The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Toymaker (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

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From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Late last year a series of grisly murders in the town of Valley Falls captivated the world.  A handful of victims were abducted at various points throughout the month, killed in gruesome ways, decorated to resemble popular children’s toys, and gift-wrapped for the police to find.  Among those “toys” that were created and left for the authorities:  a life-sized Jack in the Box that caused a spring-loaded victim to pop out of the top when the handle was cranked, a Nutcracker doll decorated with greasepaint and blood, a robot that was created from both human and mechanical parts, and a marionette whose movements could be controlled via a series of cables that were attached the victim’s limbs.  The gift cards attached to each one were all signed by someone calling themselves “The Toymaker.” Police were closing in on the culprit when The Toymaker stopped killing, causing the trail to grow cold.  They have continued to pursue leads throughout the year, but they haven’t had any real breakthroughs in a while.  Earlier this week, a new “gift” arrived from the killer, and it is reasonable to assume that the murders will start anew.  If the pattern holds, there is only a very finite amount of time to investigate before The Toymaker goes underground again.  No doubt The Toymaker has more “toys” in mind to create so lives are at risk.  

First Impressions:

I really enjoy The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s unique brand of deductive puzzling, and hunting down deranged serial killers is a favorite theme for me, so The Toymaker sounded like it’d be right up my alley. My fiancée, however, isn’t quite as into spooky horror themes, and the creepy cover of the box remained covered for her benefit until we could begin the game. Porcelain dolls are just spooky! I definitely got a much more horror based vibe from this box, and couldn’t wait to start, however!

That being said, I think it is fair to say this case, in spots, is much more intense than usual. There were several descriptions and visuals that my fiancée did not enjoy, and I skipped over these parts of the case for her benefit. These were mostly due to a particular startling image as well as the descriptions of the murder victims. Nothing over PG-13 and luckily, nothing completely integral to the case was too intense, but I felt a trigger warning of sorts would be helpful for those trying to determine if this case is right for them. Personally, I quite enjoyed this darker turn, but I know that this sort of thing isn’t for everyone.

High Points:

This is Deadbolt’s most challenging box yet! The puzzles and clues left behind by The Toymaker are maliciously clever, and tie excellently into the theme. I especially enjoyed the broad variety of puzzles, some of which can feel very odd at first, but build towards satisfying revelations as more evidence is added to the growing pile. I am very much enjoying how new case files are compiled into booklets, and though the suspect list returns to it’s former method of inclusion, the way they are presented has been updated and fits well within this particular investigation. Further world building of the town of Valley Falls is fantastically developed during this case, and every new box of late feels like they’ve been building towards… something. It’s perhaps just speculation on my part, but there are some ominous inclusions in each box that make me feel like our investigations might be hurtling toward something big. Whether that’s just the thrill of detective work leaking over into imagined clues, or a possible big reveal, it has been a lot of fun to develop theories all the same!

The mystery itself is high quality, with a fair amount of evidence and information to sift through. I enjoyed how seemingly random bits of information become clear clues as we solved our way through the game. Attention to detail has always been important with Deadbolt Mystery Society cases, but The Toymaker truly ramps up how it layers details within each leg of the journey. I was also thrilled to see that some of the elements of real time detective work returned during this case, as we were tasked with gaining entry to particular parts of the Maroon District and talking to new and interesting characters. I really hope this is a continued trend, as it lends an amazing sense of immersion to each case.


Delve into the seedy underbelly of The Maroon District, and bring The Toymaker to justice!

Low Points:

We solved one particular puzzle quickly and easily, but in trying to enter the password, we consistently were told it was incorrect. I am assuming that we committed a typo, but it was frustrating due to the style of the puzzle. It’d be nice to have a way to see what we are typing into the password window. A lot of the story of The Toymaker is packed into the ending of the case, and while it’s a great story, it would’ve been even more engaging to have it sprinkled throughout the game itself, with tidbits emerging via solved puzzles. The connective tissue of the experience was lighter than usual, with more tenuous logical leaps to be made, rather than the more directive puzzles of past boxes, causing the game flow to feel much more choppy. There are loads more QR codes involved with this case, and they all seemed to come into play at the same time for us, leading to a fair amount of chaos, (and so many open windows on my phone.)


The Toymaker is another enjoyable entry into the files of The Deadbolt Mystery Society, but burgeoning sleuths should be warned, it’s definitely one of the more challenging cases we’ve solved! Newcomers might want to hold off on this one until they have solved a case or two with the Society, but veterans will enjoy stitching together the devious clues left behind by The Toymaker! 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!

8/10 (Great)

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