THE ultimate play at home box experience
A mysterious package arrives at your door. It’s a case file from CSI, Stan Dioblos, containing the latest instalment in his lifelong tussle with the heinous crime lord known only as Cryptic. You’ll need your wits about you, as you untangle the webs Cryptic has left for you. Investigate shady organisations, eliminate suspects and solve puzzles in this immersive, criminal caper.
Mobile escape games are not particularly new (we played one about four years ago), and while they aren’t as plentiful as traditional escape room venues, there are quite a few options out there now. Traditionally, however, these games normally come with a fair amount of set up and a games master, and while escape games that can be played from the comfort of your own home are all the rage at the moment, the traditional mobile format isn’t really feasible until we get this plague under control.
Cryptic Events was one such company offering mobile escape games prior to March 2020, but of course, we all know what happened next. So naturally, adaptations were necessary. The solution was Cryptic Enigmas, an offshoot of the company, offering a mashup between a mobile escape game and a box game, in the form of a curious package couriered straight to your door.
When I think of mobile escape games, I’ll be honest, yes, I either think of them as a series of locked crates and boxes, unless they happen to be contained to a van. And yes, in a way that’s exactly what The Unusual Suspects is (a series of locked boxes that is). In another way though, it’s so much more. Cryptic Enigmas have created an amazing escape room style experience that can be had right in your own home. In fact, if this had been around last May when I was frantically trying to pivot from a cancelled holiday packed full of escape rooms, and instead turned our flat into an escape room for Gord’s Birthday, I likely would have been able to save myself quite a bit of frustration and hassle by just hiring The Unusual Suspects instead. Yes, I said hire, because this is not a game for you to keep, but rather savour and then return.
Arranging the arrival (and return) of the mysterious box with Cryptic Enigmas was seamless, and from the moment DPD delivered our crate, we were itching to get started. Once we did, what we found inside was a wealth of information and high quality game components. The puzzles flowed well, driving forth the narrative, and the “real-world” interaction with Stan on Facebook served to give The Uunsual Suspects an immersive feel, as we raced against the clock to help Stan, culminating in a satisfying conclusion to the case.
What we assumed would be a rather linear game due to the contents of the silver case, and the fact that each new puzzle is designed to eliminate one suspect in turn, is in fact, not. At least, it’s not as linear as it first appears, with many components that have already been used returning to be used again in new and inventive ways, and occasionally, like a real escape room, something that you have in your hand since the beginning may only reveal its usefulness later. Plus, every once in a while, each new discovery presents an opportunity to tackle something in parallel. While we played as a team of two, I could quite easily see this keeping a team as large as six fully occupied.
Perhaps my only criticism of the entire game is that it doesn’t come with a guide to reset it, which would only be a problem if it were hired with the idea to play it more than once, i.e. if you happened to hire it for a birthday party and needed to split into multiple teams, once the rule of six no longer applies, of course. (Or in our case, just felt bad returning the components in a rather higgledy-piggledy fashion.) In other words, I am really scraping the barrel for something other than glowing positivity for this game, as I’m sure Cryptic Enigmas would be happy to help if you did need to reset it. One thing is for certain though, CSI Bristol: The Unusual Suspects is perfect if you’re looking for a treat to spice up your usual game night.
Lulled into a false sense of security with the simplicity of one of the very first puzzles, we found instead a box of varied, layered, challenging, and yes, occasionally cryptic puzzles. Cyphers, codes, logic, spatial relations, deductive reasoning – they all had their roles to play throughout The Unusual Suspects. Our powers of observation were challenged, as was our ability to think outside the box.
Although the puzzles were challenging, they were never unfair. Thanks to the excellent signposting, once we made the connections and determined where to go next, we were rewarded with so many fantastic “Ah-Ha!” moments that I lost track of the number of times I said, “Ooo, that was clever!”
As part of the narrative, you’ll be in touch with your contact, Stan Dioblos, periodically throughout the game, and although he’s currently a bit busy with another pressing development in the case (you’ll see what I mean), if you do find yourself stumped by the twisted mind of Cryptic, Stan can send you some helpful hints through Facebook Messenger. Simply follow the instructions to send a message to Stan with the keyword from the piece of evidence that’s troubling you, and help won’t be too far behind.
We managed to make it through without hints, but I think we were having a very good day. Of course, that means I can’t really comment on how effective they were, but I do know that they follow the standard of gradual nudges common in play at home escape games, which should be enough to help you make the connection if you’re a bit lost.
With physical and tangible items, The Unusual Suspects is one of the few games we have played in the last year that has come closest to truly replicating the feeling of an escape room at home, with loads of quality puzzles and the satisfaction of an actual lock to open. I honestly can’t recommend this enough, and can only hope that there is more to come from Cryptic Enigmas.
GOOD TO KNOW
- £60.00 within BS postcodes/£85.00 to other UK addresses
- A Facebook account is required
- Paper and pen for note taking
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 2hr 10 mins
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.