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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Sanitarium (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

Theme:

Return to Saturn Hills Asylum, where yet another murderer has struck! This time, a newly hired nurse has been found dead, and a few mysterious clues are baffling local authorities. It’s up to the Deadbolt Mystery Society to crack the case, and determine if there isn’t more to this killing than meets the eye.

First Impressions:

Asylum, one of Deadbolt’s first mystery boxes, remains one of our favorites. I had great props, a chilling mystery, and a rogue’s gallery that was second to none. When Sanitarium was announced, I was thrilled to hear we’d be returning to the harrowing halls of Saturn Hills. Though we were introduced to an all new cast of crazed characters, this new caper was absolutely a satisfying sequel.

High Points:

Sanitarium follows up the amazing Infected with another elegantly crafted and interestingly themed adventure. The recent boxes have been even more creative than usual, with themes that really catch our attention. Though Sanitarium is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Asylum, in that it returns to Saturn Hills, the story itself is all new, and has plenty of surprises right out of the box. The conspiracy runs deep here, and the murder committed is much more complex than initially realized. I love that the suspects were all part of a RPG group, and this element of the game makes the usual suspect elimination mechanic of Deadbolt even more engaging than usual. The cast remains just as colorful as Asylum’s, and though there are fewer suspects in general, they remain larger than life personalities that will haunt your investigation throughout!

The game flow is superb as always, and the puzzles vary from simple wins to deeply layered mind games. As a non-linear experience, there’s always plenty to do, and when we were stuck, we could easily pop over to another piece of evidence for a while until a lightbulb went off in our heads. Some of the more challenging puzzles we solved within this box were enormously creative, and may be the most satisfying moments of revelation we’ve gotten from Deadbolt. I continue to feel the more escape room like vibe from this box, and though it isn’t quite as escape room-y as Infected, it still scratches that itch well for me.

The story is twisty, and new turns are always exciting as puzzles are solved and the narrative develops. Each bit of story satisfies while adding further mystery to the experience, and the climax and epilogue are great at tying up the game while planting some conspiratorial seeds in the fertile soil of Valley Falls. It really does feel like something bigger is afoot throughout, and we were and still are raring to find out how everything will culminate!

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Murder, mayhem, and a quick game of Wastelands of Warael!

Low Points:

Many of the clues for this box were hidden within readings of interviews, which we don’t generally mind, but the text did feel more dense this go round, and I know some folks aren’t fans of that sort of thing. Other than that, I can’t think of anything that could be categorized as a low point!

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society continues to knock it out of the park with their newest boxes, setting up new and increasingly threatening conspiracies throughout the town of Valley Falls. It feels like something is building, and we are excited to see what’s coming next, as these newest themes have been ultra creative and fantastically fun. 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

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

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Infected (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Outbreak!

Theme:

The city of Valley Falls is in crisis! Air raid sirens are sounding and helicopters are flying over dropping yellow flyers that inform residents they are within a Quarantine Zone! The whole city is beginning to be overrun with crazed citizens who seem to be infected with some sort of rage virus! With no choice but to remain within the QZ or risk being shot, detectives with the Will Street Detective Agency are racing against the clock to find patient zero before the town is brought to its knees!

First Impressions:

Infected is quite the tonal shift for The Deadbolt Mystery Society, and the shake-up comes at an excellent time! Copycat was an excellent capstone experience to the initial run of boxes, and Infected feels like the fresh start of a new chapter in the ongoing mysteries of Valley Falls and the Will Street Detective Agency. I was excited to see how the story and game mechanics played out over the course of this new box, and we were definitely not disappointed.

High Points:

Looking back, one of the most excellent facets of Infected is that the experience captures the feel of an escape room perfectly. While not something that is required for an at home mystery, it is certainly a great bonus for escape enthusiasts! At times, Infected is better at being an escape room than some actual, physical rooms I’ve been in. Even without a timer, the pressure of solving the mystery is present, and the game flow itself is perfectly suited to presenting the environment of an escape room in the comfort of your home. That said, Infected is able to present a few items that wouldn’t quite work in a physical room, enhancing the experience greatly. The best of both worlds is expertly presented here.

Detectives are dropped into the story in medias res; the world devolving into chaos around them immediately. Many excellent interactions deliver a fairly quick, yet highly effective dosage of world-building that sets the stage perfectly for newcomers and drops some easter eggs for veteran players. As the source of the outbreak comes into focus, the dire nature of your mission is fully impressed, and it’s clear you have your work cut out for you. The approach to figuring out who patient zero is should feel familiar to Deadbolt veterans, but it cleverly manipulated into something new, adding another satisfying deduction once we figured out who our suspects were. This running theme of familiar, yet fresh was awesome, and really cemented how fantastic this box was. The methods are highly approachable as well, and while they demand some puzzling, everything is incredibly intuitive.

On that note, the game flow of Infected is very smooth. At no point were we at a loss for what to do, and as we made connections between each prop, solution, and code, new mysteries revealed themselves. There are some really clever enigmas to be solved within this adventure, and attention to detail and organization is greatly rewarded throughout. Even the smallest hint has a story to tell, and the amount of satisfaction that is achieved by solving the puzzles was high. A challenging experience without becoming frustrating, Infected delivers a story and game experience that fires on all cylinders and delivers what has become my favorite case to date!

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Not your average case!

Low Points:

This box flowed so excellently and shook up the usual experience so much while still retaining the feel of a Deadbolt mystery that we honestly have very little to critique.

Verdict:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society always delivers a fun experience, but Infected was next level! I’m really enjoying this new evolution, and look forward to seeing how future cases follow this one up. If you’re looking for a bombastic mystery that keeps the adrenaline high from start to finish, you cannot go wrong with Infected. I definitely recommend subscribing as well to see what happens next! 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.