The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Beneath the Surface (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 dog wanders up to the front steps of The Will Street Detective Agency. A note has been tucked into his collar. The note is written by a woman named Mary who has been kidnapped and is being held somewhere in town by a maniac who has already killed several other women. Mary has somehow managed to use the dog to carry her request for help, and now it is up to you to find her before it’s too late. Retrace the dog’s steps, use clues that the dog may have picked up unknowingly, and find the house where Mary is being kept. But beware! There is more to this case than meets the eye. See if you can find what lurks…Beneath the Surface!

High Points:

After a couple of fantastic deviations from the norm with The Watcher and The Inheritance, The Deadbolt Mystery Society returns to their favorite crime with Beneath the Surface! A killer is on the loose, and without us, Valley Falls doesn’t stand a chance… It’s good to be back! Deadbolt has really hit a stride recently that we’ve loved, coupling their old style, non-linear game play with their newer, envelope based approach that breaks the game into different stages. It has been working brilliantly for them lately, and this entry is no different in that regard! The story is fantastic, and develops as you go, allowing players to feel as though they are moving through the story in real time. This, along with some great twists and turns as new revelations are uncovered gives the game an exciting “on the clock” feel, as well as an awesome unpredictability. The whole chase for this serial killer has a beautifully creepy (without being scary,) vibe to it, and I absolutely loved the rogue’s gallery Deadbolt had in store for us this time! The puzzling itself is really original, with loads of interactions we aren’t used to seeing, which is always awesome to see from an established subscription. Even puzzle types that are a little more basic or ubiquitous to the genre are tweaked excellently to keep them interesting! Each stage of the game is non-linear, and presents a progressively more challenging slate of enigmas. The mystery starts off with a few easy wins to get players going, and ramps it up nicely as the search for Mary heats up! This is definitely one of the smoothest difficulty curves we’ve seen recently, and that, coupled with how perfectly packed with different puzzles this box is ensured that we were entertained for a good two hours!

Low Points:

One puzzle was used twice, which we weren’t used to with most puzzle subscriptions, but after a little backtracking, we were able to figure out what had been missed. Lately I have also heard from several veteran puzzlers that they aren’t fans of interactions that require cutting out, and if that’s you, this box might present some difficulty in that regard. For us, though, these were pretty small critiques for an otherwise amazing entry!

Verdict:

Beneath the Surface was brilliant! A challenging box for veteran solvers, yet still approachable enough that new players will be able to get the hang of things quickly, this entry marries a creepy, well written story with dense puzzling to create a mystery you’ll be dying to solve! I highly recommend this game, and as always, cannot recommend Deadbolt enough. 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 Inheritance (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Ah, nothing like a family get together!

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The McClains are one of the oldest and richest families in Valley Falls. So when the current patriarch of the family, Edison McClain, asks for your help and is willing to make it worth your time, how can you say no? Edison was planning on naming his heir and the next head of the family. So he called together all of the McClains and proposed a game as a last test to see the worthiness of those he deemed had potential. But someone in the family had other ideas. During the family get-together, the McClain’s oldest and most prized possession, a medallion bearing the household’s coat of arms, was stolen. This 500-year-old family heirloom is believed by the family to be the reason for their wealth and success throughout the years. Without the medallion Edison can’t name his heir, and he fears the family will fall into ruin. Will you be able to find the thief and the medallion? Can you recover The Inheritance?

First Impressions:

What stuck out when we first heard about the The Inheritance was that it involved no murders, at least up front! An interesting evolution for the Will Street Detective Agency, we’d be investigating a theft, and not just any theft, one that involves a possibly magic medallion! We absolutely couldn’t pass that up, and got ourselves to the McClain mansion as soon as we could!

High Points:

Deadbolt was definitely trying out something new with their first non-murder mystery, and I can safely say that they knocked it out of the park with The Inheritance! (I’m sure the residents of Valley Falls appreciate the month long reprieve as well.) The box is incredibly dense, filled with loads of fantastic puzzling, and layered interactions that make it a meaty experience. There is a little less linearity than some recent boxes, allowing a little more wiggle room to the investigation, which we really loved, but there was just enough gatekeeping to ensure that a excellent story could still be told. The characters are interesting, and we had a great time determining their places in the family, while eliminating them from suspicion one by one. A feature we adored from Framed is back, allowing us to explore the McClains’ palatial estate, or at least a part of it, and one of the interactions here was really unexpected! One of the best logic puzzles I’ve ever seen implemented within a mystery box starts the game off with a bang, and every step of the way from there on builds on the adventure fantastically!

A few of the puzzles are really tactile, and I always love it when boxes reach beyond the usual puzzles to deliver something more hands on. There is still some great code breaking included as well, and it is done in clever new ways to ensure we aren’t cracking yet another Caesar cipher. Nothing inside the box was extraneous, and it all built towards furthering the story in new and unexpected ways. Speaking of, the climax of the box was not only a great twist, but I love how everything played out by the time the mystery was done! Cluing throughout the box was brilliantly woven into the theme, and the deductive clues were all intuitive without being too obvious. The Inheritance is easily one of my Top 5 favorite Deadbolt boxes so far, and if the rest of Deadbolt’s 2021 slate is this good, we are in for a great year!

Low Points:

Nothing stood out to me as a low point for this box, the dense puzzling and smooth game flow just worked beautifully for us!

Verdict:

Deadbolt does an amazing job of trying new and interesting mechanics and themes with their boxes, and The Inheritance is one of their most finely crafted experiences yet! I highly recommend getting your hands on one as soon as you can, and subscribing today! 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Old and Hidden Secret (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Can you keep a secret?

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Ambrosia Hotel is a Valley Falls historical landmark and the scene of an unsolved murder from the 1930’s. Local millionaire Harlan McAllister has purchased the hotel and spent the past 6 months restoring it. A week before the Grand Reopening he has invited a series of well-known Valley Falls personalities who all have historical ties to the hotel including famed mystery author Rosemary Clark (last seen in The Dark and Stormy Night). The night’s events are proceeding as planned until one of the guests, Sinclair LeCompt, doesn’t show up for dinner. After checking his room, they find that LeCompt’s door is chained from the inside. Once the chain is cut and access to the room is gained, LeCompt’s body is found. He has been stabbed through the heart. But how is such a thing possible? The only one of the guests with an airtight alibi is Rosemary Clark. After the Will Street Detective Agency is brought in to help with the case, they enlist her assistance with this locked-room mystery. Can you help Rosemary Clark and The Will Street Detective Agency solve the mystery of The Old and Hidden Secret?

First Impressions:

The Old and Hidden Secret is a sequel of sorts to The Dark and Stormy Night, my current reigning favorite Deadbolt mystery! The return of Rosemary Clark and the complex mysteries that always follow her is a welcome surprise, and we couldn’t wait to delve into this locked door murder!

High Points:

A new inclusion for this box was a card that promised a soundtrack to accompany the game! While the soundtrack was much shorter than the experience, we appreciated the addition, and thought it set the tone well. I also loved how narratively based this mystery was, and how after solving each portion of the game, we were presented with new revelations that not only enlightened us regarding the modern day murder, but the shady dealings of our cast of suspects, as well as the hotel’s torrid past. Rosemary’s commentary and… interesting cosplay decision add to the fun as well, and we were always happy to receive some wisdom from the famed mystery writer!

We really loved how tactile many of the puzzles were, with bits and bobs that helped us visualize the puzzles. A favorite was much like chess, and required a bit of logical thinking to get us to where we needed to be. The great part was that with this puzzle, there were a few paths to take, and we could tackle them in a lot of different ways. We ultimately organized them by levels of complexity, and went from there, which provided a very satisfying solve, and helped us develop more advanced plans as we went. A few of the puzzles are very meaty, with multiple layers to complete before they are completely solved, which is always a lot of fun. Another favorite puzzle is an early stage one that reminded us of Clue, and heightened the level of intrigue quite a bit! This one also had implications for the rest of the story, adding to the narrative as well as the puzzling experience. Overall, The Old and Hidden Secret provided a moderate challenge that included intuitive solves, a great theme, and creative puzzling throughout!

Low Points:

There was a slight typo that had us wondering if we were missing an item from our box, but a quick check of the inventory page helped ease our worries. This box felt somewhat less dense than other mysteries, with a more linear presentation and therefore fewer items to compare and connect. I sometimes miss the chaotic brilliance of previous mysteries, where we’d sort through loads of evidence and make the connections as we went. While this set up is still enjoyable, and somewhat cleaner, I have really enjoyed those games that hearken back to those days. One particular prop was cool, but the prop itself felt a little dirty, with a lot of dust that was included within it.

Verdict:

The Old and Hidden Secret is a welcome return to the mystery stylings of Rosemary Clark, as well as an introduction to a brand new Valley Falls locale that truly fits into this enigmatic town! We had an awesome time putting together the solution, and absolutely recommend this game to new players and veterans alike! 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 (Excellent)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Death at the Lamplight Theatre (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Lights Out

Theme:

From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The air has a chilly nip to it. Snow is falling lightly. The holidays are almost here. The Lamplight Theatre is in the middle of a run of performances of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Reviews have been good, and ticket sales have been even better. Yet, things in Valley Falls never stay happy and festive for very long. When Victor Day, the lead actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the performance, is found dead, the show’s future is called into question. Evidence points to one of the members of the cast and crew being responsible. Can you solve the case of “Death at The Lamplight Theatre?”

First Impressions:

Having more than one Deadbolt mystery to work on in a month is always a gift! Death at the Lamplight Theatre came at a fantastic time, as I had just finished running through Sleight of Hand, one of Deadbolt’s previous mysteries to take place at the eponymous Theatre. Valley Falls sure knows how to make sure their entire town eventually becomes haunted…

High Points:

The thing I immediately noticed about Death at the Lamplight Theatre is that it was a return to the previous style of Deadbolt boxes. While newer games have been more linear overall, with envelopes to open at certain points, Lamplight gives players pretty much everything up front, allowing for a more challenging, non-linear experience. Though I do enjoy the new style of Deadbolt, it was really nice to return to the deductive, chaotic (in a good way!) style of sleuthing! Though there was definitely a jump in the challenge level from the last few boxes we’ve worked through, all of the puzzles were very intuitive for the most part. Items connected well with each other, and once we’d reached the satisfying ah ha moments we were searching for, everything clicked into place excellently. I really enjoyed the Christmas theme, and it permeated the whole experience well. There is a huge variety of puzzle types, and something for everyone to work on at all times, leaving no dead points or areas where we were stuck on one particular thing.

As always, it’s fun to get to explore a place that was a smaller part of an old case, and as Deadbolt continues to develop Valley Falls, we find ourselves excited to see locales we’d heard mentioned previously explored more in depth, as was the case with the recent Museum Nocturnus. The impetus behind all the puzzles are well explained, and the motives of the suspects and supporting characters are all well fleshed out, and brilliant to explore. A few of the shadier characters were a lot of fun to interact with, and Deadbolt is always at their best when the people of Valley Falls are allowed to shine. There are a few points where puzzles are multilayered, and a bit of extra sleuthing is required to progress, which I feel adds a lot to the experience, and ensures that solvers get a great deal of puzzling for their dollar!

Low Points:

One particular puzzle felt a little vague, with the clue seeming to point toward a particular deduction, but the actual connection was something completely different. Though most all puzzles were intuitive, one involved a small leap of logic. Another was a standard math puzzle we’ve seen frequently, so that may be hit or miss for some veteran solvers. All of these are relatively minor things, however, and didn’t really affect our enjoyment of this box much.

Verdict:

Death at the Lamplight Theatre is a fantastic one off mystery that ties into the holiday theme well, but also works great as a box to enjoy anytime! I really loved the return to the original Deadbolt formula, as well as the increased challenge of this box. I highly recommend picking it up as it becomes available, and subscribing to the Society in the mean time! 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 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.