Unboxing the Mind of a Cryptic Killer Review | After receiving a disturbing “blast from the past” in the shape of a suspicious package, two long time partners who, having moved on from each other, are thrust back together when the Cryptic Killer reappears. A case they both worked on that had long gone cold has recently reopened, and now they are the killer’s next targets.
Completion Time: 1hr
Date Played: 28th December 2020
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: 2 Players
Rebecca: After settling down with some snacks like the instructions advised, I’m sitting in my cosy Edinburgh flat with my Zoom friends ready to start our next escape room. Little did we know this one would take place so close to home…
We open the game on our separate devices and are informed that the Cryptic Killer, whose murders have shaken not only Poland but our neighbouring City of Glasgow – is back! It’s up to us to help our two new detective pals, Ally and Old Dog, solve a series of puzzles before it’s too late and they fall into the clutches of the killer.
Mairi: Unboxing the Mind of a Cryptic Killer was an unexpectedly delightful game! It’s got a bit of everything I love: A gritty plot and back story, gorgeous illustrations, and tantalisingly fun puzzles. Not only this but it also plays really well with a unique online two-player interface. I can’t recommend it enough!
The most important thing to keep in mind about this game is that (and I cannot stress this enough) it plays really well as a two player game. No more, no less (well I suppose you COULD have more if you sorted yourselves into ‘two teams’ – the website suggests this as possible), but I prefer it with just two. The reason for this is because each of you get to choose your ‘role’ and I’d encourage you to really get into the character with it (accents anyone? Hehe!). Will you play as the stern Allison Abernathy or Steve “Old Dog” Kowalski?
Mairi: These two detective partners who haven’t worked together since a failed Cryptic Killer case are suddenly thrust back on the crime scene when a mysterious package signed from the killer shows up. Oh yes! It’s just like the start of a very exciting Scandinavian noire TV series. This time by working together on the case, these two detectives might be able to finally put the cold case to rest? Well, that’s up to you, players!
Rebecca: We’re then introduced to our new home, a beautifully designed interface where the entire game takes place. A minimum of two devices is required for this game, and that’s because each player can see different game elements. The idea is to communicate with each other to combine the clues you have and complete the puzzles. And there are so many!
There’s logic, deduction, maths, JIGSAWS! They really have crammed this game full of puzzles but by no means has this reduced the quality. They are all brilliantly designed and suitable for a wide range of abilities.
Mairi: What follows is a very clever interactive point and click adventure where both players will see quite different screens and must work together from a distance to crack the case. Honestly, this is what I loved most about this game! At first glance everything seems a muddle, “Huh I can’t possibly solve this with the information”, until you realise that everything you’re missing is on Player 2’s screen and vice versa. A lot of the time this doesn’t work super well in other escape rooms – but Eleven Puzzles have absolutely smashed it! The gameplay synchronises smoothly and gives all players something to do at the same time. Although trickier, there’s that extra level of “aha!” when you do finally solve something!
In terms of those puzzles, I’d put them at the medium level of difficulty. Sure, myself and Player 2 did play in the same room sitting at opposite ends of the table (I reckon that makes it slightly easier to communicate than via a video call), but still, there’s a really good mix of puzzle types that has us scratching our heads! A lot of the time you’re looking for a code – but this isn’t always as straightforward as a number code. You’ll have to use all your senses, look closely, and go back and forth between pieces of evidence as you puzzle it out.
Rebecca:The signposting on how and where to solve each puzzle is really clear, and we soon had a method of working through the levels which worked seamlessly. We asked for a clue once, and they were nicely laid out so you only had to take what you needed without revealing too much, with several clues offered before the final solution.
Mairi: In particular, I loved the final puzzle. If you’ve played the game you’ll know what I’m talking about – but if you haven’t, then to explain briefly it’s a sudden “timed” puzzle. I assume if you fail, you fail the game – luckily we did not fail! Either way a very exciting way to end the game.
Rebecca: The final puzzle was a nail biter, and really got you in the same excited/panicked state you experience in an in-person room. We managed to complete the game and were congratulated with some excellent gifs.
Mairi: One more thing just to highlight which I absolutely had to comment on is the illustration. On every page are absolutely gorgeous and moody drawings that really bring the whole thing to life. There’s a very distinctive style in Unboxing the Mind of a Cryptic Killer and it was a joy to look at – I’m hoping they one day bring out some merchandise featuring the artwork 😉
Rebecca: Overall, this was an amazing first offering from Eleven Puzzles. I really can’t wait to see their work continue and it’s made me really excited to start my own journey in online escape room development, so thank you!
Mairi: I’m just surprised this game isn’t at well known as it is! It’s a hidden gem for sure and one I’d highly recommend for a couples night in, or reconnecting with a friend via Zoom to puzzle it out for 90 minutes. But which character will you choose to be? Pick wisely!
Unboxing the Mind of a Cryptic Killer can be played for £15 per team over on Eleven Puzzle’s website.