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
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?
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!
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.
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.
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 😉
Overall, 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.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.