⏲️ TIME DURATION: 30-90 Minutes
💬 DIFFICULTY: For Age 12+ (Official) | Medium To Hard (Mattster)
👨👩👧👦 CAPACITY: 1-4 Players
🔐 GAME TYPE:Private
► FORMAT & SPECIFICATIONS ◄
🖱️ DISTRIBUTION ROUTE: Online, Purchase Anytime, Account Required
🎧 PRODUCT TYPE: Mixed Media Online Puzzle Adventure
► PREMISE & OBJECTIVES ◄
Official Premise (from Society Of Curiosities):
Solve the case of the mysterious map heist! You can start your mission right away! This game can be played completely online. (We hope you love getting a taste of The Society of Curiosities with this mini-adventure. We promise to wow you even more with our full-length adventures by mail, in which you get packages full of artifacts and clues!)
► "GAME AT A GLANCE" SUMMARY ◄
📚 NARRATIVE: A nominal "map hunt" that turned into the world's most fun web research
👀 VISUAL: Fantastic, not a lot of actual art images used... but the WEBSITES! You'll see!
🧩 PUZZLE: Innovative; came in various shapes, forms, and media; text and web usage heavy
🧠 IMMERSION: Somehow, Society made me feel so immersed--reality even seems blurred
💭 OVERALL: Mind blown. How blown? Completely out of the water level of blown.
🎟️ BEST FIT FOR: Every puzzle (and escape game) enthusiast; yes, that's everyone
🎫 IDEAL TEAM SIZE: Doing this entire quest solo was difficult, playing in pairs recommended
finally found someone who'd text him back. Pippa O'Shanter, you're the one for me.
"Mysterious Map Heist" officially joins the "MUST DO!!!" rank!
FINALLY INDUCTED INTO THE SOCIETY
I've followed Society of Curiosities's Instagram for the longest time. So long, in fact, I have no idea when I added them as IG friends. Even more strangely, we've remained on each other's radars without my ever knowing just exactly what kind of puzzle games they actually offer.
(Looking back, I really wish I explored much sooner!)
The creators, Yacine & Michelle, must've thought the exact same, because one lucky day in June, they graced all their followers with a mini, taste-test adventure! (See website for details.) Time for a map heist!
AN ALTERNATE REALITY
The journey started with a simple letter from the Society Grandmaster, Aldora Pennywig (not Pennywise, mind you). She informed you to work with another Society researcher Pippa O'Shanter (Pip) on deciphering a mysterious journal page. So go ahead and give Pip a text.
Text? As in on my cell phone?
That's right. Right off the bat, it caught me off guard that this wasn't your ordinary expectation of an online puzzle game. At no given point would you follow the mundane formula of solving a riddle, finding an answer, chug it in a text field, submit and repeat.
The entire map hunt took place in a psuedo-reality in which I was ostensibly communicating with Pip from the "ground team", who would do all the traveling abroad, running around town, and other investigation related labor, while I sit at home like a happy potato. (Works for me!)
As the story progressed, even more mind bending resources will be unlocked, and every piece of online "prop" would be fully accessible for anyone out there on this planet via the world wide web. If you as the player couldn't tell what's real anymore after a while, don't worry, that's 100% intentional. It's called immersion, my friend.
Tip: The Society endorses great Google searches as legitimate research efforts.
THREW ME FOR A LOOP
There's a good reason why membership in this Society is so highly regarded, because the mysteries the researchers face are of no ordinary difficulty level.
I encountered my first roadblock at the beginning, and it was extremely disconcerting for me to stumble at puzzle numero uno. My pride as an "experienced" puzzle solver, and my name as an escape "Mattster", down the crapper.
It was only after a brief moment of quiet shameful sobbing and a quick peek at the "Hints" page that I realized, dang, these puzzle writers meant business. The ever so sneaky detail hidden in plain sight in a seemingly normal piece of mail was my missing key.
From there on, you will learn about a famed detective and his past works, and subsequently be sent to several almost-too-authentic looking websites. Little clues are sprinkled and scattered throughout, and it took real mental focus to apply all your available information at hand, possibly in the said websites, maybe. Heh.
So difficulty wise, everyone's fair game, and every noggin will be challenged. Even experts'.
Fans of online retail therapy will be absolutely delighted at the final showdown. Rarely is there a chance for them to put their years of training to good use.
I also found it ironic that the treasure map itself is the treasure this time around. Ha.
Overall, every requested task or mini mission felt real, unique, and just a really refreshing way to experience online puzzle gaming. A first of its kind for me in many aspects, this game blew my mind, and I was thoroughly entertained, a little mentally drained... but extremely satiated.
There were other things there might not have impacted game play much, though I still appreciated the attention to details.
Firstly, although there was a light use of images overall, those that did appear in game were most definitely professionally produced, and looked both magnificent and era appropriate.
Next, how about that official "Mysterious Map Heist" soundtrack, huh? Though I am not big on auditory distraction when I play, I cherish the gesture. The music itself is part relaxing, part melancholy, and instantly reminded me of the popular Professor Layton game titles.
Both the "Tips For Success" and "Hint" help pages were formatted in the most user friendly way possible. Not only is the navigation intuitive, the step by step hint reveal system also gently nudges you along the right track without letting you give up too easily.
Also props to always including transcripts for all cursive handwritten notes--total life savers.
I also purposely texted nonsense to Pip and fiddled with extraneous links and contents on various game websites, and the results were amusing. They really thought of everything, huh?
BOTTOM LINE: you gotta try!
First of all, this is an essentially free game. (You'll get the equivalent monetary value back should you decide to subscribe for the full service. See website for details.) This is such a low risk gamble, and whatever your final decision may be, you'll probably just end up having the best hour you'll spend on solving online puzzles.
No matter the contents, whether it be the story, the puzzles, the "sets and props", the art visuals, and everything I've covered above, everything's the definition of epitome of quality. I simply don't see a reason why you wouldn't play this.
In fact, I will go on record and say that it's almost ludicrous this is advertised at such a reasonable price tag. (I've seen games that are a lot less entertaining, without half the innovation, cost around the same OR MORE.)
But you are your best judge. So go ahead, try it out. If a little low-cost, test sample tastes this good already, imagine what kind of absolute beast of a feast the main course will be!
If you are anything like me or the Society, and are ever so curious to see what's in store in the coming months, subscribe now.
► DISCLAIMERS ◄
All official media are provided by or credited to respective contents owners, and are used with proper permission for the purpose of this post.