotify playlists and food/drink recipes. I haven’t gotten the chance to try making any of them, but they do seem delicious!

Also, in the last box, I commented how the mobile site was a little harder to navigate. Since then, they’ve added an easily accessible navigation bar for each puzzle! They also include a great “how-to” reference on the intro page to help orient you to this. 😊

Pondering Points:

In the last section, I complimented the variety of puzzles that this box included. Unfortunately, this can also be a double-edge sword in some cases, as some of the puzzles have the potential for causing roadblocks. But! The hint system does a great job in pointing you in the right direction and guiding you toward the solution. Admittedly, we’ve gotten good use with it on a couple of the puzzles, and were able to reverse engineer the solution to see what logic we were missing.

After needing to consult one of the answers though, we were still confused how one of the numbers is part of the solution, as we’re pretty confident the puzzle provides one more than the solution indicates. As the hints acknowledge, this puzzle can be tricky – perhaps a picture with the appropriate areas highlighted would be helpful here.

The hints also identify what is likely to be the hardest part of the box, and in our experience, it was indeed. It will definitely be a hit or miss with players as it is a longer and more complicated process puzzle, involving a lot of clues to put together and things to keep in mind. The logic felt a bit arduous on our end, and there was some ambiguity on how to start solving it after putting together the information we needed.

There was one puzzle that was good overall, but the colors used can sometimes be indistinguishable in certain areas, depending on the player and room lighting. I am apparently not as good at distinguishing colors as I think I am. :/

Verdict:

Overall, this box had a lot of great interactions and satisfying solves. It certainly was a fun sequel to Part 1, and I’ll be interested to see how it ends in Part 3! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7/10 (Good)

 

Sleuth Kings – Case 027: Krampus Kidnappings (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Don’t Kramp my style!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Asuna Yukimura has been kidnapped by Krampus the Christmas Devil. Now, being held for ransom, Asuna intends to make Krampus regret ever targeting her. She has only one option – create as much trouble as she can. Luckily, she still has her cell phone, and Sullivan is only an email away. Can you work with Sullivan to help Asuna beat Krampus at his own game and escape?

First Impressions:

I’m a big fan of everyone’s favorite Christmas demon, Krampus, so it was great to see that Sullivan would be taking on a case themed after this holiday hoodlum! Even better, one of our favorite supporting characters, Asuna, would be joining the cast for this particular mystery. We couldn’t wait to dig into this holiday themed mystery and got cracking as soon as we had a free night!

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You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Krampus will throw you in a sack and drag you away.

High Points:

I said it while we were solving the case, and we immediately thought it was an appropriate quote to sum up a lot of the Sleuth Kings experience, so I share it here. If any subscription box can make a story that centers around child abduction light-hearted, it is Sleuth Kings. I mean this in the absolute best possible way. In almost any other light, the kidnapping of high schoolers by Krampus would likely be horrifying, but in this case, Asuna’s empowerment and the excellent writing and tone employed keep spirits light. The props and clues included are appropriately mysterious and sinister, and absolutely layered to the brim with puzzles, including a few points of meta-puzzling that really tie things together well. All tie excellently into the theme as well, and bring a Christmassy vibe to the proceedings that we enjoyed.

The game flow for Krampus Kidnappings is pretty great, providing an excellent flow and providing intuitive, yet subtle hints. There is a very specific point at which things become somewhat non-linear, allowing us to pick our favorite puzzle types and work on them in tandem. The puzzles build on one another even more than usual, and we loved the twisted web of clues that we had to unravel in order to uncover the secret behind Krampus and his motivations, and as the puzzles were solved, the narrative evolved nicely as well. There was a particular side story that lent some fantastic comic relief to the experience, and working with Asuna, even when she has been kidnapped, is always a joy. The climax was excellent, and the twist and epilogue deliver a satisfying end to the machinations of the kidnapper.

There were a couple moments in which some of the puzzles were fairly familiar through having been a long time Sleuth Kings subscriber, but luckily, these puzzles had evolved from their basic forms, and were utilized in a way that allowed us to discover the deeper meanings and hidden additions through some superb sleuthing. This was definitely a great box to close out the year and enjoy some great holiday themed puzzling.

Low Points:

This one was somewhat of a lighter mystery overall; once we overcame the first hurdle, we were surprised to see that we blew through it pretty quickly, so veteran solvers might find it somewhat easier than usual. The hurdle in question had to do with a couple interactions that provided less clear solutions than usual, but as we moved on, we were able to solve certain clues in an unintended way. The logic still makes sense once we reverse engineered everything, but one particular layer of this mystery isn’t quite as well signposted as we are used to. We were slightly disappointed that we only got to interact directly with Asuna once during the experience, we love how she’s written and always look forward to those interactions.

Verdict:

Krampus Kidnappings was a lot of fun to work through, and once we were able to untangle some initial hiccups, the game flow worked smoothly and revealed an awesome holiday mystery! Though it may be a quicker solve for veterans, I still recommend trying it out, as it provides many great moments of revelation, and newcomers will find this one accessible yet challenging. 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 – The Dark and Stormy Night (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

It was a dark and stormy night…

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website (edited slightly for brevity, full synopsis can be found at the website below):

Rosemary Clark is one of the world’s most popular and enduring cozy mystery novelists. For the past two years, however, she has lived as a recluse in her hilltop mansion, cutting off contact with friends, family, and the public at large. The reason for her withdrawal from the public eye has been a subject of much debate until earlier this week when Ms. Clark emerged to announce that she had been writing her final novel, entitled “The Dark and Stormy Night.” To celebrate the completion of the book, Ms. Clark invited a small group of her closest friends and associates to Winterwood Manor with the tantalizing revelation that she had featured all of them as characters in the novel. After the guests arrive and dinner has been served, Rosemary reveals that she has spent the last two years leaving her estate in secret to investigate a very specific crime and that the novel contains hints about both the crime and the one who committed it. Poised to reveal more about the plot and the main players in her mystery, Rosemary has just taken a sip of her nightcap when the lights flicker suddenly and then go out for a period of approximately ten seconds. A scream rips through the night and then the lights come back on. Inexplicably, Rosemary is gone. All that’s left where she was standing are a few spatters of blood. After a thorough search of the house, Rosemary is nowhere to be found, and while it’s unclear whether any sort of crime has been committed, there is a definite feeling that something is wrong here. Determine what happened to Rosemary Clark, search through the clues of her final novel to determine the nature of the crime and the identity of the criminal she had been investigating, and solve the mystery of The Dark and Stormy Night.

First Impressions:

The Dark and Stormy Night piqued my interest immediately due to the incredibly creative theme and story that seemed to be promised by the story synopsis. A mystery within a mystery, (within a mystery,) all coordinated by a reclusive novelist who has brought all the players together within her remote mansion reminded me somewhat of the movie Clue. Such a twisty game immediately caught our attention, and we couldn’t wait to get started. It also didn’t hurt that we’d recently watched the amazing Knives Out, which would be a great companion to this box for a mysterious date night!

High Points:

Whereas last month’s box, The Collector, reminded me of a Holmes v. Moriarty showdown, The Dark and Stormy Night reminds me of a great mashup of the Clue movie and an Agatha Christie novel. As I’ve previously stated, Agatha Christie stories are very much my favorites, and I feel that style of mystery is severely under utilized in escape rooms and subscription boxes. Enter Deadbolt Mystery Society with a twisting, turning caper that engaged us from the start and didn’t let go until we’d caught the culprit! This box was jammed full of great props and pieces of evidence, and though it is the third box that comes in the new, smaller format, it seems there’s even more to work through than usual. The story presented had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing throughout, and the puzzles helped further the story through small tidbits of info.

The game flow is fantastic for this box, with a multi-layered run of puzzles and three distinct “levels” to work through. Every moment is filled with enigmas to solve, with several great moments of revelation. One particular one was a puzzles we kept coming back to and mulling over before working on another. When it came down to this puzzle as the last thing we needed to move forward, it all clicked into place, and the satisfaction of solving this deceptively intuitive code was phenomenal. In fact, the way many of the puzzles are solved is subtly clued and well signposted, putting together a immensely fun challenge and ensuring we stayed locked in a battle of wits with these codes rather than frustrated by obtuse puzzles. One of the newer mechanics we’ve only seen once before in Deadbolt boxes has been expanded, and is elegantly worked into the game in a way that creates an additional level of puzzling. This extra step really enhanced the game and lent a bit more complexity to the usual mechanics of a Deadbolt Mystery Society adventure. Once we had entered the climactic part of the game, everything started to fall into place, and while there were still some excellent puzzles to solve, (one of which was beautifully done, presenting us with a logical problem we loved working through; a generally rare occurrence,) the pacing was set up perfectly to become a riveting climax.

Overall, this box does a great job by melding varied puzzles together with intuitive clues while still providing a proper challenge. We loved it, and think anyone who enjoys a Dark and Stormy Night spent reading an Agatha Christie novel will too!

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Low Points:

I honestly cannot think of any low points for this experience. The bar has been raised again, as I think this is the first Deadbolt box we’ve played that gives their previous box, The Cabin, (which I gush about on regular occasions,) a run for its money!

Verdict:

The Dark and Stormy Night is a brilliant mystery that presents a conundrum that kept us guessing from start to finish! Boasting a run of exciting, multi-level puzzles, and supremely intuitive solves, this box is an absolute must purchase! I recommend any experience level check this one out, as it is a great challenge for veteran detectives, but is definitely still manageable for newcomers with a bit of out of the box thinking. 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.