► SECTION I • INFO ◄
◣ GAME FACTS
🎮 Game: CSI: Stranglehold
💪 Difficulty: Medium
⏲️ Time: About 1-2 Hours
🧑 Capacity: 1-8 Players
🏘️ Location: Various In United Kingdom
◣ FORMAT SPECS
🕹️ Format: Online Puzzle Game
💻 Platform: Web Browser
🔊 Media Used: Text, Images, Audio, Videos
► SECTION II • ANALYSIS ◄
◣ THE PREMISE
Blood has been spilled across the streets of London, "The Eastside Strangler" has yet to be caught, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. You must follow in the footsteps of the previous detective on the case and finally get some justice. Find out his identity and location before he strikes again! The power is in your hands detectives.
• • • • •
◣ THE FEATURE
Have you ever noticed how so many detectives would bite it on the job, leaving you to clean up their leftover mess, but only to find out they're this close to cracking the case?
They gotta start training these men better. Or at least stop dying.
THROWN INTO THE DEEP END
So an unnamed detective following the hot case of "The Eastside Strangler" has unfortunately gone out of commission. Was he murdered for getting too close to the truth? Or from a heart attack due to excessive donut indulgence? Dunno. Not mentioned.
What we do know is he's got boxes and folders of evidence, in the order he collected them in, safely (or inconveniently) locked away, ready for re-investigation by you. The killer's still on the loose, ready to claim another victim. There're only 7 suspects, so work fast, undo those locks, and deduce away!
"CSI: Stranglehold" is my first CSI game with The Panic Room, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I thought I'd be fed bits and pieces of info at a time, as the story slowly and gradually unfolds. "Stranglehold", however, point blank threw everything at me on the first game page. Notebook, profiles, deduction board, evidence packs. Whoa. Truth be told, though it makes sense given the scenario, it's still very overwhelming and disorientating right off the bat.
What seems to have compounded this issue is that "Stranglehold", by design, lacks a clear cut plot line to follow. Aside from a short intro video, you're given little else. Consequently, in the initial stages, the game feels rather dry. The first few puzzles only serve to provide the next combo codes to open the subsequent evidence packs, ho hum; though once audio and video testimonies start popping up, things start to get more interesting.
EYEWITNESSES SAVE THE DAY!
Just when I started losing steam while playing, a savior in the form of Claire Turner came to the rescue. Appearing in the first of a handful of witness testimony videos, the actress playing Claire made some fascinating choices while delivering her lines with much gusto.
Portraying a barmaid that coincidentally overhears the serial killer's flaunting of his murders, and subsequently unable to alert the police in time, Claire's actress enunciated clear disbelief, anger, frustration, and even a bit of self-blamed guilt through surprisingly impressive facial expressions and tone fluctuations, all in a brief 1-minute clip.
I don't normally expect much from the casual acting filmed for the sole purpose of an online escape game experience, but this actress's commitment to play her character in a straight drama angle, without an ounce of levity, actually worked really well. She's made the one pivotal moment that grabbed my attention once again and sucked me back into the game.
You may think I am being sarcastic--rest assured--I am really not.
In fact, looking back, the inclusion of well acted and well produced video clips in "Stranglehold" is probably the one best feature I enjoyed the most in the production value aspect. To their credits, the images throughout also look aesthetically pleasing, but the short film clips take home the win this time.
(As a bonus, The Panic Room's consistent and unapologetic plug of their famous tag line "Don't panic" with every opportunity possible is an amusing treat in itself.)
WIDE ARRAY OF "EVIDENCE"
The long list of puzzles... err... evidence packs guarantees a solid hour of detective sleuthing fun, though I definitely felt a bit distraught when I couldn't, like AT ALL, even begin to untangle the mystery of the very first deduction board challenge. If this was to set the tone for the rest of the game, I was in deep trouble--and I finally kinda understand why the last guy failed.
Fortunately for me, the difficulty quickly de-escalated, and besides a one single gray beard, barely visble, that did me a quick confuse (*insert confused dog head tilt meme here*), everything else was well within doable range for most escape room fans. One even took just a quick glance to solve, giving the audience quite an extreme spectrum of experience.
Puzzles variety is aplenty, ranging from standard tropes like pattern recognition and application, to more police specific activity like facial composite construction. While I don't think majority of them contributed directly to the plot line, they do at least, on the surface, carry the theme of CSI, with a decent fun level to boot.
Take note, however, several solutions came out to be gibberish that don't necessarily make sense. If you land on a random string of letters & numbers, like 52GH09AK, it could still be the right answer! A bit unusual, and I prefer an answer that is ALSO a word, but let's soldier on.
A certain meta puzzle near the end needed crucial elements from previous puzzles, and while in most cases, I would know exactly what I needed to compile, this time, I hadn't gotten the slightest clue! Every well hidden key info skated by me without raising any suspicion, for which I highly commend. The moment when I finally connected the dot, that escape room high I am all too familiar with took over, and the satisfaction felt was golden.
ACTUAL DEDUCTIONS REQUIRED
Last but not least, I found it extremely rewarding for the creators to actually give the participants a chance to deduce which suspect is logically the infamous Eastside Strangler. Instead of just hand feeding you the one last standing answer after going through a laundry list of puzzles out of routine, this game progressively assist you eliminate unlikely options.
For instance, the culprit's "weapon of choice" is his own two strangling hands, and therefore, someone inflicted with a rare health disorder, brittle bone disease, would probably have his ulnas and radii broken long before asphyxiating someone to their death.
The DNA test based puzzle, in particular, appropriately injected a dose of reality and science into a crime based escape game, while also cleverly weeding out other incorrect suspects, setting up a final showdown in the finale challenge. For this reason, it ranked as one of my personal favorites in "Stranglehold".
◣ FINAL THOUGHTS
"CSI: Stranglehold" is a solid effort in their crime mystery series from The Panic Room. It's undoubtedly got its high points, and if not for the actual puzzles, that aforementioned breakthrough performance by barmaid Claire Turner certainly makes this worth a look. ;)
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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.
⤻ CSI: Stranglehold • "TPRStranglehold"