If you’re a puzzle fan, buy this game now.
The Paradox Diamond has been stolen from the New York City Museum. Private Investigator Larry Maxwell is on the case but he needs your help. Can you catch the thief red-handed in this ‘print and play’ game?
We’re no strangers to Paradox Parlours (formerly Guildford Escape Rooms). In fact, The Case of The Missing Gun was among the first games we played, back when our total games played could still be counted on two hands (rekindling our love for escape rooms after a few mediocre experiences early on) and at the time of writing, Venus still commands a place on each of our respective Top Ten lists. In short, the physical games from this company are superb, and really don’t get enough love as far as I am concerned. With how much we love this company, you can imagine our delight when we discovered that Paradox Parlours had created their very own print and play game for at-home escaping.
If you’re thinking you’ve heard the name Larry Maxwell before, you’re not wrong. The Disappearing Diamond is another case from the files of the same private detective that featured in The Case of the Missing Gun, subtly linking the narratives of both games together. (If I’m not mistaken, Larry or a relative may also make an appearance in Missing in Action, another gem of a game.) Of course, don’t let that put you off playing The Disappearing Diamond if you’ve not yet played any of the company’s physical game, as they aren’t linked by anything other than Larry himself and can be played in any order.
The Disappearing Diamond is described as a print and play, and like the other games that we’ve played in this category that are noteworthy, in addition to the printed elements, the game utilises a slick online portal to enter the details of suspects, provide extra puzzles, a bit of fun interaction, and also to push the narrative forward with audio recordings and additional evidence.
As I was away from home for a week due to work, this would have provided an ideal opportunity for Gord and I to genuinely test how well a game works for teams in different locations, and I can confirm that the online portal works perfectly from two different locations. Unfortunately, as we settled in to play I realised I failed the first task and had forgotten to pack a copy of the printed evidence which put our game on hold. But even had I remembered this, there is a flaw in the system that would have ensured that we wouldn’t have gotten very far, or at least not without great difficulty or leaving me out of the puzzle solving. You see, there are a few additional pieces of evidence that are unlocked as you go along that need to be printed. I can see why Paradox Parlours have done this, but other than replicating the feeling of unlocking and finding something new in a physical escape room, it’s unnecessary and adds a barrier to playing for those who do not have a handy printer. But when you consider that this is literally the only thing I can find to pick at, it’s relatively minor as far as flaws go*.
But I digress. After my error in packing, once we finally had the opportunity to set aside a chunk of time to play (it took us roughly two hours and fifteen minutes), we were nothing short of impressed. The game is broken up into five sections and will save your progress allowing for breaks if you’re not up to playing for over two hours in one sitting. This gives it a somewhat linear feel, but at the same time, the initial evidence pack presents a challenge of going through everything in front of you to find out what is relevant when which makes the game feel open at the same time. And even within each section, there are opportunities to divide, and tackle puzzles in any order you please, which may benefit those in a larger team, although I must admit, I really enjoyed solving each one as a pair and sharing in the delightful ah-ha moments as we solved each.
But on top of the excellent puzzles, The Disappearing Diamond is bolstered by a strong narrative that pushes the game forwards. All of this culminated in the climax of the game and the identification of our thief but it didn’t end there, and like any good detective story, incorporated a twist to drive the game towards its finale.
I am a fan of a strong narrative and love a story-driven game, so much so that often the puzzles fade into the background for me, and it’s not often when I write about a game that I effusively praise the puzzles as the star of the show, but that is precisely what I am about to do. If you’re a puzzle fan, buy this game now; it’s simply full of engaging, complex (but fair), and totally varied puzzles.
The game is contained to the online portal and the printed elements, so there’s no hunting around the internet for any additional information, but that doesn’t mean that the online and offline puzzles don’t find ways to interact. The Disappearing Diamond is filled with content, with puzzles involving cyphers, codes, pattern recognition, a hefty dose of logic, and just a bit of observation. In other words, there was something for everyone. There were one or two puzzles that we encountered that we felt could have benefited slightly from a bit more signposting in how a solution should be entered, and another that we were only able to solve by taking all of the available hints, but these were the outliers to the otherwise excellent content throughout the game.
Clues are available whenever they are needed from the NYPD Help Desk and are even presented almost like a little typewritten telegram popping up onto the screen. Like most of the play at home games we’ve come across, The Disappearing Diamond uses the granular method of dispensing those clues. At times, this is frustrating, as the one time we needed a clue, each of the clues, up until we got the solution, were telling us what we already knew but were a bit too dense to see. But there really is no better system for clue delivery that we’ve come across, and in instances where there are several puzzles that one may require a clue for, the drop-down menu to select from ensures that the clues you do take are spoiler-free. (You’re even warned when the next clue will reveal the solution.)
Paradox Parlour’s first play-at-home escape game is as excellent as their first physical escape room, and The Disappearing Diamond is not to be overlooked when planning your next game night. I can only hope that there will be more Maxwell Mysteries to come in future.
*Paradox Parlours have taken this feedback on board and the one minor flaw is now non-existent. All pages can now be printed in one go, and while this takes some of the excitement out of “discovering” something, it definitely improves the experience and removes any frustrations for players that may not have a home printer. And we’ve updated our score to reflect this change.
- Printer and 24 pieces of paper
- Tape/Glue (Optional)
- Computer with an Internet connection
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 02:15:00
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.