The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Collector (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Hello detective. I want to play a game.

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

When someone doesn’t pay their mini storage bill, the unit is eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder. Retired detective Arthur Dukes just purchased one of these mini storage units in hopes of reselling the contents for a profit. Art was hoping for a big score, but was disappointed to find that he’d won a virtually empty storage unit aside from a single box. However, after opening the box and seeing some of the contents his heart began to race and his palms became sweaty. Instantly, memories from his career with the Valley Falls Police Department flashed before his eyes and he was taken back to the times of tracking down some of the city’s most notorious serial killers. It now appears that a new evil has awoken in Valley Falls.

First Impressions:

After the announcement of The Collector as November’s Deadbolt Mystery Society box on their facebook page, I was filled with anticipation for this particular mystery! Though I’m personally a bigger fan of the supernatural enigmas Deadbolt has produced, this particular serial killer seemed to be a cut above the others that we’ve chased down. This one was actively taunting whoever found their secret hideaway, and the almost Holmes vs. Moriarty set up was super intriguing. When this box arrived, we couldn’t wait to begin hunting down this deranged killer!

High Points:

The search for The Collector’s latest victims starts off with a bang, and the adrenaline of solving is maintained throughout the adventure. I really love the set up, the desperate chase, and the astounding climax, which really does deliver some great story points and implications for further confrontations with the seedy underworld of Valley Falls. Each solved puzzle presents marked progress, and allows for more story to be uncovered, ensuring the mystery remains satisfying from start to finish. The Collector themselves is a tricky adversary, and their machinations and taunting reminds me of the great Holmesian villain Moriarty in more ways than one. As their motives and methods are further expounded on, the entire ordeal becomes ever more sinister, lending an impetus to work quickly, before they can strike again. The Collector definitely presents it’s enigmas as a clash of minds, and is all the more immersive for it!

Beyond the fantastically enjoyable story and devious villain, the puzzles included with the box are gloriously dense, layered, and clever. We really loved working through this one, and as we moved from point to point, the connections, while subtle, fell into place intuitively. Once we had put together the pieces of The Collector’s clues and plans, the game flow rolled along at a smooth pace. Per usual, the set up is very non-linear, allowing for players to approach the investigation in whatever way they see fit, and when one puzzle becomes too confounding, there’s always something else to work on until the light bulb goes off. And when it does, it is always enormously satisfying. The clues and props are presented wonderfully, and everything fits within the theme. While there are many QR codes to work through, none feel extraneous, and those that require passwords and those that do not are well presented in a superbly natural way. One of my favorite things about this box is it’s ability to present players with clues that are hidden right out in the open, waiting for detectives to finally make the connection and receive their reward for solving!

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The search for The Collector is on! And it begins… with a cute cat wearing sunglasses!

Low Points:

While not necessarily a hard and fast low point, it should be noted that some of the clues here even more subtle than usual, which could trip up folks less well versed in picking up said clues. We tended not to have this problem, save for one particular clue that completely flew over our heads (combined with a solve that we didn’t use for a good while, totally our fault for being so shamelessly disorganized,) so those who are easily frustrated might want to try a different box before tackling this one, which can be somewhat more challenging due to this particular facet of the investigation. One small bit of advice for potential detectives, don’t overthink, a lot of issues can easily be solved that way.

Verdict:

The Collector is another astoundingly good mystery from The Deadbolt Mystery Society! The implications of the story and the possibility for further exploration into the underworld that is presented by this box have me absolutely ready for the next stage of this investigation! I absolutely recommend checking this one out, especially to those who enjoy true crime and all the mad thrills that come with such a who done it! 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Last Laugh (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

We all float down here.

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Fall is here, and The Wandering Monster Parade has come to town, bringing its variety show of teeth and claws to the town of Valley Falls. At about the same time, a strange clown has been showing up around town in various unusual places. Most people assume that the clown is a promotional tool used to help spread the word about the Monster Parade, and buzz for the event is high. That all changes when Savannah Pierce, reigning homecoming queen for the Valley Falls Druids, is found dead with smudges of greasepaint on her neck and cheeks. After repeated questioning, officials from the Monster Parade deny any knowledge of the clown and claim he isn’t part of their organization. The Pierces, one of Valley Falls’ wealthies families, has hired you and the other members of The Will Street Detective Agency to locate the mysterious clown, uncover his identity, and find out what really happened to their daughter. Will you be able to solve the mystery of Savannah Pierce’s murder before The Wandering Monster Parade leaves town…or will the fiend responsible get The Last Laugh?

First Impressions:

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and my favorite season for subscription boxes, because almost all take on a spooky vibe, embracing the supernatural and macabre! Last year’s Halloween box from Deadbolt, The Cabin, remains one of my favorite experiences overall, so I couldn’t wait to see what was in store this year!

High Points:

The best part about The Last Laugh is how the game flow works. For this box, we worked through the evidence methodically, and as we moved through all the information, everything started to fall into place by the end. Most of the connections were intuitive enough, that once we completed our review of the facts, puzzles rolled into solutions, which rolled into other puzzles, which rolled into further solutions until the suspect revealed themselves. This triggered a cascade of satisfaction as the solves intuitively built one upon the other, progressing the story nicely, and culminating in a fascinating, and bold climax! The storyline builds the creepy vibe, and reintroduces S.T.A.L.K. to add some excellent supernatural flavor to the experience. The story also leaves the door open for more spookiness in the future due to the implications of the ending, which I’m absolutely looking forward to. The characters, especially the deranged members of the Wandering Monster Parade, are excellently fleshed out, and their quirks and proclivities really add dimension to the story that kept us immersed in the mystery.

The Last Laugh is the first Deadbolt Mystery Society box to come in the new, smaller sized boxes. Over half the size of the old box but just as sturdy, there is just as many, if not more puzzles packed into the mystery! In fact, there are loads of fun pieces of in theme swag as well, which is a fun inclusion. The new size allows for better protection from the elements, as it will fit into most mailboxes, and reduces the space requirement for those of us who like to save each box. The puzzles themselves are great mixes of code breaking, connection making, and investigatory conundrums. Some are classic codes, but none feel repetitive, as all have been given a new twist in order to keep things fresh.

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Smaller box, but just as many, if not more, puzzles!

Low Points:

Two points stuck out as confusing for us, one was worded in such a way that it seemed to imply there would be a specific exclusion that never really materialized, and the other was a clue that seemed to exonerate a particular suspect that, on reflection, was meant to point elsewhere, but the connection between those two points was somewhat loose as they could’ve been easily interpreted in other ways. One of the QR codes was somewhat more vitally important to check out earlier in the case, but since they usually are password protected, we did not check them all until we had a solution that seemed to match. That’s partially on us, but it might help to have some way to differentiate password protected QR codes from those that link to evidence.

Verdict:

The Last Laugh delivers a freakily twisted mystery that delivers a great Halloween experience, some great puzzling, and a story that’s truly to die for. Delivering a great challenge that remains approachable for new detectives, I absolutely recommend checking this one out! 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Traitor (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

What do you do with a murdered pirate, early in the morning?

Theme:

The “Voyage on the Black Dagger” was meant to be a luxury cruise with a twist. All the passengers would be dressed as pirates, and a puzzle filled scavenger hunt would be hosted, boasting a $25,000 prize to the winner! As with most high stakes games however, conspiracies arise, and those hatched aboard the Black Dagger have resulted in murder! You’ll need to sift through the evidence, as well as the cruise ship’s ill fated scavenger hunt, and determine what went wrong before the case gets washed out to sea!

First Impressions:

Pirates are somewhat of a weakness of mine. Though a common escape room trope that is sometimes looked down upon by many, I nevertheless tend to get excited for swashbuckling experiences. Traitor promised to be an exciting twist on the pirate theme, by inserting the impetus for the piratical theme into a game within the game, and pitting us against our toughest opponent yet, university professors dressed as pirates!

High Points:

Traitor’s story definitely pays off well, delivering a great twist on the pirate genre while still delivering further excellent story twists consistently throughout the experience. Highly original themes are one thing, but without puzzles, they won’t hold up. Luckily, Traitor is densely packed with some great puzzling threads, and some of the most challenging deductions to date for a Deadbolt mystery. All of these deductions are well integrated into the game, and add a new element to the sleuthing. Witnesses are appropriately cryptic, setting up some fantastically devious cyphers that seem incredibly cryptic initially, but with a bit of out of the box thinking, resolve into enormously satisfying moments of revelation. There are several tactile and creative puzzles that have been included which add an excellent perspective element to the game. Several times, we would be mulling over a specific item, when it would suddenly click with another once we hit upon the visual clues within each piece of evidence. The puzzle threads are cleverly integrated into the story as well, delineating specific levels of the game, ensuring players are given intuitive hints as to what needs to be worked on at any given time without explicitly saying so. The on board scavenger hunt is well done, and it’s inclusion as part of the mystery creates a memorable run of puzzles that evoke the feeling of a mini escape room. One particular puzzle we solved in the early stages of the game got us better acquainted with the suspects and their personalities by giving us a tactile task that correlated with the suspect cards, and set up further clues for the remainder of the game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society recently announced that in order to ensure their products are better protected from the elements, they would be paring down the dimensions of the boxes in order to fit within mailboxes. As such, the physical items within this game have been reduced in size, I assume, to test how the game would work within a smaller delivery system. In fact, I think it works better, packing just as much puzzling and mystery into reduced props, making much more room on our table to survey every clue included, and preventing larger pages from obscuring smaller items at inopportune times. I’m also looking forward to the smaller boxes, since they’ll definitely be easier to store.

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A mystery big enough for the High Seas!

Low Points:

A late game puzzle was worded in a way that caused it to become an unintentional red herring for us. It seemed to set up a second layer of puzzle to round out the box, but it was looking for something far more specific and less broad than we inferred. The suspect elimination was more challenging for this mystery, but there is one clue that allowed us a bit of a shortcut to our accusation. This came late in the game however, so it only allowed a small jump for us. I believe this clue is meant to confirm the accusation, but it is possible to reach this point without having properly combed through all the eliminations just yet, so it can circumvent some investigation.

Verdict:

Traitor is a great new adventure from The Deadbolt Mystery Society, including a phenomenal game flow wrapped within a hugely original theme and storyline. The intuitive nature of this game ensures it remains approachable for newer players, but there’s still plenty of challenge for Deadbolt veterans! I recommend picking it up as a one time box purchase if you get the chance. As always, I definitely recommend subscribing for future boxes as well, especially since October’s creepy clown box, The Last Laugh, is coming up! 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Body Farm (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

What Lies Beneath

Theme:

The Body Farm is the spookiest urban legend in Valley Falls, telling the tale of The Gravedigger, presumed to be Jackson Montgomery, who snapped one day and buried his entire family alive, then vanished into the ether. Some folks say he still haunts the woods near his family farm, The Hall, waiting for new victims foolish enough to wander too close to the area. All this mystery is ripe for the members of S.T.A.L.K., a local group of paranormal investigators and the local Museum Nocturnus, who’ve decided to investigate the farm for their new exhibit. The entire staff of the Museum have suddenly gone missing, so it is up to you and S.T.A.L.K. to figure out what happened, and determine if The Gravedigger has truly resurfaced after ninety years!

First Impressions:

I always enjoy the Deadbolt mysteries that involve Valley Fall’s premier ghost hunting team, S.T.A.L.K., and this time instead of working with the Will Street Detective Agency, we were pleased to find we would be working directly with S.T.A.L.K.! Supernatural mysteries are always a personal favorite, so The Body Farm promised to be right up my alley, theme-wise!

High Points:

My favorite thing about The Body Farm is the presentation of the mystery as something that is happening around you as you solve. Much like The Cabin, The Seaside Strangler, and Infected, this adventure takes place right in the middle of the mystery, instead of during the aftermath, which ratchets up the excitement of the solve and ups the stakes greatly. There is a definite sense of urgency to this particular mystery, as players eliminate suspects in a way that is certainly unexpected. With two separate mysteries to solve, one a cold case from 1930 and one rapidly evolving around you, there is certainly quite a bit to uncover. The presentation and game flow of this adventure is completely open ended, and encourages players to delve into every bit of evidence, providing moments of revelation naturally as puzzles organically appear throughout the investigation. This is definitely one of Deadbolt’s most smoothly flowing mysteries, but it isn’t without a great challenge. Making connections comes intuitively, but sleuths will have to ensure they pay extra attention to each clue if they are to be successful. Deviously clever clues and wording are important, and it is completely satisfying when each conundrum is solved.

The story of The Body Farm is particularly fantastic. An urban legend that feels like it comes from the much beloved book series of my childhood, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Gravedigger and his method of dispatching his victims hovers as a specter over this mystery and the town of Valley Falls. It is a great bit of world building for the Deadbolt Mystery Society’s overall universe, and I’d love to find out more about the area’s folklore. I’d also like to find out more about the Museum Nocturnus, which seems to be filled with artifacts not unlike those found by Ed and Lorraine Warren. This box was highly immersive, and kept me guessing and hungry to know more even after it’s exciting conclusion!

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Enter the Body Farm, and hope you stay above the ground during your stay!

Low Points:

While the method of eliminating suspects was an excellent deviation from the usual formula, we didn’t get the chance to connect with their personalities like we do in other Deadbolt boxes. We also would’ve loved to find out more about our compatriots in S.T.A.L.K. who seem to remain in the background of the mystery.

Verdict:

The Body Farm is another immersive entry into The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s case files. Delivering excellent pacing, a spooky story, and a lot of great puzzles to solve, I absolutely recommend checking it out. With a focus on intuitive and organic enigmas, this is a great jumping off point for beginners, but delivers a fair challenge for long time members of the Society. If you’re not a subscriber already, you should be! 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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Backstage Pass (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I wanna rock and roll all night, and escape every day!

Theme:

The band Voodoo Mary has come to Valley Falls to finish off their Pins and Needles Tour, but unfortunately, the town residents won’t be able to enjoy it for very long, as just before the show was set to start, the band’s manager was found murdered! Luckily, the Will Street Detective Agency is on the case

First Impressions:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society has been on a roll lately, with their really incredible Infected and Sanitarium boxes truly wowing us for the last couple months. With another spectacularly original theme, Backstage Pass was certain to deliver another great mystery to solve.

High Points:

Deadbolt does a really great job with their customer service. Many of the boxes were arriving a bit later than usual, and true to form, they made sure to let all of their subscribers know what was going on immediately through email, facebook, and other outlets. They really went above and beyond to let us know they were working on making sure everyone’s boxes made it to their intended destinations, and kept everyone in the loop throughout the process. Once our box landed on our doorstep, we were excited to tear into it to see what was behind the snazzy design. This box is really quite dense, filled with many well produced clues and puzzles. The suspect list has been beefed up a bit, ensuring there’d be extra interactions to eliminate the innocent, and the cards arrived in a separate bag within the box, ensuring they remained pristine, and that they were easily identified, which was an excellent touch.

The experience remains non-linear, per usual, allowing for a free form puzzling adventure, and it was really enjoyable to soak this particular mystery in. Many of the interactions we engaged in during this box relied on some detail oriented sleuthing, and it helped to just take everything in at the start, and begin making connections. Though most of Deadbolt’s mysteries are set up this way, everything seemed to click even more satisfyingly than usual for this box. Clues we would come across would connect to even the most innocuous seeming item, busting open some really great moments of revelation, and propelling us forward through the story. Some mystery box standbys are used during this mystery, but they are twisted in such a way that they aren’t always as obvious as one might expect, keeping veteran detectives on their toes while still presenting an approachable challenge to newer players. Not all puzzles feel familiar however, as there are certainly more than enough clever hidden messages and codes to ensure that you never quite know what’s coming next!

Speaking of not knowing what’s coming next, story remains a strong suit of Deadbolt’s experiences, and this one is really quite twisty! There are a couple mysteries within the mysteries that help solve the overarching murder, but there are many threads that needed to be tied up before we could definitively conclude this case. The story feels personal to the characters, especially some of the more enigmatic suspects, and this line up really feels like a family, albeit a very dysfunctional one. It’s one of those stories where even though it has reached a satisfying conclusion. I’d love to see what happens next for this crew.

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There’s a lot that’s been left behind at the ill fated show!

Low Points:

One particular code is easy to derive, but the connection between it and the solution it goes to was a little more tenuous. We arrived there by trying it on the items we hadn’t used yet, rather than deducing where it goes using the clues that provided the solution. Looking back, I can sort of see how one could get there, but without already knowing the answer it’s a bit of a leap. One particular item, coupled with a clue we were given, became a sort of red herring for us. I believe it’s unintentional, but a few other folks I know who subscribe also fell down a bit of a rabbit hole until they were able to come to the real reason the item we’d puzzled over was included. One color dependent puzzle gave us some real trouble until we used a flashlight to really up the lighting, as in normal light conditions, some of the colors looked mostly similar.

Verdict:

Backstage Pass is an excellent box that provided a lot of clever twists and turns, as well as some highly satisfying puzzling. Set against the backdrop of a dysfunctional group of band members, Deadbolt remains one of the most originally themed subscription boxes from month to month. (And next month’s box, Body Farm, looks to continue this trend!) I can easily recommend giving this one a go for new and experienced players alike, as the game itself is very dense, and the difficulty is just right, overall. If you’re not a subscriber already, you should be! 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.