Season 1: The Disappearance Of Claire Makova, Episode 1 • The Detective Society • Puzzle Mail Review
The Detective Society (Based In The United Kingdom)
◣ GAME'S SPECS
💪 Recommended for ages 14+ by company.
⏲️ 90-120 minutes duration as suggested by company.
🔢 Play solo or with friends as suggested by company.
💬 Hint system via hint page. Two clues, then the actual answer, are available for sequential reveal.
📝 Game requires mail contents, internet, email, phone (for call/text), or more. Check for details.
🛒 If you PURCHASE GAME due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout out! ;)
◣ MATTSTER'S TAKE
💪 Difficulty: For Mattster's team of 1, fairly easy, 3 or 4/10. I did use a clue or two to help move things along.
🔢 Ideal Team Size: Games of this style are best enjoyed solo or at most with two. Materials are hard to share otherwise.
🤷♂️ Best Fit For: You like playing detective? Also enjoy the unexpected turn of events a la soap opera? This fits the bill.
😀 Overall Takeaway: An introductory missing-person investigation that's about to turn into a case much more substantial. A well paced (once the main plot gets going) and well executed pilot to what seems like a promising multi-episode story arc, with genuinely suitable and fun puzzles that propel this to being one of the top options available.
OOOH. ME LIKEY.
THIS JOINS "RECOMMENDED" RANK!
Ah yes, The Disappearance of Claire Makova. A most intriguing case. Where on earth is she? And why has she disappeared?
UH UH UH, PROVE YOUR WORTH FIRST!
Of all available "Detective Societies" to join, this is certainly one of the most interesting and polished ones.
My assignment began well before my confidential package had even arrived at my mailbox. In my other inbox--the electronic variety--sat a message from the head of the Society, briefing me on how our client Dolosus Global, a security consultancy, needed help in locating a missing person for a high-profile individual.
The mail package--which would indeed arrive just days later--contained Envelopes X, Y, and Z, and a plastic dossier. Everything I needed to solve the missing person case was in the plastic folder, but it's padlocked. To open this lock, I would need to extract key info from both the email and the 3 mysterious envelopes.
Why all the hoops to jump through? To prove my worth, they say. Pssst. This is the Escape Mattster, baby. I got this.
AN UNUSUAL FIRST IMPRESSION
From the start, this entrance-exam-like intro to Detective Society sets itself apart from most games I've reviewed:
First, not only does the email serve as a friendly heads-up of "Hey, you got some goodies about to arrive at your doorstep!", it also gives the eager customer something to do: The communication presents a minor brainteaser, a mental appetizer for the hungry player to nibble on.
Next, by introducing Dolosus Global early on, it lays the groundwork of a universe the patron is about to enter. Immersion is all about enclosing the participant in the details of a world the designers have created, so by exposing it to the customer as soon as possible, and as much as possible, this logically yields the best results. So I commend this approach.
Finally, simply, this is rarely done! As slightly upsetting as it sounds, it's weirdly intriguing how an establishment concurrently seeks for my help and yet also harbors a healthy amount of skepticism in my aptitude. Ha!
You've made an impression, all right. Now let's see where else this takes me.
LITERALLY UNLOCKING THE MAIN ATTRACTION
I'm able to solve the puzzles in Envelopes X, Y, and Z with relative ease. Of these puzzles, two are standard, a bit too math-heavy and formulaic to my liking, but the third is quite the charmer! This entire preface section is arguably a toss-up; some may find it inventive, others may deem it superfluous. But in either case, don't you worry... The best is yet to come!
The solutions together transform into the padlock combo, and as an escape room lover, I can tell you, few things else imitate well the unique rush of actually undoing a lock in real life.
And it is exactly this exciting moment that "Season One: The Disappearance Of Claire Makova" truly kicks off. You've at last *literally* unlocked the main course. Everything prior, even if a bit lackluster, is frankly just prep work. Warm up, if you will. Now fasten your seatbelt, because this ride is about to go full speed ahead.
A JOB WELL DONE... WELL, IT'S DONE
Admittedly, while it took a bit of time to really get the engine started, from here on out, it's a smooth and incredible ride--nothing but an engaging narrative, fun puzzles, and a bombshell of an ending, but let's circle back to that later.
Having finally gained access to the locked folder, you're told that Ambassador from the (fictitious) Republic of Molvaria, Leonid Makova, hasn't seen his daughter for days. It is her, Claire Makova, that Dolosus Global cannot get ahold of, and now it's up to you to rummage through photos, text messages, and even bank records to try to make sense of it all.
What seemingly appears to be a worried parent longing to see his missing child masks a story much more complicated--and noxious--than at first glance. As far as plot goes, I have to give huge props to the creators for telling the story the way they did. I really wonder how many players saw the ending coming, because I certainly did not! An obvious cliffhanger toys with my conscience: Whatever happened, or will happen, to Claire? Did I do a good job, or a terrible job?!
What I do know for certain is... I want to know more. I am hooked. I want Episode Two... NOW.
And be ready for a startling confession from the head of Dolosus Global, Gareth. If you feel urge to uppercut him afterwards, go on ahead, for he certainly deserves it for undermining some of the greatest talents in the industry--you.
THE HIGHLY ENTERTAINING SEARCH FOR CLARIE
The various puzzles leading to Claire's whereabouts are honestly some of my recent favorites. They incorporate very naturally with the premise, really blending together beautifully as a believable backdrop of a detective investigation.
From hacking into Claire's online banking account, to contacting her friends and coworkers, and to finally tracking down her specific itinerary, every step feels logical and plausible, which should engross the player in the most fun fashion possible without their ever questioning if the puzzles make sense--because again, they absolutely do.
I initially want to pick a favorite puzzle to better illustrate my point, but as it turns out, I honestly like all of them across the board. Puzzles involve gathering intel scattered here and there, quite a bit of e-communicating with various characters, then ultimately piecing all the jigsaw pieces back together, and revealing a lead for your next destination--very much like a real investigation.
In addition, not one single challenge stands out as excessively more difficult than the rest, rendering the entire game play not only enjoyable but consistent throughout, which I vastly appreciate.
Bank Of Molvaria: A Molvarian always pays his debts. Or else.
MOLVARIA IS A FUNNY NATION
The quality of the physical items (clues and such) included in the mail package is decent. I personally feel that the photographs should've been printed on glossy photo papers for added authenticity, and texts (SMS) logs in printed format are rather bizarre. However, they are at least serviceable and are very small imperfections in a bigger picture.
Besides, the true production strength lies not within the on-hand items I received, but in the various faux websites I have navigated on during my sleuthing. Take Bank of Molvaria, the bank of choice for Claire, for example. Functionally, it's the entry point in which players gain insight to the missing subject's financial habits; but aesthetically, it looks incredibly legitimate and elegant. Not only that, dashes of dry humor are scattered throughout:
Did you know that if you do not keep up with your repayments, the Bank of Molvaria has the right to demand repayment in full at any time and for any reason? And that the bank has the motto of "A Molvarian always pays his debts"?
Ominous. You better keep up with your payments or risk losing a limb or two.
Such humorous Easter eggs are found all over the various websites--and there're quite a few--made specifically for the Detective Society games. If you find yourself clicking on all the links and soaking up all the funny tidbits the creators planted instead of actually playing the game, you aren't the only one, I personally assure you.
What I initially thought was a cute society to perhaps solve one self-contained case per episode turns out to be an overarching season of captivating twists and turns, with Claire Makova's true fate still very much up in the air. Episode One offers quite a strong start and should garner many instant fans.
Also, while not terribly significant, but certainly doesn't hurt, each episode offers a unique souvenir enamel pin to commemorate your mission completion. This particular one features a kitty cat. Meow! (Save The Kittens!)
★ If you don't live in the UK, (or even if you do,) it's OK to Google for which local airport is closest to France. ;)
★ Problem with the number reels of the padlock? Be sure to NOT pull the lock down while inputting the combo.
⤻ Full disclosure: Complimentary game access was generously provided for review purposes.
⤻ All media credited to and provided by contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ Speed code for on-site search: TDSClaire