The Panic Room: CSI Mafia Murders | Review

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CSI Mafia Murders Review | A shooting has happened at the Mafia operated Bonnetti VIP Lounge! The Family has given you approximately 1 hour to investigate the crime scene uninhibited, but you’ll need to solve the case before the police arrive to brush it all under the rug!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

A top-notch online murder mystery experience, where your inner detective will be tested and your enjoyment will thrive. 

Your mission – a robbery and multiple murders have occurred and “the family” wants to know who it was. It is your job to help the family (said in my best New York Italian accent) work out who did the job before the cops track them down, so you can handle them in your own special way! An old friend managed to gain access to the evidence locker at police HQ and now with it in your hands its time to track them down! 

Safe to say, we loved the story. A real true crime case, which doesn’t just tick the “you are a detective” box; its adds this brilliant twist of actually beating the cops to crack the case. It evolves brilliantly and as the evidence stacks up, so does the tension.  

The first thing to mention is the brilliant opening video. It sets the scene very well, tells the story, adds some great imagery and really gives the game its feel. Then add in the New York Italian soundtrack to your game and your atmosphere is complete. 

The puzzles within the game are also very strong – each evidence pack is a puzzle on its own however, don’t just read it as an answer to open the next lock – read a little further into it. Why? Well lets just say, in order to solve the mystery you need to have your detective hat on and not just look at things at face value. The puzzles aren’t hugely difficult on their own for more experienced gamers,  and the experience lends itself well to families with older children (I would say 10 years plus given the subject matter) and keen enthusiasts who love a who done it mystery. Likewise, getting your friends and work colleagues together over video conference software for this would be brilliant.

Another great point in this game is the quality of the evidence which vary vastly from puzzle to puzzle. Some are audio clues, others visual, others are video based. The written documentation is clear yet detailed enough to provide just the write amount of red herrings, so keep a clear head and you will be bound to succeed. If stuck some well structured clues are sat on each web page and you also have the option to reveal the answer – only use this as a last resort – everything is achievable and you’ll certainly get a much greater sense of fulfilment! 

The finale builds the game very well and pulls on all your powers of deduction from the previous puzzles to work out what has unfolded during the robbery. From your exhaustive list of suspects, who actually did it?! We really enjoyed this detective element in the story and makes the game more like an experience than just a set of online puzzles to answer and move on to the next. You can click back and forth through all the evidence once open just in case you have missed anything, but a keen eye will certainly be able to deduce the suspects as you progress through the game.  

When all is said and done, its safe to say we loved this game. Its a very well rounded, well produced online game, with stacks of strong puzzles and a great story line. A great game for enthusiasts and new comers alike, this online experience certainly put the bullet in our gun!  

CSI Mafia Murders can be purchased on The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

Emergency Exit: The Studies of Dr. Becker | Review

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The Studies of Dr. Becker Review | You are invited to spend an hour with the famous Dr. Becker at Boleskine Lodge Practice. He is currently with another patient and will be with you shortly. In the meantime make yourself at home and enjoy his hospitality and his study – a beautiful place decorated with his bizarre collection of strange and wonderful things. But do not dig too deeply as things are not always as they seem in this place, after all it is well known that some of his previous guests are still there after volunteering to help with his studies. Dr. Becker has a past which is questionable at best and not everyone agrees with his methods.

Completion Time: About 1 hour
Date Played: January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

What’s your favourite scary movie?

What’s everyone’s favourite thing about horror movies? Scream…Halloween.. the many, many Friday 13ths!…Yes, it’s the sequels! Everyone loves returning to that creepy place they have become so familiar with from the original film that sparked the cult following. Well, what Emergency Exit have created with ‘The Studies of Dr Becker’ feels very reminiscent of this. Dr Becker is the third part of what is now a trilogy of escape games focused around Crowley Manor, the infamous house of Aleister Crowley.

Now, you may or may not know the name Aleister Crowley. In case you don’t, he was a real English Occultist in the 20th Century, and boy did he enjoy dabbling in creepy stuff! The lore around his mysterious life is a fittingly creepy setting for a series of scary escapes. The trilogy centres around Crowley Manor where the In:Theory investigators decide to sneak in to snoop around and find out what’s going down, and unfortunately find themselves WAAAAAAY in over their heads!

We came across Emergency Exit while we were in lockdown during COVID last year when everyone was looking to virtual means to get their escape fix, and The Beast was receiving rave reviews from the escape community. We managed to convince our friends Tasha and Mairi (aka the scaredy cats) to join us for this scary adventure (after all how bad can a virtual scare be?!) and we all loved the thrill of it (despite the varying degrees of fear we experienced). Since lockdown easing, Emergency Exit have reopened their doors to in-person bookings and created the third part of the trilogy, The Studies of Dr Becker. While we were super keen to return to the Crowley Manor story, we wanted to continue the story with the team we started out with. Therefore we were excited to find out that Dr Becker has recently been made available to play online too, and got the gang back together (virtually)!

Online games work well for us as a team still as geography does not favour in-person rooms. With us in the North, and Mairi based in London, we love to still plan in a regular escape in the online world. Recently it’s been a lot of Telescape rooms, which we love. But what better way to brighten up a gloomy Friday evening that by dabbling in the occult. The hosted virtual game, played through Zoom, is really immersive and arguably offers even more than the in-person experience. Not only do you get to play the room in full, but you get the additional fun of working with the In:Theory team to solve the room.

Previously on…

Emergency Exit have put a lot into putting on a show in their rooms; hosting the game on Zoom requires 2 people who you interact with (the In:Theory team) and the story is extremely important. While each of the games are playable as a standalone, the overarching story is really cohesive and adds an extra layer of enjoyment knowing the backstory.

Previously in Crowley Manor: The In:Theory team managed to accidentally summon Surgat, Demon of Locks (very apt). Woopsie! Let’s see what happens to them next…

What happens to them next? They find themselves in Boleskine Lodge Practice, under the care of creepy Dr Becker, who is ‘treating’ them to help them forget their experiences in Crowley Manor. However, Dr Becker’s practices are…questionable….and there’s more to why he wants you to forget the demonic apparitions. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well, you’ll have to play to find out more, but let’s just say, Boleskine Lodge Practice ever so conveniently happens to be attached to Crowley Manor. That is to say, the In:Theory team STILL haven’t managed to escape Crowley Manor yet!

Lights, camera…is that someone’s BUM?

This is where you rejoin the In:Theory team as the voices inside your host’s head. Interacting with the hosts is one of our favourite parts about the Emergency Exit rooms (a bit because if any bad stuff were to happen in the room, it was happening to them and not us). But they really MAKE the experience; not only do you get to explore the room and solve puzzles, instructing your host as to what they should look at or do next, but the story is really brought into it’s own by James and Liam. James was our main host, and Liam is the dedicated cameraman. And boy is he dedicated to his role, ensuring that no matter what the occult throws his way, you always have a clear view of what’s going on around the space you’re in. And they’re funny! A bit of light relief from bantering with your hosts works really well to lighten the mood after a period of tension.

There are some pre-recorded sections which are transitioned into smoothly and which helped to accentuate the story with dramatic ‘cut scenes’. This includes an extremely dramatic conclusion to the story, which we enjoyed. While we’re sure the in-person experience is equally fun to play, we really feel like the Emergency Exit team have NAILED the online hosted escape room! The way it runs feels so reminiscent of a horror movie, but with the added element of choosing the decisions the characters make and, of course, what we all came here for in the first place- puzzle solving! For this reason, we’ve decided to award it the Immersion Badge!

The puzzles are all well-fitting with the theme and add an element of mystery, as they are well-integrated into the demonic, occultish storyline. Fear not, there is plenty to do in terms of puzzling in this room, you just also get the added bonus of a suspenseful horror movie setup!

The Verdict

We would really recommend playing The Studies of Dr Becker (and its predecessors if you haven’t yet). We are sure that an in-person visit would be equally fun but we can’t stop raving about the online hosted experience. At £20pp (for a four player team), this is a great way to spend your Friday night.

Please note that there are some creepy sections and mild gore, but these are generally not too scary so don’t let this put you off. We mentioned afterwards that we felt this was less scary than The Beast, but we enjoyed it just as much!

The Studies of Dr. Becker, either the live or remote avatar version, can be booked by heading to E-Exit’s website here.

Society of Curiosities: The Glasshouse Ghost | Review

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The Glasshouse Ghost Review | Investigate the strange events at the Winchester Mystery House and solve the case of The Glasshouse Ghost! You can start your mission right away! This game can be played completely online.

Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 8th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

Our first play-at-home escape room of 2022 goes to Society of Curiosities’ exciting new release: The Glasshouse Ghost. And hey, it’s good to be back playing with Escaping the Closet and our friend Tasha. If this game teases anything for what the landscape of escape games will look like in 2022, then Society of Curiosities have set the bar very high. Every time I think I’ve seen it all in at-home escape rooms, something delightful comes along and surprises me! The Glasshouse Ghost is one of those games. Narrative driven, deductive puzzles, and talking to ghosts via mysterious radio waves – spooky!

The Haunting of Winchester Mystery House

The story of The Glasshouse Ghost follows you, an intrepid team of ghost-hunters, sent in to the Winchester Mystery House – which is a very real place – to find out what is going on. You’re greeted at the start of the game by Taylor, the historian at the Winchester Mystery House. This is of course a chatbot, but in the moment it’s thoroughly immersive and feels like you’re speaking with a real person.

Taylor explains that during recent construction works, secret documents and hidden compartments were found. But with uncovered secrets, come restless spirits. Surely the construction cannot continue until the ghosts are found, identified, and exorcised- wait, that’s probably too strong of a word. In any case, the ghosts need to go.

Remember… Ghosts are all about unfinished business!

But fear not – you’re not alone on your ghost-hunting adventure! Through a straightforward, top-down desk interface, you have access to a number of documents, your in-game mobile phone and most importantly… A radio!

The aim of the game is to find the following:

  1. The name of the ghost?
  2. What happened to them?
  3. What do they want now?

As we discovered each new item within the house – a myriad of exciting documents like photographs, letters, and scribbled notebook entries – our page would update with the new document. Ever the trigger happy one of the group, I spent a lot of time tuning into various radio stations. Occasionally we would find static, but sometimes I would encounter music too. A correct answer gives the correct radio station where the invisible hand of the ghost would guide the words to form a sentence – a little like watching an episode of Buzzfeed Unsolved.

…But in ghost hunting, it’s not quite as simple as ‘input a correct answer’. No, one of the best things about The Glasshouse Ghost was the nuance and subtlety. For starters, the chatbot takes a wide variety of inputs and responds very humanly to them. At no point during the game did we feel like we were just solving puzzle after puzzle – no, we were detectives!

The Glasshouse Ghost takes you on a journey via a winding narrative that has twists and turns and of course, plenty of puzzles along the way. It’s refreshing and entertaining.

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night

One thing to note is that The Glasshouse Ghost does require audio. So don’t be like me and show up to game night without headphones! If you opt to play together via Zoom, you will need to have your PC volume up (to the maximum to catch some of the subtler noises) which doesn’t lend itself to talking out loud. It’s a fine line to balance – but in this particular play through I made do by muting my browser for most of the time, then unmuting it when I needed to follow along with a puzzle.

There are a number of sound-related puzzles in the puzzle, including but not limited to listening for clues, tapping, musical notes, and tests of how well you were listening! For the dialogue, the game offers a written transcript after any major dialogue is spoken. You can get by with the transcript, but for the best experience, listen to everything!

The other thing to note is that if you are playing via Zoom or another video message service, each player will need to input their own codes on their own screen – the game does not automatically update for everyone. This also meant that throughout our four players we all received a different score at the end of the game. Since I spent an embarrassingly long time trying different radio stations and talking nonsense to Taylor, I received the lowest score. The conclusion I draw is that the game will penalise for incorrect answers… That or the ghosts just weren’t very happy with me!

But despite these two small warnings about the tech, The Glasshouse Ghost otherwise ran perfectly well. We played a couple of days before public release – so expected to encounter a few hiccups, but instead had a smooth experience from start to finish.

The Verdict

Overall, we had a lot of fun with The Glasshouse Ghost. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a game like this, but it didn’t disappoint. As we wove our way through the different spaces and uncovered more secrets, a story slowly unfolded in front of us. Everything felt natural and realistic, the back and forth between you and your guide, and the sensitive history we engaged with.

I can’t help but feel like The Glasshouse Ghost is packed with many more secrets we didn’t yet find – and that’s a really exciting feeling. I actually kinda want to play it again. I want to try more radio stations, and I want to spend more time in the Winchester Mystery House trying different things and poking into dark corners.

Society of Curiosities have created something really special. It’s hard to call it a ‘hidden gem’ because it’s no secret this US-based company is one of the most consistently brilliant escape room creators out there – but over here in the UK we were surprised and delighted by what we found within the walls of the Winchester Mystery House. We’re looking forward to (hopefully) future installations!

The Glasshouse Ghost can be played by heading to Society of Curiosity’s website here.

Escape Reading: The Treasure in the Shed | Review

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The Treasure in the Shed Review | Almost everyone has a place where they store the old and strange things in their home, sometimes a cupboard, or the attic. In your house, it’s a shed.

Date Played: 17th October 2021
Time Taken: 20 minutes
Team Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

On our weekly (or slightly less than weekly these days as the world eases out of lockdown) digital meetup, team Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha, and myself pick a digital escape game to play together. On this date, we’d finished our first choice quickly and so looked for a short and sweet free game to try out. Escape Reading’s “The Treasure in the Shed” seemed perfect. So into the shed we went…

Whats in the Box Shed?

The story of this short, play at home escape game isn’t about escaping from anything… No, you need to solve the puzzles to break into something. Specifically, a shed. The story goes that your parents and grandparents were avid collectors of antiques. Each fantastic new item for their collection went into the shed – a room you were never, ever allowed into. Skip forward to the future, when you’ve got control of the house. One day you discover a key and immediately recognise it as the shed’s key. At last! It’s your time to finally see what is inside the shed…

So what did we find?

Well, exactly what you might expect from a shed that’s had decades and decades of collectable items shoved into them. The whole vibe of the game reminded me a lot of “hidden object” style of games where you’re presented with a huge amount of information and you’ve got to correctly identify items within to complete the puzzles.

How to Solve the Shed

Treasure in the Shed is a browser based escape game, meaning everything takes place over a series of web-pages. It’s a little more complex than your average “input password to go to next page” style of game, but doesn’t offer as much interactibility and multiplayer support as escape games built in Telescape.

For our team of 4, we all hit ‘start’ at the same time, and worked collaboratively within our own system. What this meant was that if one of us solved the puzzle, all of us would have to input it on our own screen to progress.

Each stage of the puzzle game offers several interactive elements within a puzzlescape of intriguing and curious items in the shed. It wasn’t immediately obvious which were clickable or not – but this quickly became part of the fun. Clicking around the trying to work out which items you could interact with and which were just part of the decor.

Once we found each object, these would pop out onto a new screen offering a wealth of puzzles to get digging into. There were sound based puzzles, digit codes and padlocks, some ciphers, and some very fun map puzzles. One of the great parts were that although we were all playing from our separate screens, the puzzles definitely involved more heads than fewer to solve. On more than one occasion, all four of us were working on different screens but collaboratively solving together, which was a really nice touch. It elevated the game from being a fairly average browser game to something that has had a lot of thought and love gone into it!

The Verdict

For a free play at home escape game – we can’t fault it! The graphics were great, the puzzles were challenging and it’s an all round brilliant little escape game to play solo or in a small group, especially when stuck in lockdown and missing in-person games. Since this game first launched, the sub-genre of “at home” escape games has certainly come a long way, but Treasure in the Shed still has buckets of charm and will keep an enthusiast group busy for at least half an hour, if not longer!

The Treasure in the Shed can be played for free by heading to this link here.

The Panic Room: Mansion Impossible | Review

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Mansion Impossible Review | Geoff the ghost has been stuck in this mansion for many many years, never being able to solve the mystery of what is keeping him inside. You have entered the mansion yourself and find that you too are now stuck and need to solve the puzzles and escape the mansion before midnight!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

This child friendly online game is sure to be a hit with all the family, with some spooky challenges and ghastly goings on! 

Trapped within a huge mansion, you stumble upon a friendly helpful ghost! He knows the secrets of the mansion and the clues hidden inside its walls. Escape before the clock strikes 12 or be locked inside forever! 

The first thing that strikes you is the child friendly appearance of the audio and visual elements of the game, however still providing enough substance for parents to really enjoy the game too. The story line sits brilliantly with children, and the ghost is a great touch to add a little drama to the game without being scary or adding too much tension! Also, be sure to download the backing track to the game – it provides that extra atmosphere which the family will love! 

Similarly, the game play is also very simple to follow – work your way through the rooms of the mansion, solving the riddles and puzzles in each room. Don’t be fooled – just because this game is aimed at a younger audience, doesn’t mean that your own grey-matter is going to be tested! For more experienced gamers many of the puzzles are self explanatory (although, like me, I am sure you will find yourself over thinking them!). The whole family are sure to bring something to the table with this game as the puzzles are well varied and created with the user in mind. Some well placed clues provide just enough of a hint to get you through should you need them! 

There are some particularly strong puzzles in this game which I really enjoyed – a personal favourite is the final puzzle which really pulls together the rest of the game and gives a solid resolution to what you have found in order to escape the mansion – it is also very different to most other online puzzles in not being the normal “enter number/word” answer.    

All-in-all, a beautifully created, well thought-out online game, which provides a great atmospheric experience for the family all to enjoy! 

Mansion Impossible can be purchased on The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party | Review

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The Enigma Fellowship – The Dinner Party Review | Enrico Fabricci, a vintner has been missing for months. The disappearance happened at the same time as The Scattered Cards kidnappings. He was never found. The Fabricci ancestral estate, including the impressive Castello Di Dolcci in Italy, is embroiled in legal battles. Now, his heirs and the court appointed caretaker of their Castle in Tuscany have received mysterious invitations.

Can you find out what happened to Enrico and help save a legacy in peril?

Completion Time: Around 120 minutes
Date Played: 20th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Enjoyable and challenging

For two hours, you will be immersed in the Castello De Dolcci and its expansive grounds – searching through evidence and solving cryptic clues to try and find out what has happened to the vinter Enrico Fabricci.

About Dinner Party

This being my first Enigma Fellowship adventure, I didn’t really know truly what to expect with The Dinner Party. As soon as I opened the unassuming white envelope and its opulent contents spilled out onto our table, I knew we were in for a treat.

The first thing that caught our eye were the invitations to the main event itself – the Dinner Party at the Castello Di Dolci, with some beautiful print work and eye-catching ribbon. But once we got stuck into the game, we realised that it was more what didn’t catch our eye that was important, with observation being a key part of affairs.

The scene was set by some excellent voice acting and I found myself, throughout the game, wishing I could experience it in person, the wine cellars, the library, the vineyard, all vivid in my imagination.

The Challenges

The puzzles in The Dinner Party are varied and enjoyable, with a mix of the mathematical, the verbal, the observational and the logical.

What I really enjoyed about the game was the way that progression was controlled and how the goals of the game were set. When embarking on a puzzle we always knew what we were aiming for – a 6 digit code, an 8 letter word – I personally always find tabletop games to flow better when I have a sense of direction, and The Dinner Party consistently offered me this reassurance with a neat online system.

The first section of the game really set the scene for what was to come, with some elements of spatial observation that used the paper elements in a really interesting way. Every piece of paper was essential, whether it was to enhance the plot or used for a puzzle.

We made it into the first of the ‘locked’ envelopes and discovered that there was so much more content inside. Each step of progression gave us more to read, more to unravel and more to puzzle.

Another feature that I really enjoyed about the design of the game was the extremely comprehensive  clue system. As much as me and my playing partner enjoy the more tricky puzzles, we are definitely not ones to struggle for longer than we deem necessary. We also; however, don’t like being told the answers immediately. This leads to a tricky balance for a clue system to manage, but the clue system for The Enigma Fellowship was fantastic in this regard, with incremental help that really assists you in a non-overbearing way.

Was The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party fun?

When reviewing an experience I feel like this is always the most important question. Was it fun? Did we have a good time? Would I recommend it?

We decided on a few spoiler-free highlights:

Firstly; a maths-based puzzle in the middle which required both history and mathematics in a wonderful combination. The nice feature of this puzzle was that no outside knowledge was required, everything you needed to know was provided in the envelope.

Another of our highlights was a particular element in the game which combined the physical and the logical together to give a neat solution. I don’t want to say too much about this, but at the start we suspected that this physical element would turn into a puzzle, and the designers didn’t disappoint, with a clever solution providing an essential answer.

It wouldn’t be a highlight section without another nod to the great voice acting in the game. The voice clips were a lovely method to set the scene of the game, breaking the story to the players in an exciting way and also reducing the amount of reading in the game, which although not a deal-breaker for me and my partner, can be for some tabletop players.

Summary

Overall I think that The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party was a tabletop escape game experience that hits all the notes that people who enjoy tabletop escape games will appreciate.

I think my only criticism would be that it doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to tabletop escape games. But that’s not necessarily a bad quality. Dinner Party knows what it is and owns it – it has a nice storyline and some clever physical paper puzzles. You know what you’re getting in for when you set out to play and if you enjoy tabletop paper-based games then you’re in for a fun evening.

It took me and my partner about 120 minutes to complete the game and I would say that above all it is excellent value. We enjoyed solving the puzzles and were fully immersed in the plot of finding what had happened to Sig. Fabricci.

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party can be purchased here

The Panic Room: CSI Deadline | Review

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CSI Deadline Review | Something strange is happening in your comfortable company. A few days ago, your boss ‘Jerry Hoskins’ died in his office. The official story: Suicide. So then why is his office now closed for investigation?

Curiosity has got the better of you. It’s decided! Time to sneak into the office to see what you can find. Was he killed by someone in the company? Or was it really just a suicide?

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 Hour

The Panic Room have done it again with a brilliantly strong CSI style murder mystery, with an impressive story line and great engaging puzzles.

In terms of story, you are an employ for Gen Win Solutions – a pharmaceutical giant. Upon your arrival to work, you are advised by police that the company boss, Jerry Hoskins has sadly taken his own life in his office. Knowing Jerry better than most, you feel that this would not be possible and have your suspicions. You and your group of fellow employees take it upon yourself to investigate further, as the police feel that this is clearly an open and shut case. 

Instantly I was hooked – the CSI series of games by The Panic Room all have really strong stories and this was no different. A believable story line, which as it evolves, gives great depth and further realism. Much like all other CSI games, the opening story is easy to understand and grasp and then as the case deepens, you find yourself unravelling subtleties and niche information. 

The first point of note in this game is that it feels much smoother in terms of game play that the other CSI games (and I am a big fan of all of them!).  A new and improved password system has been a real boost to game play and the interaction with on screen documents is much smoother.

Being the music geek I am, I loved the soundtrack to this game. Certainly not as intense as the rest of the series, however packed with subtle sound effects, giving a great office ambience, coupled with some well placed background music. 

As ever, no spoilers, however I really enjoy the opening video to this game as you are met by another Gen Win employee. It plays a great balance in being able to understand the company as well as giving you some hints on how the game works – I found the actor in this very believable and it is a very cute opening touch.

I found the puzzles within this game the strongest point of all. They are well produced, neatly presented and given the “office” environment you are working in, surprisingly varied.  An added element within this game is the use of slightly more interactive images, so there are aspects of “point and click” coupled with the more traditional “here’s a set of pictures, now solve the puzzle” games. This makes you feel like you are a little more involved with this “detective” case and actually rummaging around to find evidence of what actually happened. 

That being said, there are a number of evidence items you come across throughout the game will help you solve the case! You may not think it at the time, but I would certainly suggest jotting down what you see,hear and read – much of it will come in handy later! This all adds to the detective feel of the game.  

With the above in mind, I think that, given puzzle difficulty and interactivity, this game would suit families with older children/teens as well as enthusiasts. There are certainly some trickier puzzles within this game which will get the grey matter working, however if a little stuck,  a quick click of the hint button will get you back on track. Two or three puzzles in this game were real highlights, where the innovation of creating puzzles never ceases to amaze me!

Again, this game builds nicely as you pull together all the evidence and clues to work out actually what happened to Jerry. Using your powers of deduction, gathered clues, puzzle answers, subtle hints you’ve found along the way, this is a great finale to your hard work.  

Yet again, The Panic Room have pulled it out the bag with another outstanding CSI game. Stacked with puzzles, well presented, neat soundtrack and a very nice game play flow, this one will not disappoint. Gather your friends and family for a day in the “office” you will never forget – but don’t forget to meet your Deadline!

CSI Deadline can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

Wacky Wheels: Longest Night in Bell-Ville | Review

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Longest Night in Bell-Ville Review | Winter is coming to Bell-Ville and the villagers are totally unprepared. Not only do they have to prepare the celebrations of The Longest Night, they also have to make sure that they safely cross ‘The Frozen Wastelands’. Can you help them get ready on time?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: December 2021
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: Families

A puzzle wrapped in a story between the pages of a magical book that arrived on my doorstep just before Christmas Eve… What could be more magical and festive? The Longest Night in Bell-Ville is the latest “Mystery Story” from Netherlands-based creators, Wacky Wheels. With their very highly rated play at home games finding a lot of popularity in the escape room industry, I was very excited to finally have my hands on a Wacky Wheels experience.

But how did it hold up? And what exactly is a mystery story?

Wacky Wheels Mystery Stories

To put it simply Wacky Wheels’ mystery stories series (this being the second, after The Fugitive’s Escape) are puzzle games in a book. If you’re familiar with play-at-home escape rooms in general, you’ll know that most can be printed at home, mailed to your home, or even bought in a box. There’s no reason Longest Night in Bell-Ville couldn’t have been any of those things, but the creator has made the choice to put this story in book format. And heck, it works so well.

The reason this works so well for this particular game is how the story is set up. It’s a linear experience where players read each page as they work their way through the game. The main character (in this case, you!) works their way through different locations in the fictional town of Bell-Ville and the story slowly unfolds across the 30 pages towards a conclusion.

Of course, there are puzzles along the way too – no puzzle game would be complete without them of course. These can be found at the bottom of every page and can be solved in any order. So if you’re stuck, you’re encouraged to come back to a puzzle later. To validate your answers along the way, you’re given a QR code and will need to create an account on the website to log your answers as you go. In all honesty, you can still play the game without doing this… But more on that later!

Welcome to Bell-Ville

The story of The Longest Night at Bell-Ville is an excitingly festive one. You play a resident of Bell-Ville, a floating world travelling the world from within a giant snow globe. One of the biggest annual celebrations – the longest night – is nearing, but the town is woefully underprepared. What’s more the town is about to pass over the Frozen Wastelands – a dangerous place! No wonder everyone in this town is panicking!

And yet despite that, your job isn’t easy. One quote in particular around mid-way through the book sums up my thoughts exactly:

Why is everybody in Bell-Ville always communicating in riddles?!

To ‘save the day’, you must complete 11 tasks, and each task comes with it’s own puzzle to solve. These tasks range from finding food, music, activities, lighting the lights, and so on. Typical party preparation stuff.

But despite the drudgery of running around and doing everyone else’s jobs for them, the story is so light hearted and fun it’s a joy to read-or should we say, play? The Longest Night in Bell-Ville perfectly plugs that post-Christmas, pre-New Years Eve week when you lose track of what day of the week it is anymore. The characters are written well, the illustrations across the book are absolutely gorgeous, the dialogue is fun, and the puzzles are enjoyable too!

So, how did I get on?

In terms of puzzle difficulty, we’d put this at around ‘medium’. A few took just minutes to solve, and others had me scratching my head for a while – and roping in family members to take a second look over my shoulder.

I chose to play The Longest Night in Bell-Ville as a solo puzzler, and did so whilst on a family break with almost no access to the internet. Which in hind-sight was possibly a mistake. On the one hand, I had a great time reading and playing through he book curled up in front of a fireplace with a mug of mulled wine at my side. On the other hand, I missed out on some of the competitive, leader board fun.

When I later did gain access, I’d forgotten most answers and one of those I did remember my phone’s auto-correct unhelpfully corrected into an incorrect answer. Or so I think? The online element doesn’t provide correct answers, simply logs your score on the leaderboard. So it’s hard to tell!

In the end I decided to skip on the online- part altogether and simple enjoy the game as a fun, book-based analogue experience. The truth? I kinda prefer it that way! I like my books more when I don’t have my phone with me and it would have been nice to be able to check my answers too – but that’s just my humble opinion! The Longest Night in Bell-Ville can be played in any way you like and is just as fun.

The Verdict

The Longest Night in Bell-Ville is a fantastically fun little festive themed puzzle book that we think would have a perfect Christmas gift for families or solo puzzlers of all ages. Despite some tech issues (my fault), playing the game was a real highlight of my Christmas break and I’d be sure to recommend this. It’s very well-priced at £8.50 and is available in both English and Dutch.

To purchase The Longest Night in Bell-Ville, head to Wacky Wheels’ website here.

The Panic Room: Sherlock Holmes Detective Story | Review

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Sherlock Holmes Detective Story Review | The year is 1912, the location: London town. You and your group think yourself to be a top-notch group of detectives and are itching to take on your first big case. What better start than a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve? You’ll need your wits about you, a keen eye for detail and don’t forget to take notes! Time to bring out your inner detective, with this brilliant online game, with classic styling, challenging puzzles and great story telling. 

​Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~ 1 hour

The year is 1912. The location, London Town. Think yourself to be a crack team of detectives? What better than to work on a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve! Try and catch up with Sherlock and crack the case of the missing Mrs Haversham.

As stories goes, this is a classic and it hit all the right notes. As the story evolves there are also some great twists, which aide in providing a great sense of reality.  Once again, the Panic Room team have it nailed with an overarching simplistic story, coupled with some outstanding in game detail, which give the characters depth and realism.  

The game starts with a brilliant, black and white stylised video which sets the tone beautifully, It is evident from the get go that this game has a very different feel to the great CSI series of games by The Panic Room. The tension and urgency is replaced by a classic, stylised game which is more fitting to the era in which the game is set. It combines the feel of of their My Dearest Emily game with the detective puzzles of the CSI series- a real match made in Heaven!   

In respect of puzzles, these are really strong. Cleverly,  all the games have a similar theme throughout, by using both a visual and audio clue for each puzzle and working on locations around the streets of London. Trying not to give away spoilers –  it amazes me how well this game has been designed in spite of these features – it adds to the realism of the game and makes it feel like a proper detective case.  

When it comes to difficulty, I would suggest that these sit in the medium to hard range. First timers might struggle on a handful, but don’t be dismayed – a great on screen clue system is in place which provides just the right level of helping hand without spoiling things. Firstly you can choose a more cryptic clue and then if that doesn’t guide you well enough, a clearer clue then follows. If worst come to worst you can reveal the answer – try not too though – everything is achievable. Just put your mind to it, sit back and think of the obvious!   

This game has a real sense of charm brought on by some brilliant interviews with the characters, including some nicely inserted subtle musical aspects. The combination of the charm and the strong puzzles makes this a really enjoyable prospect. 

In spite of the less pressurised experience, the finale of this game culminates nicely, bringing together all your evidence gathering skills and naming the culprit. 

We really enjoyed this game, in particular with the slightly more relaxed feel, some really strong puzzles, brilliant theme and awesome story telling!  Playing this game is Elementary my dear Watson! 

Sherlock Holmes: Detective Story can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

The Panic Room: CSI Grounded | Review

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CSI Grounded Review | Are you ready to solve a mile-high mystery? A murder: The suspects are 30,000 ft in the air. Someone killed Avery Stone on Flight 9201! But who, and how?

Everyone on board is a suspect! The evidence you need to solve this crime is locked inside evidence packs. Solve the clues, unravel the mystery, and find the killer before the case crashes and burns around you!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

Put your detective hats on in this high-tech online murder mystery! 

The story… A murder, a mystery. The suspects 30,000 feet in the air. Someone killed Avery Stone on flight 9201 – but who and how? Everyone on board is a suspect. Solve your way through the clues, unravel the mystery and find the killer. 

A real solid storyline gets this game off to a strong start. The depth of the story is pretty unbelievable with attention to detail which no other online game could dream of – particularly as the game evolves. 

Another major plus to this game is the level of tech involved. Numerous embedded and online videos, plus the use of QR codes add something different to this game. It really does make you feel like a detective. The video and audio quality is very strong. The use of different audio techniques really adds to the style of this game. (coupled with a tension building hour long backing track which really adds to the pressure!)

In terms of puzzles these vary vastly. There are a couple of some very easy self-explanatory puzzles which we got in a matter of seconds. On the flip-side, there were some which will test even the most experienced escape gamer. Some well places clues will certainly guide you in the right direction (and yes, we did use them!) 

A pen and paper coupled with an extra mobile phone with a camera are a must in this game. With the volume of puzzles and evidence involved, coupled with some extra downloads on clues etc it can become easy to get bogged down, so take your time, write down the clues and your will be certain to succeed. 

All round, a very impressive online experience, which uses audio and visual clues in a modern way, yet still clinging onto the traditions of a murder-mystery game. Invest your time and your patience and this is one you wont forget in a hurry! 

CSI Grounded can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings