► SECTION I • QUICK GLANCE ◄
◣ GAME FACTS
🎮 Game: Cocktails, Spies & Murder
💪 Difficulty: Main Mission (Medium), Side Mission (Easy)
⏲️ Time: 60-90 Minutes
🧑 Capacity: N/A (Multiple Households Allowed)
🏢 Company: Questventure
🏘️ Location: Based in United Kingdom
◣ FORMAT SPECS
🕹️ Format: Online Puzzle Game
💻 Platform: Web Browser, Phone/QR Scanner
🔊 Media Used: Text, Images, Online Map
📝 Puzzles include references to alcohol and spirits throughout
◣ "TL;DR!" SNIPPETS
📝 "Though the overall story sounds a little bit 007, unfortunately to say, it really does not develop further over the course of the game."
📝 "While the drama aspect leaves a bit more to be desired, the game does provide the perfect excuse for numerous liquor related puzzles, reference, and jokes."
📝 "Questventure opts for its own spin of an interface, and in the process, injects much personality into its visuals department... Simply put, this looks fantastic."
📝 "I took a liking to an upwards of 80 to 90 percent of all brainteasers found...furthermore, a handful of them stuck out on my mind even days after finishing the game..."
📝 "[T]he most unexpected reward is a dorky, tongue in cheek, pun based joke, congratulating you for a job well done after each puzzle completion..."
💪 "Is it Hard?" (Team of 1) Except for some UK specific culture trivia, quite easy.
🔢 "How Many?" I would recommend most to do this solo for an extra challenge.
🤷♂️ "For Who?" Welp, due to alcohol contents, anyone above legal drinking age?
► SECTION II • IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS ◄
◣ THE PREMISE
You’ve been assigned an undercover operation that without your help, could result in disastrous consequences. Agent Foxtrot was found dead in the early hours of this morning and after an initial toxicology report, we found a poisonous substance, along with a mysterious cocktail. We believe it’s the work of an undercover spy operating within our organisation. Foxtrot was last seen on CCTV at Escape & Tonic Cocktail Bar and there’s only a 90 minute window before the staff begin to arrive, and all the evidence is tampered with or destroyed. So you must go undercover, work out which was the deadly concoction and reveal the identity of the double agent, before they strike again.
• • • • •
◣ THE REVIEW
Usually, I would think being inebriated while attempting to solve puzzles is probably counterproductive. However, since alcohol (or as the Brits say it, spirits) is very much in theme, for this time, bottoms up!
The plot revolves around one fellow spy's untimely death and your attempt to arrest the culprit before more colleagues bite the dust. And since the murder stage is a cocktail bar, this is one case mixing pleasure (of drinking) and business is appropriate and even required!
Though the overall story sounds a little bit 007, unfortunately to say, it really does not develop further over the course of the game. True to the game's title, "Cocktails, Spies & [a] Murder" are involved, but the extent only goes as far as your missions to uncover which mixed drink and which spy are responsible for the crime in question.
While the drama aspect leaves a bit more to be desired, the game does provide the perfect excuse for numerous liquor related puzzles, reference, and jokes. Think of it as happy hour for your mind. (Unless you're sipping on a little something something at home while playing, then it's just happy hour all the way.)
POSH AND POLISHED
One resounding similarity with James Bond "Cocktails" does manage to achieve is its ever so classy appearance. No, this online game isn't wearing an actual casino tuxedo, but the digital equivalent of slick men's fashion, whatever that may be, it's got it.
Often, online escape games fall into the habit of presenting materials in a more or less standard, unimaginative kind of way: here's a bunch of text, then an image for illustration, and then more text, and finally a password input field at the bottom for your solution.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the above (overused) scheme, Questventure opts for its own spin of an interface, and in the process, injects much personality into its visuals department.
The map view of the investigation scene exudes a high tech spy gadget vibe, while the two concurrent missions are clearly indicated with respective icons. Each individual puzzle is then loaded in its own "pop up" window, decked out with vibrant colors and sharp looking images. The cocktail menu card used throughout (as a key clue) looks as authentic as they come!
Simply put, this looks fantastic.
(happy) hour of puzzling fun
Two main objectives are laid out very clearly in the beginning. You are to identify 1) which cocktail, made with exactly 6 ingredients, was used to poison the victim; and 2) which rogue agent, who shall be revealed by 7 numbers, weirdly enough, committed the deed.
Players then systematically go through 6 main puzzles and 7 side puzzles to collect the aforementioned info, or "evidence", that will essentially culminate to final meta puzzle answers, closing the case. Though each challenge is either alcohol or bar themed, tastefully so even, I would not exactly call this CSI procedure--the mystery solving component is light.
They are, however, engaging puzzles with fun twists, and with a wide range of variety to boot.
I took a liking to an upwards of 80 to 90 percent of all brainteasers found--which is an impressive score in itself--furthermore, a handful of them stuck out on my mind even days after finishing the game:
My personal favorites include a bingo card based puzzle, which is not only brilliant in puzzle design, it also employs "physical" prop interaction that transiently blurs an online experience into something less virtual, coming closer to creating an actual escape room moment.
Also memorable was a surprising encounter with ethanol's chemical structure. The dormant biochem degree holder hibernating deep within me awoke with gushing excitement upon this unlikely reunion with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. A gleeful reminder that I was once upon a time a science nerd, and now, full time puzzle nerd. (And proud to be one!)
Perhaps, the most unexpected reward is a dorky, tongue in cheek, pun based joke, congratulating you for a job well done after each puzzle completion--with the joke corresponding back to the very solution just given. Gin-credible writing, indeed.
Admittedly, there're a few drawbacks that made the experience slightly less than ideal:
For instance, one puzzle makes use of bar snacks knowledge from local areas of UK, and being an American, I asked Google for a helping hand. However, as with my past experience, Google's individualized search algorithm for USA residents seems to deter the engine from producing specific and helpful answers for UK focused queries.
Well, either that, or I am just absolute crap at online research. Could be the latter. Hmm.
Also, as pointed out earlier, while the entire "crime investigations" function quite cleverly and entertainingly as brainteasers, they did not satisfy the true notion of cracking a murder case in the traditional whodunit sense. I would've enjoyed elements of forensics samples, testimonials, or alibi to further authenticate the scenario.
Finally, while adult Mattster and his friends of 18 and up can freely delight in "Cocktails", there's at least hesitation to recommend this game for anyone younger due to its omnipresent ethanol contents. It's a shame, because this is such a decent game with puzzles suitable for users of all experience level. Hey, bartend, can you possibly make this virgin?
◣ FINAL THOUGHTS
As a whole, Questventure's newest boozy adventure still scores way more hits than its very occasional misses. It isn't that often when an escape game company chooses to dedicate such comprehensive coverage on the topic of alcohol in puzzle form, and seeing how QV has brewed up such a lovely and delicious concoction in the end, I say, CHEERS to that!
• • • • •
◣ PARTING TIPS
★ Objects in puzzles are often movable. That means, if something is underneath...
★ Pay attention to little key words hidden in plain sight as part of everyday speech. Sneaky.
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⤻ Though game access was complimentary, this article was written basing on unbiased and genuine opinions.
⤻ All media credited to and used with permission from contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ Cocktails, Spies & Murder • "QVCocktails"