“Six train cars, six suspects, and a snowman melted before his time. It’s up to you to crack the case and save Christmas in this holiday whodunit by CU Adventures. Follow the rail of clues to uncover the loco-motive …for MURDER!”
CU Adventures makes some of my favorite puzzle games (both in-person and at-home) so I was very excited to see that they were releasing a holiday-themed game experience this year. It’s a smaller experience than their two previous non-shirt games, which is likely why it was released under their Solve Our Shirts imprint.
The experience arrived a few days after Thanksgiving—in a red envelope that made me think I’d received a new Scarlet Envelope experience for a moment—perfect timing to kick off the holiday season with something fun. I made myself a nice warm mug of tea, cracked open the envelope, and played through the experience in just under an hour. The experience was a lot of fun from start to finish and makes the case for more holiday-themed puzzle games.1In fact, I’ve got a couple more on my shelf that I’m hoping to get to this season
While a murder mystery is typically a dour affair, Murder on the Ornament Express is a more whimsical, gentle adventure. Sure Flakey the (non-copyright infringing2Frosty the Snowman won’t be in the public domain in the United States until 2045) Snowman has been melted, but the game reminds us that he’ll be back next year. It’s a fun, family-friendly twist on the genre.
The game kicks off the experience with a fantastic—legally protected parody—version of a famous snowman song, which explains the mystery and gives you some signposts on where to begin solving it. Outside of the song the game manages to do a lot with a little, letting some very cute and cozy artwork, along with some impressively efficient and playful writing, do the narrative lifting.
It is a very funny experience from start to finish, with little jokes tucked into it everywhere: in the writing, in the song, in the solution checker. Be sure to take the time to poke around, you won’t regret it.
The puzzles in Ornament Express are fun, well-written, and range in difficulty from easy to a low medium. I think that’s the appropriate difficulty for an experience like this, a shorter experience that is as likely to be gifted or played with a family as it is to be played by an experienced puzzler. Keeping in line with the genre, some deductive reasoning is required in order to solve everything; the game is pretty overt about it, encouraging you to examine things closely. I enjoyed this aspect of the game a lot, making me feel more like a detective and less like the player of a game.
That sort of deductive reasoning may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, for anyone that gets stuck, there’s a progressive hint site available online.
On the accessibility side of things, none of the puzzles required the ability to distinguish colors, which is always a positive in my book.
Murder on the Ornament Express is another great release from CU Adventures and a fun, festive way to spend an hour. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a cozy murder mystery around the holidays.