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Review: Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File | Rod Gillies


Game Website | Product Listing | Based In: United Kingdom



OFFICIAL SPEC

🕹️ Stay At Home Games » On Hand Items Required » Puzzle Book

💪 Difficulty: Not specified.

⏲️ Time duration: Not specified.

🔢 Capacity: Not specified.

💬 Hints: 3 levels of hint pages, each more specific than the previous. Encrypted solutions also available upon request.

🛒 If you PURCHASE due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout-out! ;)


MATTSTER'S REC 🙂

💪 Difficulty (as perceived by Mattster): 5 to 7/10 (team of 1), but very dependent on several factors, including but not limited to: nature of the "puzzle", subject matters involved, and audience's prior knowledge and interests in the topic.

🔢 Ideal team size: 1. While it'd definitely benefit the challenge-solving aspect if there is more than 1 player, both the very nature of reading a novel (a graphic puzzle novel nonetheless) and the story setup seem to tailor for a solo experience.



Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File | Rod Gillies



OFFICIAL PREMISE

Founded by Winston Churchill during his brief stint as Home Secretary, the Extraordinary Investigations Unit has a proud history of solving the mysteries nobody else can crack. From its very beginnings, the Unit broke with convention, taking on diverse and eccentric characters as investigators, regardless of their backgrounds. The modern XIU continues this tradition in its recruitment today. If you possess curiosity and determination, and enjoy cracking codes and tackling puzzles, perhaps you could join the team as one of our investigators?


IN A NUTSHELL

As the newcomer of the Extraordinary Investigations Unit, you're assigned an entry-level missing person case, which would inevitably evolve into something more conniving. Successful completion requires sorting through cryptic archived evidence, doing quite a bit of real-world web research, and learning about lesser known historical facts from WWII.



Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File | Rod Gillies



OVERALL IMPRESSIONS


"Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File" invites the reader to take the lead on a seemingly innocuous and apparently forgotten missing person case. Having briefly gone through my Evidence File One (or Chapter One of this puzzle novel, if you will), I logged onto the web-based eQUIPS system (aka the online solution verification tool) to answer a series of 6 probing questions, beginning what I thought was a lighthearted journey to recover Louis Morgan.


The first 4 questions were of medium difficulty, fair, and not out of expectation. Each question singled out a specific evidence piece, which was essentially a thinly veiled puzzle, and the solving fun began. Maze, translation, and optical tricks--a good variety of challenges without any overlapping tropes, a favorable start to the experience so far.


All that changed ever so suddenly with the fifth question, requesting the true identify of "S-face" (modified to avoid spoiler). I was instantly at a loss. Surely, there was a mention of this title, and while I thought it could potentially become of importance in later developments, with only information present at hand, I knew absolutely NOTHING. Nada. I confusedly flipped through the pages once and twice more, and still, I was perplexed, frustrated even.


Eventually, I referred to the hints. What threw me for an even wider loop was what I saw on the hint page: It explicitly told me to research the name of a specific Nazi member--WHAT?! HOLD IT! This is clearly an outside knowledge moment!


Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File | Rod Gillies



It was then I decided to take a break, albeit an early one, to contact the author, Rod Gillies, for clarifications. Through a series of pleasant exchanges, it was explained that "Morgan File" is not a purebred puzzle product. It is, instead, purposely written to require the audience to not only solve conventional puzzles, but to also integrate actual real-world online research and investigation, much like the title implies. "Outside knowledge", therefore, is intentional and fair game.


With expectations readjusted, (and a newly received solution page from Rod to prevent getting horribly stuck once more,) I set out to give the investigation mission another go--and what a marked and fine difference it turned out to be.


It was still a relatively uphill climb. Coming from an escape room enthusiast background, I'm accustomed to solving make-belief conundrums with every necessary piece of information ready at my disposal. "Morgan File", in some ways, is the polar opposite. The very central narrative blurs what's factual and fictional, often citing historically documented real-life events, people, places, and articles within a fabricated police case. In particular, many War World II reference contribute directly to the story development, and are arguably critical to a full plotline comprehension.


Strangely enough, once I was committed sufficiently to the novel's intended game play, I found myself not only passively learning obscure WWII trivia, but actually increasingly more fascinated by the gradually more compelling tale of sinister conspiracy. Poor Morgan, wrapped up in a dangerous situation with some of the worst humans on the planet.


Even so, hindering moments still popped up occasionally. Admittedly having a weak background and a remote interest at best with world history, it was still fairly strenuous to identify proper keywords to research for what's asked of me. Puzzles involving heavy usage of map and geography were gladly skipped over through the generous assistance of hints and solutions pages. Though I was cherry-picking what I wanted to solve, it made for a much more personal experience, and consequentially also a much smoother, more engaging, and more impactful rendition of the storytelling.


With such customizations set, I was enjoying myself. A far cry from my first attempt, I can tell you that much!


In the end, "Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File" really turned out to be something else. To me, it is a departure from my usual turf of escape games, an unusual sampling out of my comfort zone, and perhaps most importantly, a learning experience that has broadened my puzzle-solving career horizon. To author, Rod, it's a passion project years in the making, and I admire every ounce of dedication and hard work coming into fruition. And to his main target demographics whose interests are attuned to his visions, you're in for quite a treat.


Below are some more key points you may wanna know...



Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File | Rod Gillies



STORY

Very obviously not just a missing person case, this investigation quest is actually unexpectedly captivating, especially towards the latter parts. I enjoy the twists and turns, though initially have had a hard time following the entire plot since the story is told through pictorials, minimal written texts, and your own research efforts. Minor details may seem to spring out of nowhere in subsequent chapters if your online investigation does not yield what you should've gathered.

Yes, topics like World World II, Axis Powers, and Nazi do come up. I, however, have not found anything particularly upsetting or offensive despite the possibly sensitive nature of these matters. If anything, evil gets what it deserves.


PRODUCTION

Artworks in the Evidence Files are presented in a scrapbook format. Fonts are nice and big for easy reading. The graphics, while somewhat "boring" as evidence tend to be in real life, are actually quite visually pleasing.

Few moments during your investigation will land you on custom-made, reality-augmenting faux-websites, which seem to be more and more popular and commonplace for at-home games recently. Though I recognize these sites are only supplemental in nature, they can benefit from a tad more dressing up, which can elevate both immersion and aesthetics.

eQUIPs system (solution verification tool) looks like a DOS-based program, which seems inexplicably outdated for the story's setting, albeit amusing. What I most desire for improvement, however, are the way the questions are asked. Some are overly enigmatic without good reason, perhaps even missed opportunities to tie the story together more decisively.


IMMERSION

An attempt at immersion is, without a doubt, present, but the approach may elicit a spectrum of reactions. By blending actual World War II elements into the core of the story and the game, facts and fictions overlap, and it's almost impossible to say this isn't immersive. Meanwhile, this does effectively assume the player to have a cursory understanding of certain historical events, and a lack thereof may potentially just as effectively hamper the narrative's full effect.


PUZZLES

This game is divided into 5 main chapters. In the first 3, there are some heavy liftings to do in terms of actual research, and comparably less conventional puzzles to solve. (This is completely by design.) You may be asked for something as specific as where on Earth a particular, semi-infamous house is located at. Minor setbacks could be expected.

In latter chapters, as the plot inches towards more fiction, there is a clear return to favor "classic" puzzles.

Otherwise, the collection of riddles and brainteasers make use of many common tools in a puzzler's arsenal: de-ciphering, quite a few common code-breaking, translations, some much-dreaded map reading (blah!), and even a bit of algebra and geometry for good balance. Overall, they are not the most groundbreaking, but entertaining nonetheless.



BEST FIT FOR...

People comfortable and proficient at both solving standard puzzles and researching specific matters off Google.

Avid readers of crime and mystery fictions; those who savor doing semi-authentic detective work.

Not a usual escape game-adjacent experience; something different to expand your scope of interests!


EXTRA TIPS

★ Thought I start most of my investigating with Google, I usually end up on Wikipedia, where the answer lies.

★ No hint provided for the bonus puzzle in the epilogue. I haven't solved it; but I think Morgan can help...


READY FOR FUN?

"Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File" is available for purchase HERE.

If you PURCHASE due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout-out! ;)




Signing off,

ESCAPE MATTSTER

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Full disclosure: complimentary game access was generously provided for review or testing purposes. All media are sourced from and credited to rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended. In certain cases, media materials are made available under fair use doctrine of copyright law. RGMorgan.