Diorama Games: The Medusa Report Review | An American nuclear physicist is found dead in the USSR at the height of the Cold War. What happened, and what does any of it have to do with Abby and her enigmatic father?
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 1.5 hours
Date Played: April 2023
The prequel to this game, The Vandermist Dossier, is one of those tabletop puzzle games I still talk about. In fact, when I sat down to review this game I noticed The Vandermist Dossier was still one of the six or so pinned games on our homepage, and trust me when I say I only pin games I really, really love.
So I was very unsurprised when I opened up The Medusa Report and immediately fell in love. Then, the game only got better and better as I played it. With each new reveal, each exciting detail, and each twist I thought to myself “Gosh, our industry needs a ‘Game of the Year’ award, so Diorama can win it” and I stand by that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What makes The Medusa Report so good? Well, for starters it was a lot of fun to pick up where The Vandermist Dossier left off. There’s something extra satisfying about meeting old characters again for a new adventure. Secondly, The Medusa Report was perfectly signposted. Signposting is a real bugbear of mine, and there’s nothing I like less than not knowing what to do next. Diorama has none of that, it’s clear exactly what to do in a perfectly lore-friendly, non game-breaking way. Each puzzle rolled seamlessly onto the next. Speaking of puzzles, these ones were *chef’s kiss* good. Well balanced, surprising, and delightful. Last but not least, it’s just such a beautiful game. Goddamn beautiful. Let’s dive into all of those points one by one.
Pick up where you left off…
The Medusa Report is a sequel to the very popular Vandermist Dossier. Like it’s predecessor, The Medusa Report will be available on Kickstarter to begin with, and then will likely be purchasable via their website in a little while. Whilst they’re sequential in ‘story’, I think both are probably fine to play as standalone. There’s a slight cliffhanger at the end of the first one, and the second references the people and places of the first, but otherwise they’re fairly self contained.
That except for the bonus puzzle! Oh yes, if you happen to have a copy of The Vandermist Dossier, you get extra content! Although I don’t want to spoil anything – so I’ll just leave that for you folks to discover yourself. Amusingly, I’d already passed my copy of The Vandermist Dossier to another writer (Rebecca) here at The Escape Roomer. Generally speaking, we like to get as many of us writers across playing a game when we review it. But thankfully, Rebecca lives (thanks to a fortunate move on my part) about a 15 minute walk away!
In terms of that story, in The Medusa Report, we return to the Vandermist family and pick up where we left off with the sister of our main character. Once again we’re rifling through documents and solving puzzles to try to uncover a singular thing: Where is Abigail Vandermist?!
Part Narrative Journey, Part Puzzle Solving
The Medusa Report is story-heavy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean puzzle-light. It has a good balance between the two. The experience begins when you read an envelope titled “Dear Detective” and then, in a lore-friendly way you’re ‘guided’ through the story through the medium of puzzles.
The game plays out in a linear format – meaning as you solve one puzzle, you’re signposted to the very next puzzle. It might be as obvious as one of the characters directly calling out that item in the dossier, or as subtle as something formatted in a way that looks eerily similar to the format of another item. Both are good and, as mentioned, I really appreciate good signposting. It can make or break a game. The Medusa Report has excellent signposting – game designers take note!
For folks who wish to go ‘beyond’ the signposted game, there’s additional content in the experience. You begin with one goal: Find Abigail. But there are other goals woven throughout the game. Not to mention the ‘bonus’ meta content. I’m also imagining that since this game is the second in a trilogy, there’ll be even more hidden details which will come back in the third installment – but we shall see!
In terms of the ‘basic’ puzzles, the ones I encountered were brilliant. I say “I encountered” as even now I look over at my copy of the game and wonder if there’s more to find. Probably there is, but I’ll just have to figure that out myself at a later date. But for the purpose of this review, when I talk about the puzzles I’m talking about the main content of the game. All in, there’s probably around (or just under) 10 puzzles in the experience. Each one took me some 5 – 10 minutes to solve.
If I had to choose, my absolute favourite involved one where I had to return to something I already thought I’d “solved” and look at it again in a brand new way. However – it’s impossible to choose a favourite puzzle in this. They were all so good. I’m not going to say a single word about what the puzzles composed of because it’s best to go into this blind and let the ‘aha’ moments come to you. But just take my word for it when I say they were great. Objectively great puzzles.
A Visual Journey Through the Past
Last but not least, I want to talk about the aesthetics of The Medusa Report. As with The Vandermist Dossier, the whole thing is set in the world of spies – the CIA, the KGB, and some very interesting content from the USSR. It’s such a rich and fascinating era of history, lovingly recreated in print media. Every item in the case file, minus the fact it smelled so fresh and good (a strange thing to mention but hey!), genuinely felt like it were from the era. The graphic design is second to none, and the quality of the documents is absolutely flawless. It’s the kind of game I want to take everything out from it’s box and put it all in vintage frames and decorate my apartment with. Seriously, that beautiful!
If you couldn’t tell from the review so far, I loved The Medusa Report. It’s only April, but I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of my favourite games this year, just like The Vandermist Dossier was when I played that one too. With this impressive second game, Diorama Games are quickly cementing themselves as a household name worldwide, and I have no doubt that this game will be a hit in the puzzle community.
For this reason, we’re awarding The Medusa Report with our coveted “Badge of Honour“, which is only given out to games that excel in every category we ‘rate’ based on. I’d recommend this game for just about everyone – but for the best ‘overall’ experience, go back and play The Vandermist Dossier first! In fact, if you haven’t already, that’s the perfect way to spend your time from now until the game’s Kickstarter fulfilment.
Please Note: We received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.