The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Conspiracy (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping


From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

A hidden message in The Valley Falls Observer leads to the conclusion that all is not what it seems. Is the message simply the result of a typo, a practical joke, or mere coincidence? Or is there a deeper conspiracy working behind the scenes of Valley Falls?

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High Points:

Conspiracy was one of those experiences that starts off very strong, and keeps that energy all the way to the finish line! The introduction to the game featured a fantastic, non-linear puzzling prop that some other companies would provide as the entire game, but for Deadbolt, this is only the beginning! I really loved that this prop is provided twice in duplicate so that multiple players can peruse and solve, while also allowing players to avoid the flipping back and forth that plagues this sort of interaction. This was easily my favorite part of the game, and fit into the “conspiracy” theme so beautifully. Honestly, this stage of the game is one of the best openings, mechanically and puzzle-wise, that I have seen in an at home game of this style! Once this part of the game is complete, there is still so much to do! Conspiracy is packed with enigmas, and will keep most players busy for a couple hours, if not more, and while each level of the game is self contained, they are non-linear and give a lot of room to work without choke points if players become stuck at any point. The ah ha moments are plentiful, and I feel that the entire experience is fully intuitive, with well designed bread crumbs available to lead detectives towards each satisfying solve. While the game is almost entirely paper based, it is polished and beautifully designed, including excellent online components while eschewing extraneous props. The story lives up to the promise of the theme as well, providing a myriad of setting and suspects to work through while trying to figure out what is really going on! You are never really sure what’s real or not, and once you’re sure you’ve figured out the reason behind it all, the game throws you for a loop, turning everything you thought you knew on its head! This, combined with fantastic integration into Valley Falls, with callbacks and references to real world conspiracies, makes Conspiracy an instant classic in our book!

Low Points:

There were a few puzzle types we weren’t thrilled with, generally banal interactions, but these were easily overshadowed and quickly over, so it wasn’t the worst offender. Otherwise, this was a pretty fantastic box!


Conspiracy is a great mystery that weaves some brilliant puzzling together with a twisty, turn-y story that will keep players on their toes! Including an intermediate level of difficulty that will challenge veteran and novice players, this box is a great choice for anyone interested in puzzling their way through a mystery. 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.

Sultans of Solve – The Clock Winder (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $39


From the Sultans of Solve website:

The clock is ticking and The Clock Winder has promised to murder 7 victims. Can you stop his evil game before it is too late?

Solve puzzles, decode messages, figure out riddles. Put the pieces together to find the fiend who is murdering in Oaks Hollow as part of some sick game. Requires an internet connection, something to scan QR codes, and pen and paper. An online, progressive hint system is available in case you get stuck. This game is single play and intended for teens and adults.

High Points:

The Clock Winder is the first puzzle box from Sultans of Solve, and presents a great, introductory experience for new players. The box itself is filled with a large amount of varied puzzles, perfect for a small group or a solo puzzler that’s looking for a fun couple of hours. In terms of puzzle types, I’d say The Clock Winder collects many of the usual tropes from these sorts of subscriptions, and puts them together to form a fun and intuitive experience that would be amazing for anyone looking to get into the hobby! The experience is linear, allowing the story to develop at the intended pace, and ensures that things remain focused on the task at hand, making this a perfect choice for those who enjoy a more guided experience. The puzzles are still a fun challenge, however, and become increasingly complex as the mystery progresses. Story-wise, we liked how each step marked progression with new story bits and settings, and the search for The Clock Winder themself felt exciting and “in the moment,” rather than passive. I loved how the conclusion set up further stories while still presenting players with a satisfying conclusion, as well as a cute little souvenir! The whole experience is made up of paper based puzzles, and is easy to reset for other players if you’re careful. Though presented through a series of envelopes and paper clues, the experience was not lessened for the presentation. One favorite puzzle included pop culture references, and a highly original solve that was incredibly entertaining to piece together. There were also a few tactile interactions that we always have a great time with.

Low Points:

One late stage puzzle was interesting, but vague. The intended items were difficult to read, and though we knew what we needed to do with them, it was made unintentionally more frustrating than it should have been. Overall, this adventure is on the simpler side, and includes several basic style puzzles that will be great for new players, but might not excite veteran solvers quite as much. A few puzzles include searching for outside knowledge, which isn’t our cup of tea, but is overall fine for an at home, self guided experience. There was a particular inclusion at the end that felt a little out of place, with a somewhat crude joke that might not be for everyone.


The Clock Winder is a great starter box, and a fun first entry into the Sultans of Solve line. I definitely look forward to seeing how they evolve, and where the story might go next! I absolutely recommend this box to new players and veteran solvers who’d like to introduce friends to their hobby, as it is very accessible and does an excellent job of introducing the type of puzzles these subscription boxes are known for. Start your investigation into The Clock Winder here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sultans of Solve provided a complementary box.

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


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!


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.


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


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


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.


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.