At Home Game

Deadbolt Mystery Society: The Inheritance

Review

Game Description

“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?”

Personal Experience

I’d seen a lot of Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews around the web and decided to see if I might be interested in adding them to my monthly stable of subscription games. The company has been releasing games monthly since 2018 and has released over 40 different mystery boxes at the time of this writing. Once all of their monthly subscribers’ orders get filled, they put the remaining inventory on sale on their website for one-off purchasing. I picked out a couple of likely candidates for me to try and checked out the reviews on them on various review blogs. In the end, I decided to try “The Inheritance” as it had great reviews and a fun Knives Out sort of vibe to it.

The game gives a great first impression, nearly overwhelming you with a large number of well-designed and quality-produced components, all tucked inside a box custom-designed for the scenario. It’s clear that they’ve amassed a lot of experience from their years of publishing and that they’ve put it to good use here.

When the game begins, it gives you a few paths to follow, allowing you a bit of freedom in how you pursue the investigation. I’ll talk more about the individual puzzles below, but the first half of my investigation was really promising and a lot of fun. I really felt like a detective, making a timeline of events and trying to figure out who was where when and what that meant for their potential guilt or innocence. This part of the game also sparkled with fun additional touches, like a 3D-explorable environment that you can explore on your phone, clever ciphers, and some novel puzzles that were really fun.

Unfortunately, the back half of my game—which involved solving two books of puzzles—fell really flat. The puzzles there felt rote and uninspired, and they made the overarching investigation puzzle feel less like an investigation and more like a checklist. It took me about 1h 40m to get through the game; despite the promise of the first half of the game, the issues in the back half left me feeling lukewarm on the whole experience.

Narrative

The game does a great job of setting up the story, providing a three-page story handout that places you in the role of a private detective and sets up the mystery and the initial timeline of events effectively. The game also includes biographies and statements from each of the family members in the game, which functions both as a puzzle and as a storytelling element, giving you a better idea of just who the characters you’re investigating are.

Narratively, what didn’t work for me were the puzzle books. In the narrative the culprit has left a series of puzzle books at the scene of the crime. These puzzle books exculpates most of the other suspects and leads you to the stolen object, but conveniently doesn’t exculpate the suspects you’ve crossed off through more traditional investigatory methods. It just didn’t work for me at all, puncturing my suspension of disbelief.

The epilogue given after you solve the mystery was a fun bit of writing and was twisty enough to feel like a worthy addition to the chamber mystery genre. I just wish that I felt like I had earned the ending a little more.

Puzzle Play

There were some good puzzles in the game, ones that fit into the narrative and felt less like overt puzzles and more like an investigation. This is where the game shined. Determining the family tree is a really fun logic puzzle, that nails a length and difficulty that makes you feel clever but doesn’t overextend its welcome. There are some really neat puzzles that ask you to construct a timeline and extrapolate alibis.

Unfortunately, those puzzles were all in the first half of my game experience. The second half of my game featured the puzzles in the game books, all of which felt uninspired and like puzzles I’ve seen a hundred times before.

Some of the puzzles also felt a little sloppy and under-tested. One puzzle in particular featured an ambiguous solve, which required me to go through its process several times to find the way the puzzle creators had intended me to solve it.

There are hints available if you get stuck, but I think that it could be better developed. They are provided on a pdf that you need to scroll through to find the puzzle you’re on. Given somewhat non-linear aspect of this game, it would be easy to spoil another puzzle while looking for a hint for your puzzle. There are no solutions included, but the hints are all together, so it’s hard to get a gentle nudge without seeing all of the hints at once.

Two of the puzzles were dependent on being able to discern colors correctly. One of them I was able to figure out on my own (I’m a deuteranope) but the other required me to pause the game until my partner was able to help me put them in order. This was the same puzzle that had the ambiguous solve issue, so it was doubly-frustrating.

Recommendation

It’s hard for me to recommend this game. While the first half of the game showed a lot of promise, the back half felt really uninspired—and this was supposed to be one of the higher rated modules of the series.

That said, everything is a matter of taste, so if you’re looking for a monthly game with a true crime vibe and high production values, this might be for you.

Details

Type of Game: At Home Puzzle Game
Date Played: 2021-04-03
Price: $25
Company: Deadbolt Mystery Society
Website: https://deadboltmysterysociety.com
Team Size: 1
Colorblind-friendly: No
Outcome: Win

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