The Deadbolt Mystery Society Mini-Mystery – Sweet Tooth (Mini-Review)

Kara’s Note: This mini-review was brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $12.99 for this Mini Mystery

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Investigate the cutthroat world of baking in our newest mini-mystery as a famous food critic is found murdered after planning a visit to Valley Falls to review its finest culinary establishments.

Note: This is a mystery that is half the size of our normal boxes and takes about half the amount of time to complete. The mini will be delivered in an envelope, not a box.

First Impressions

Like many others during this pandemic, I have watched a whole bunch of The Great British Bake Off and caught the baking bug. So I was super excited to dive into Sweet Tooth, and was definitely happy to find there to be a recipe included!

Yay Points

Though shorter than the usual Deadbolt boxes, Sweet Tooth met the high standards we’ve come to expect with their full-length mysteries. I’m impressed with the creativity that went into everything that filled the envelope. Incorporating their story and theme into each problem, clue, and prop, Sweet Tooth delivered us an intuitive puzzle experience along with an interesting conundrum. And, like Deadbolt’s other boxes, there was definitely more than meets the eye with this mystery. We were pleasantly surprised at how things unfolded and tied together from the beginning.

This experience seemed a little easier in difficulty level, but still very enjoyable. The clues were straightforward and we were able to tie different clues together very seamlessly. It was very intuitive to figure out the solution process for each puzzle as well. And, as always, the different personalities that come through the various pieces of evidence (even with minor characters) are always entertaining. Though, as PSA, the candy theme made me hungry, so if you fall into easy cravings like me, definitely keep some chocolate on hand when you solve this box!

Pondering Points

One aspect of the mystery can be deduced early on in the experience. My partner and I had differing opinions on how we felt about this, so there may be some players who enjoy catching this where others may feel like it makes some other puzzles unnecessary. Regardless, I don’t think it detracts from the overall experience.

Final Verdict

As a mini-mystery, Sweet Tooth is a great introduction into the world of Valley Falls and is a great sampler of the types of boxes you can expect with the Deadbolt Mystery Society. Check it out for yourself 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 envelope.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Spider (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Not so Itsy Bitsy

Theme:

After a seemingly quiet start to the winter season, Valley Falls is once again rocked with a series of five “accidental” deaths. Cards bearing the images of spiders are found in the pockets of each corpse, indicating something more sinister must be going on. Soon, a letter is sent to the police chief from someone calling themselves The Spider. It’s up to you and the Will Street Detective Agency to bring yet another serial killer to justice, and attempt to bring peace to Valley Falls once more!

First Impressions:

35 boxes in, and The Deadbolt Mystery Society is still going strong! It’s been amazing to see how far these boxes have come in the past few years, and we are always still so excited to see a new one hit our doorstep! After a run of three more spooky boxes, it was fun to get back to the usual Valley Falls murder cases, and this one definitely kept us on our toes!

High Points:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always comes up with interesting story lines to accompany their murder mysteries, and The Spider is no exception. The murderers of Valley Falls are no slouches when it comes to getting creative with their killings, and their methods and motives are always extremely interesting. From the enigmatic start to the incredibly dramatic epilogue, The Spider definitely brings some great twists and turns to the proceedings, jumping to places we definitely did not expect the story to go! For those who enjoy wordplay, the punning is strong with this box as well.

The box is, for the most part, pretty linear, though there are a few points at which there are a couple puzzles to work on simultaneously. For my wife and I, this certainly didn’t cause any issues, however, as all the puzzles were workable with two sleuths. Paring down our suspect pool using the clues and puzzles was clear and smooth, and the puzzles tied into the mystery convincingly, as everything was woven into the theme well. On part in particular was fantastic, and the method to move on was hidden right in plain sight, waiting for us to determine it’s significance and reveal an excellent new secret! The difficulty curve worked well, with things starting out with a few easy wins, and ramping up the challenge as we moved through the experience. The props were excellent, with one in particular that was a lot of fun to play around with, and we found the puzzles and code breaking to be varied and intuitive.

Low Points:

One puzzle had an error with the color, which caused some initial confusion, but was fairly easy to overcome, and was most likely an error on the printer’s side. For enthusiasts looking for a challenge, The Spider is probably the most straightforward of recent Deadbolt Mystery Society boxes, and while we enjoyed it, it was definitely a quicker solve for us. The characters were a little flat in this adventure, and while I enjoyed the mystery, the suspects weren’t as memorable as some previous cases.

Verdict:

The Spider is a great starter box for newcomers to The Deadbolt Mystery Society, as it is a fun, beginner friendly mystery with plenty of awesome puzzles, as well as a twisty story sure to keep players guessing! Deadbolt veterans will still enjoy the game, however, as though it is more straightforward, it is still and excellent time, and provides a fun challenge for the holidays! 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.

Gruzzle – The Island (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

Fun, sun, and cryptography!

Theme:

From the Gruzzle website:

What would you do if you found a hidden envelope created by a secret organization that hasn’t existed for 50 years? You’d open it of course.

Can you solve the codes, ciphers, and puzzles left behind by the Cryptographers Club?

Sign up with Gruzzle HQ and receive this mystery in your mailbox. Don’t delay — the treasure of a lifetime awaits!

First Impressions:

It is always exciting to see a brand new subscription doing so well with original puzzling and friendly, approachable themes! When the third Gruzzle arrived, we were absolutely excited to see how they’d take on the “secret society” theme, and they definitely didn’t disappoint!

High Points:

Gruzzle always does an excellent job packing their boxes full of novel puzzling, and The Island is no exception, from the start, we were wowed by the array of props and one of the early game interactions really impressed us with its creativity and smooth process of solving. It definitely remains one of my favorite subscription box puzzles recently, as the whole process of solving was intuitive and uniquely satisfying. Though we did feel a little bit of decoding burnout by the end, the many ciphers don’t just repeat the same method over and over, but rather introduce new and interesting mechanics to ensure that each cipher feels like a fresh solve. These ramped up in difficulty each time, which guaranteed that each one was a new challenge to overcome! The difficulty curve of the whole box remains just a smooth, and feels fair the whole way through. Every item within the box has a purpose, and some hide extra secrets that become important later, so it is always a good idea to hold on to everything, especially that which seems to have extra information included!

The story line and puzzles for The Island are similar to previous boxes in that the experience is very family friendly, and feels like an incredibly inclusive experience. I’ve said before that despite horror being my favorite theme for anything, it is refreshing to work on Gruzzles due to the lack of grisly murders or dark storylines. I really love this approach, and Gruzzle does an excellent job of ensuring that their puzzles are challenging but solvable by all experience levels, which is a difficult task! We have also really enjoyed how Gruzzle jumps between new themes between each new box, yet still retains a overall tone. I applaud Gruzzle for how fantastically designed each of their experiences have been, and highly anticipate each new game!

Low Points:

One solution in particular did not reveal itself at all for us, and only after getting confirmation from the designers did we understand the solve. We were able to get halfway there, but the other half was a little too well hidden, to where it wasn’t easily identifiable once we had solved the initial puzzle. There is a cipher wheel included, but our batch didn’t quite line up due to a printing error, but future boxes should be fine in this regard. The theme involves a secret society of cryptographers, so a lot of decoding is to be expected, but the decoding wasn’t quite as exciting to us as previous boxes. This box felt just a tad less layered than others, and while there are still multifunctional items, they didn’t quite have the amazing level of nesting we’d seen previously.

Verdict:

The Island is another great Gruzzle that is perfect for new and veteran puzzlers alike! Filled with curious ciphers and perplexing puzzles, I absolutely recommend this subscription for folks looking for a family friendly puzzling experience! You can sign up for your trip to The Island here! You can use the promo code FIRSTTIME to get $5 off your subscription!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Gruzzle provided a complementary box.

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.