Webscapade – Season 0: Welcome to Argenia! (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $25 per team

Theme:

From Webscapade website:

You receive a strange letter from your Uncle Rory asking for your help. But what starts out as a simple task for a quick payday suddenly turns into a mission filled with danger and intrigue. Can you foil the plot and save the day before it’s too late? Will you be the hero that Argenia longs for? Can this be yet another rhetorical question?

IMage

High Points:

I had a LOT of fun with this game. It felt very much like an escape room, but within the constraints of an online, self led experience. It required having a lot of tabs up, but they were set up similarly to an Unlock! game, so it wasn’t much of an issue, and the game specifically denotes when a tab can be removed, ensuring that you’re never overloaded with useless information. There was a beautiful variety of puzzles, and I really enjoyed how well designed the game flow and individual interactions were. I also thought how Webscapade approached searching the rooms was well done, even though it is a smaller part of the experience. Each stage of the game is a big puzzle, with various pieces sprinkled about, and I absolutely adored how so many clues led to fantastic ah ha moments! This was an involved, multi-level challenge, excellent for a intermediate or expert solver, but hints were always available, so new players will also have a great time working through the mysteries of Argenia. I solved this one solo, and it was a great time, but Webscapade includes ways for multiple players to tackle this one together, and they all seem to work reasonably well. As a heads up, my particular style of solving required me to copy, paste, and print a few things, which isn’t necessary for some, but definitely was in my case.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle required an answer to be highly specific, and even though other answers were still correct, they did not work. This led to a few “wrong” answers and frustrations that slowed the game down to a halt. Luckily, the creator was very open to changing the entry to allow for variations of the correct answer. Another puzzle involved some symbols, and a couple were very similar when implemented the way the game required, making it a little more difficult to ascertain what was happening.

Verdict:

Webscapade’s initial entry into their intended series of Argenian adventures is amazing, and their interesting methods of cluing, as well as an exciting story and intriguing scoring system make for a brilliant time! I highly recommend giving this one a shot asap. Plan your trip to Argenia here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Webscapade provided a complementary play.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Conspiracy (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Theme:

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!

Verdict:

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

Theme:

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.

Verdict:

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.

Lockstar Escape – The Inncreeper (Review)

Location: Bluffton, SC

Players: 3-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $27 per person, 3 person minimum

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

What a Psycho!

Theme:

From the Lockstar Escape website:

You’ve checked into the Miss Fortune Motel, and found yourself trapped in your room. You soon discover you aren’t the first guest held captive by the creepy innkeeper. Can you escape before you suffer the same fate?

*WARNING* Although the game is “creepy” rather than actually scary, The Inncreeper is a horror themed game which contains elements of and/or references to the following: stalking, murder, dismemberment, torture, mysticism (tarot cards, Ouija board, palm reading), and a balloon. Upon request, the balloon can be removed. 😉

High Points:

Usually when visiting an escape room in a smaller town, we don’t expect blow you away set design, but The Increeper was beautifully appointed, immersing us within the motel immediately! The usual cameras in the room were not as obvious as others, and allowed the room to feel more authentic, as well as tie into the theme of “creepy innkeeper torments guests.” Each stage of the room was convincing, and the puzzles integrated into the theme excellently. In fact, there were a few surprising moments included that we absolutely did not see coming, which is always a fantastic treat! The sound and tech design included within one moment was natural, and lent a creepy vibe to the rest of the room. (And, amazingly, the bed was really comfortable to puzzle upon.) A specific atmospheric touch that we have seen a few times before was included in the best way we’ve ever seen, and provided a neat memento of our experience. The story line was great, and we loved how it included specific nods to another well known motel, and required players to uncover the mystery themselves. The puzzles were fantastic, and while the room does have some tech, it is a mostly mechanical style room, with tactile interactions that rely on player interaction rather than electronics. Searching and more basic puzzle styles are included as well, but aren’t banal, and are generally more loaded toward the initial stages of the game for some easy wins that get momentum going. One particular favorite puzzle involved an ah ha moment that went off when attempting to figure out what a specific item was used for. I really love how this room signposts players in such intuitive ways without being too obvious or overly obtuse. It is difficult to find that balance, and The Inncreeper does an excellent job! While the puzzles trend toward the easier side, they aren’t too simple, and still present a challenge that will appeal to players new and old!

Low Points:

There are some remnants of old or tweaked puzzles that we wished were still in place because the puzzles they hinted at seemed like they’d be an awesome fit for the room. One in particular, however, did create an unintended red herring for our group. There was also one instance of a repeated puzzle. These are otherwise pretty small negatives however.

Verdict:

Overall, The Inncreeper does an amazing job creating a spooky, if not overtly horrific, vibe. The marriage of the theme, puzzles, and story is well implemented, and we had a brilliant time from start to finish. The room flows beautifully, and presents an approachable, intuitive, and wholly fun experience we absolutely loved! I highly recommend checking Lockstar Escape out if you’re in the area, they are truly a gem! Book your time in the Miss Fortune Motel here!

9/10 (Excellent)

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

Theme:

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!

the-musician.jpg

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.

Verdict:

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.