The Conundrum Box – Welcome to Wilde World (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Big abandoned theme park? What could go wrong?

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

Its a great big beautiful tomorrow.

Explore a 1970s theme park stuck in suspended animation since its founder, William Wilde disappeared mysteriously. Delve into the secrets he left behind, but hurry because someone else is trying to discover the true magic behind Wilde’s legacy and use that power for themselves! This fun-filled adventure will have your team solving amusement park themed puzzles and games. Suitable for all ages, the difficulty is set for new to intermediate players.

First Impressions:

Welcome to Wilde World seemed to be a theme perfect for my wife, Kara. A whimsical theme park full of mystery and animated characters that paid homage to the House of Mouse is just her speed, and the densely packed purple box of puzzles is just mine, so things were already set for an excellent time!

High Points:

The first couple things I noticed about Welcome to Wilde World were two of my favorite things about at home puzzling subscription boxes. One was a Wilde World tote bag, a useful item we can use outside of the game, something that is always appreciated! The other was a 3D printed item for tactile puzzling that also doubled as a large fidget spinner. As we built this item, I was highly anticipating the puzzle to come, as I really love tactile puzzling like this. The theme of the box is ubiquitous throughout, and is visually very cool to pore over. I loved the colorful designs and shifting themes between each of the distinct areas of the theme park, all of which tie into the puzzles well to create a fully fleshed out experience. The Conundrum Box really gets a lot of mileage out of their main attractions, and this experience was no exception. I really love coming back to the big props and using them again, discovering clues and solutions that were hidden right in front of us, locked away until we had just the right information to reveal the satisfying ah ha moments! And there are quite a few of those within, as a few of our favorite puzzles took us by surprise with their well hidden moments of revelation.

The story is a lot of fun, presenting a linear run thorough Wilde World, popping nice homages for fans of a certain other huge theme park in here and there, and integrating some story bits into the puzzles to keep things moving along at a nice pace. One particular puzzle presents a silly narration that was not only a lot of fun to solve, but the jokes were pretty funny, and reminded me of one of my favorite Weird Al originals. I won’t name it for spoilers sake, but it was stuck in my head for a while after our solve. The narration for this puzzle was pretty long, which wasn’t an issue since we solved the puzzle while listening the first time, but there was also a transcript included, so we weren’t worried about having to listen to the whole thing again should we need to find a particular piece of information. There was also a bonus puzzle included within the box, which was a nice teaser for what’s to come!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle deals with colors, and a couple of the colors are off, and a few of them look similar to one another. The inexactness tripped us up a lot, especially since my wife is a little bit color blind. There was another puzzle that was a good idea in general, but the process took a while, so the puzzle itself wore out its welcome with us well before we had finished. There was also an addition into this puzzle that seemed important, but ended up being a red herring with no bearing on the solve. There is also a particular puzzle type included near the end that we tried several times, but the instructions were overly convoluted, so we ended up having to skip it as it just had way too much going on for a really long process puzzle. We recently played this style of puzzle, but simplified, and it remained just as challenging, but much more satisfying to solve since there were not as many moving parts to keep track of, so it would be awesome if future puzzles of this style were streamlined in the future.

Verdict:

Though there were a few stumbling blocks with Welcome to Wilde World, it was an overall satisfying solve. It was certainly a more challenging adventure, so enthusiasts who are looking a bit more difficult than the usual will find a lot to love within. The puzzles are still approachable, and have a few great surprises up their sleeves, however, so patient newcomers will also be able to have a good time with this one. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

The Conundrum Box – Sleight of Hand (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Nothing up my sleeves…

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

In the early 1920s there were a few major names in magic, Houdini, Kellar, Thurston, and Professor Conundrum. Tragically, the Professor perished during one of his most famous acts in 1922. Foreseeing his own demise, he left his widow with a set of instructions so that she may communicate with him in the spirit world a year after his passing. Now, Lady Conundrum is asking for your help to solve the Professor’s last great magical mystery so that she can once again speak with her departed love. Puzzle your way through a 1920s magician themed escape room in a box to unlock the final secrets of this master of sleight of hand!

First Impressions:

Magic based themes should be more ubiquitous, but it seems like it’s a fairly rare. I have enjoyed a few of these sorts of games before, so I was excited to see The Conundrum Box was developing their own take on the genre!

High Points:

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about The Conundrum Box is how they keep the immersion high by ensuring that the props they include integrate well within the theme and story of the box. The story follows an enigmatic magician’s death and the efforts of his wife to contact him through a seance, but first, you’ll have to unravel the enigmas the dearly departed left behind! (My wife has notified me that I am not allowed to do this should I precede her to the great beyond. You can imagine my great disappointment.) The fantastic optional Spotify soundtracks that are part of the extras also contribute greatly to helping players get into the world of their games, and Sleight of Hand contains their most brilliant curation yet. The game itself flows well, and directs players though a somewhat linear run of puzzles, but some sections present a handful of puzzles that all open a particular door, or tie into a meta puzzle in order to move things forward. I really enjoyed the set that contributed to the meta puzzle, and would love to see this basic design continued in future Conundrum Boxes!

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The puzzles seem to be even more layered than usual, and each new run of challenges hide some fantastic moments of revelation within. I particularly enjoyed the wide variety of puzzling that allowed both my wife and I to contribute when connections to be made or particular puzzle types appealed to our personal puzzling proficiencies and preferences. This box also allows for most of its challenges to be solved as a team, and there was never a moment where once of us was decoding and the other just had to wait around for the solve so that we could move forward. Puzzles and solutions are concretely identified, and the requirements for solving are made known during each step of the game, ensuring there is no vagary or unintentional red herrings to throw us off. This ensures a smoothness to the difficulty curve, and that the conundrums themselves are challenging without frustration.

Low Points:

There are a few points where you can skip over puzzles if you’re somewhat good at Wheel of Fortune. While this may not be a low point for some, I mention it because we were able to make progress without solving one puzzle at all. We still went back to solve it for the review, but some may be disappointed if a puzzle gets left out this way. One particular prop did not line up like it was supposed to while we were solving. We were able to make it work, but it was unnecessarily fiddly due to the size differences. I spoke with the designers however, and this should be a non-issue going forward with re-prints of this box.  A few puzzles we were able to solve without strictly using the path intended by the designers; a tighter method of ensuring these aren’t hackable would probably lead to more satisfying solving, as we short circuited a few of the ah ha moments by accident.

Verdict:

Sleight of Hand is a great new Conundrum Box, and the touches of magic and great puzzling help elevate the experience and ensure the box oozes with mystical personality! It’s a lot of fun to see what sort of different historically based themes The Conundrum Box is able to come up with while still adding in a great amount of variety to the subscription. It’s also fantastic to see the beginnings of a meta-story growing within recent boxes, and I’m interested to see where things go from here. I absolutely recommend checking this one out, and think it’s a great game for new players and veterans alike. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

The Conundrum Box – The Great Explorers Society and the Temple of the Sky Gods (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Ye gods!

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

You have been tasked to retrieve a coveted relic from the Olmec Temple of the Sky Gods before the Great Explorers Society does. Following the notes of Archaeologist Callie Cornerstone, you venture into the heart of Mesoamerican culture to find the famed Amulet of the Sky Gods. Avoid traps and watch who you trust, because time is of the essence!

First Impressions:

Time to meet up with The Great Explorer’s Society again! This time around we would be working against this venerable club of adventurers, which promised to be a cool experience. Further, this box gave off a great “Tomb Raider” vibe, and I couldn’t wait to see what puzzles and traps were in store for us as we delved the depths of the eponymous temple!

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High Points:

As I’m sure long term readers will be aware, The Conundrum Box does a great job telling stories, though at times, we’ve found those stories to be a bit… long-winded, shall we say. I still recommend using a screen reader for some segments, but Temple of the Sky Gods includes two versions of the story, a normal, longer version for those that don’t mind a good bit of reading to go with the game, and a shortened version, (hilariously and aptly called the “too long; didn’t read” version,) which I felt may have been partially tailored to us. This worked fantastically during our play through, and gave us just the right amount of story without becoming overlong, but not too little that we felt lost. The story is an interesting “other side” take on the Great Explorer’s Society, and it was fun to go on an adventure as a rogue treasure hunter rather than a “It belongs in a museum!” type this go round. The twists and turns the game takes along the way are unpredictable, keeping us on our toes the whole play time, as we were never quite able to guess what would happen next!

The game flow was excellent, weaving through a well structured puzzle path, and including some wonderful props to bolster the puzzle solving. I loved the tactile nature of several of the puzzles, including one that held quite a few more secrets than I was initially expecting! Many of the enigmas included provided some supremely satisfying moments of revelation, especially some of the devious challenges that awaited us near the end of our adventure. At no point did the game require leaps of logic or red herrings, and every step of the way felt intuitive. Though the gameplay is linear, there are either multiple steps or a couple puzzles to solve at every level, ensuring that all players will remain engaged. The box is also densely packed with loads of puzzling, as well as a few extra surprises, all of which are absolutely worth the price of admission. The Spotify tracklist included within the extras, as well as the recipes were a great addition, and one bonus recipe found within the box itself was delicious, and I highly recommend trying it out!

Low Points:

This box was great, though on the whole, it didn’t quite feel as involved as previous boxes, and the story, thus far, felt somewhat more disconnected from the other experiences. While this is to be expected for one offs, we’ve grown used to all the boxes weaving together, and perhaps the connections will become clear in future adventures. Though the puzzles weren’t quite as multilayered and intricate as other Conundrum Box games, we still enjoyed this somewhat more straightforward run of puzzles. While we did enjoy some of the wild roller coaster twists presented by the story, one of the final ones wasn’t quite explained in a satisfying way, leaving us to wonder exactly what it meant.

Verdict:

Temple of the Sky Gods is a beautifully constructed challenge, filled to the brim with exciting and satisfying puzzling, immersive extras, and an interesting story! I have loved seeing how The Conundrum Box has evolved with each new box, and can’t wait to see what they come up with next. It goes without saying, but I wholeheartedly recommend checking this one out. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

The Conundrum Box – Emerald Isle (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Theme:

From The Conundrum Box website:

The Great  Explorer Society’s resident Irish historian,  Dr. Ronan Gallagher has devoted the waning years of his life to the study of the fairy realm and the magical beings of Ireland.

His obsession came decades prior when his wife died of Influenza in the 1790s.  He heard the banshee’s call, and he dedicated his life to unlocking the mysteries of the unseen world, the realm of the fairies.  Ultimately, he believed that if he could capture a banshee, he would be able to reverse the death of his wife.  However, the banshee eluded him.  He became obsessed with Leprechauns, believing that they were the lowest level of fairy,  and therefore his gateway into the fairy realm.  He thought once there, he could finally capture a banshee and bring back his lost love. Nobody has seen Dr. Gallagher for months now, and you, the newest member of the Great Explorers Society, were sent on this meaningless errand… errr, special mission to find out where Dr. Gallagher is.  Most members of the GES believe that the old kook probably finally caught himself in one of his leprechaun traps and has met his end, others believe that he is held somewhere remote, and only steps away from finally achieving success.

Either way, he owes the society his dues, so go collect… errr, figure out what he is up to!   The last contact the society had with him was an empty dues collection envelope with a return address to his cottage in a remote village of Ireland.

First Impressions:

The Emerald Isle was definitely a hotly anticipated box for me, as I’m always interested in all things Celtic! Just off the heels of the fantastic Storyteller series, I could not wait to see what The Conundrum box had in store for us this time. This absolutely sounded like the most fantastic due collecting errand we’d ever been sent on!

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There is a lot to do before this guy is gonna cough up his dues money.

High Points:

I was certainly excited about the theme, and The Conundrum Box delivered on the Celtic vibe in spades. With their extras page for every box, there are a few recipes and historical notes, along with what have been some very excellently curated Spotify playlists to build upon the immersive experience of the adventure. The Emerald Isle’s playlist is one I’d be happy to listen to at any time, and I really appreciate the effort the designers put forth to ensure the game is just that much more special. The story itself was a lot of fun, and tracking down our missing comrade through the realms of the fae, (for his dues, of course,) was appropriately exciting. I really enjoyed the inclusion of one particular character, whose trickery and general begrudging helpfulness was enjoyable to engage with. I still recommend a page reader for some of the longer sections of narrative, but the story included within this chapter of The Great Explorer’s Society is wonderfully woven, and probably my favorite of the lot.

The game flow worked well, with a difficulty curve that started with a few easier wins to get the ball rolling, culminating in some deviously clever and challenging puzzles as we made our way towards the climax! Though mostly linear in nature, there were usually at least a couple puzzles revealed during each stage of the game, allowing us to divide and conquer as we solved, or take a break from a particularly difficult conundrum. For the most part, it was clear what bits went together, and many of the enigmas come together intuitively to provide some great moments of revelation. A puzzle similar to one I really enjoyed from The Storyteller makes another appearance, but iterates on the design, expanding how it is solved and creating a great challenge that was hugely satisfying to unlock the secrets of. I also thought that a puzzle we used to “make a new friend,” as it were, was brilliant, using colorful, multilayered clues to find our new pal.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle is clearly very clever after having solved it, but the cluing can sometimes feel almost too subtle due to the overload of information from the time the clue is found, to the point it needs to be engaged with. Since several props need to be used multiple times, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,) and there is a lot of information to go through, (especially as more envelopes are opened,) clues appearing somewhat nearer to their relevancy might prevent the flow from becoming mired. The late game was definitely bogged down through the need to review everything, breaking the flow, and though the revelation of what we needed to do was satisfying, it was a slog to get to that point. We found one other puzzle had a small typo, causing a letter to be off, but it was still easy to identify what the code was meant to say otherwise. Overall, this box was fun to quest through, but it was missing a little bit of magic that was what made The Storyteller such an immediately gripping box. This may be due to the amount of paper handouts that are included with Emerald Isle, which are quite as tactile as the many props The Storyteller provided.

Verdict:

In all, the Emerald Isle is a good time, with a dense assortment of challenging, yet approachable puzzles, ensuring that Conundrum veterans and new players alike will be able to enjoy the fantastic story within. While the game flow tends to flag a little at the end, on the whole, I absolutely recommend checking this game out, as the clever puzzling and great storytelling are one hundred percent worth the price of admission! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

At Home Games I’ve Loved Before – Recommendations for Sheltering in Place

Hi All!

In place of another review, I wanted to share some of my favorite at home experiences, and make a few recommendations should you be looking for something to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I’m missing my escape room fix, but these are some great substitutes until we can get back in the swing of things! I’m starting with some of the best subscription boxes we’ve played, and intend to deliver some recommendations regarding other at home experiences in the coming days.

Subscription Boxes:

Our favorite Subscription boxes for a rainy day, (or sunny day, or any day really,) are The Deadbolt Mystery Society, Sleuth Kings, and The Conundrum Box. I’ve linked below a few reviews for their best games.

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Deadbolt:

Always great for a excitingly themed whodunnit (or who has done this, if you prefer,) Deadbolt has put out some amazing mysteries. My favorite adventures so far have blended some incredible puzzling with entertaining deductions, injecting exciting narrative twists as we eliminate suspects and expose the killer.

The Cabin – The OG 10/10 Halloween slasher box. If it’s available, you need to play it.

Infected – This is another 10/10 that I felt really elevated the whole subscription. The closest thing to an escape room I’ve played at home, this game was an absolute joy to work through.

The Dark and Stormy Night – My current reigning favorite, and a delight for any Agatha Christie fan. I cannot recommend this mystery enough.

Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society or pick up standalone adventures 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!

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Sleuth Kings:

Ever wanted to be a private detective, but just didn’t know where to start? Join Sullivan King as you assist him in solving the various and sundry exciting cases that come across his desk every month! Specializing in code-breaking, an overall light hearted tone, and great world building, we always look forward to seeing a new Sleuth Kings box hit our doorstep.

The Haunting – Sullivan’s newest client has bought a new home, but unfortunately, it may be haunted! Help solve the mystery of what’s going bump in the night, and try not to become a ghost yourself!

Blood P.I. – She plays a vampire detective on TV, and she’s your newest client. She’s also got a stalker who has bought into the whole vampire shtick a little to much. Slick and highly creative, this remains one of my favorite of the many quirky cases Sleuth Kings has to offer.

Sparky – If “Psychotic Killer in a Mascot Suit” isn’t an immediately engaging theme for you, we can’t be friends. This review, written by my lovely wife and escape partner in crime sums up this madcap experience beautifully.

You can purchase these and many 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!

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The Conundrum Box:

One of the newest subscription boxes we’ve had the pleasure of trying out, their most recent run of games has been fantastic! Delivering not only an Agatha Christie themed mystery, but a 1001 Arabian Nights tale, they’ve been on a roll with great puzzles and wonderful storytelling. I cannot wait for their newest box, The Emerald Isle, to hit or doorstep!

The Great Explorer’s Society and The Orient Express – Being someone who loves a good Agatha Christie novel, this box was an instant favorite for me! Full of fun twists and an exciting climax, this lead in to The Storyteller series really kicked it up a notch for The Conundrum Box as a whole.

The Storyteller Part 1 – Aladdin’s Lamp – After having my heart broken by Unlock’s terrible adaptation of the tales of Scheherazade, The Conundrum Box came to the rescue with this, the first of an amazing two part adventure! Containing some of their most clever puzzling to date, this remains my favorite box of theirs.

The Storyteller Part 2 – Scheherazade –  A worthy follow up to Aladdin’s Lamp, the second half of the Storyteller… er… story, contains another set of great puzzles, some twisty narrative, and great easter eggs and revelations for long time players!

You can subscribe to The Conundrum Box as well as order previous boxes here! Use our Promo Code ERA5OFF to recieve $5 off your first box!