Santa is Missing! Review | The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, but something is wrong. The presents are missing, the Christmas Tree is empty and there’s no trace of Santa Claus anywhere! The North Pole is in chaos, and the fate of Christmas rests on your shoulders. You and your team of merry helpers have been summoned to save the day and find Santa Claus in time to save the holiday. But where could he be? The clock is ticking, and the children of the world are counting on you to keep the magic of Christmas alive. Put your skills to the test and follow the clues to unravel the mystery and rescue Santa Claus. Will you save Christmas, or will the holiday be ruined forever? The countdown to Christmas has begun, and the clock is ticking – let the adventure begin!
Date Played: December 2023
Time Taken: 40 Minutes (+ extra time for cutting / sticking)
Number of Players: 1
All photos on this page are (c) Mystery Locks.
Used because my own printer decided to wash out all the colours in printing, so my photos didn’t quite do it justice!
Since lockdown, I really haven’t played that many “printable” escape rooms. Not least of all because I own the world’s least reliable printer, and no longer work from an office where I can print anything out more professionally… But also because they aren’t so common anymore! I suppose the market has simply changed. Since 2020, international freight for board games has resumed *cough cough* nice to see there aren’t any boats blocking the Suez, and of course escape rooms across the world have opened up… Which all amounts to less demand than there was three years ago. But equally, it makes it feel refreshing when a new one does come along. So when the lovely team at Mystery Locks reached out about their Christmas experience, I was excited to see what Santa is Missing! was all about.
Of the Mystery Locks collection (an enormous plethora of printable games for all ages and group sizes), Santa is Missing! is one of their most family friendly. With it’s light-hearted, Christmas theme and puzzles on the easier side, it’s fairly accessible and easy to pick up. Although, from experience playing similar games with kids, I would still recommend parental supervision. It wasn’t immediately clear if you should cut everything out before playing, or cut as you go – but a fair warning that cutting all the bits out does take a significant amount of time. There are 25 pages in all, and whilst you probably don’t have to cut every single thing out, the photographs on Mystery Lock’s website seem to suggest you should. In all my printer took around 30 minutes to print everything out (remember I said it was an unreliable piece of equipment). I then took a further 30 minutes to cut everything out (hey, I’m slow and there was a Christmas film in on the background, so who can blame me). Then with a cup of mulled wine in hand, I finally sat down to play it and finished the whole thing in around 40 minutes. In hindsight, it does take longer to setup than play – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind.
What followed was a fun puzzle-heavy experience in rescuing Santa. You see, the very first page you print out sets the scene that Santa is missing, and the following page indicates that there’s a “guilty elf” involved. The story doesn’t go much more detailed than that. It’s slightly confusing, but I suppose I’m not the target audience – I’m sure a young child wouldn’t have quite as many unanswered questions as I did (how are we to know an elf was involved? How was the elf involved? Why did they do it? What did the password unlock?). I mentioned that the game was puzzle-heavy, to the detriment of the narrative. The whole game is essentially a series of puzzles to unlock a series of numbers which give you the password to a QR code page to check your answer. The answer is a 12 digit code, and the first three letters of a name. The name is case-sensitive, which resulted in more than a little confusion when I managed to get the correct answer incorrect twice in a row, but I got there in the end with a little check in the Walkthrough.
But, for what it lacks in storytelling signposting – it makes up for in labelling signposting. Each puzzle is very clearly labelled at the top the sheet. If printing and cutting, it’s helpful to make a note on the back of the items you cut out exactly which puzzle they’re for, as you can keep them in a neat pile. The game therefore folds linearly throughout the series of puzzles from one through to twelve, through to the grant “whodunnit” finale.
If I had to pinpoint my favourite thing about the game, it would be the puzzles. It’s really quite a clever collection of little puzzles, a few of which felt delightfully unique and festive enough to spark Christmas joy. For sure, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing or why I needed to do it, but the physical process of going through each puzzle in turn felt satisfying. They were aimed at a younger audience and involved a lot of physical manipulation of the paper – cutting, folding, moving things around, but cozied up on my sofa wanting a “light-hearted puzzle experience” it really scratched the itch.
Overall, the game didn’t quite capture my imagination, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I enjoyed the puzzles themselves, but ended the experience with a few more questions than answers, and felt it was lacking a little signposting in some parts. I’d recommend it for a family audience, and if anyone is in the market for a fun little puzzler over Christmas. I think in general, and this is definitely a bigger discussion to be had in a future article, that printable experiences just aren’t as magical as they once were. If you’re stranded with just a laptop and a printer but forgot to pack any board games, then a printable game is a great and low cost “do it yourself” option for family games night. Within the genre, Mystery Locks have done a good job in creating something fun for their target audience – so they’re well worth checking out. But in all, I’m not sure if this was quite for me.
Santa is Missing! can be purchased by heading to Mystery Locks website here. As a printable game, you’ll be responsible for printing out and assembling your own copy.
We were not charged for our experience playing Santa is Missing! but this does not affect the contents of our review.