“Well that was the silliest tea party I ever went to! I am never going back there again!”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Location: Buy it and play it wherever you want
Date played: July 2, 2016
Team size: 1- as many people as you can tolerate; we recommend 2-4
Price: $29.99 for one experience, $79.99 for a three-month subscription, $149.99 for a six-month subscription
Story & setting
We had no control over which box we received from the Mystery Experience Company; they send out their packages on a monthly subscription model. The one that showed up in the mail was titled The Mad Hatter.
We were consultants working with the FBI to investigate the murders of three women who were all found dead dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland, all murdered in the same fashion.
Armed with a box full of documents and a few trinkets, we had to sift through the evidence to narrow down a list of suspects until we could conclude whodunit.
All of this was set in the fictional Forrest City, which actually seemed like an interesting place, as many of the game’s components were heavily focused on worldbuilding.
It’s a puzzle game, if you use a loose definition of “puzzle.”
As we worked through the game, most of it simply came down to:
- reading everything carefully
- indexing the information
- a bit of light deduction
The hardest part of the game was disregarding the larger world that it created, as there were more than a few extraneous details.
Many of the artifacts found in the box had beautiful art.
There was a newspaper and a website. Each covered a wide variety of people, organizations, and happenings throughout Forrest City. They even had advertisements for the local businesses. The level of detail and worldbuilding was excellent. Perhaps a little too excellent…
Tragically, the world of Forrest City was more interesting than the string of murders we were investigating.
There was a piece in the paper about the passing of Agnes Savage, whose net value totaled $2 billion. Prior to her death, she had changed her will and hid her fortune, offering clues and puzzles to find it. Whoever found it first would inherit it. This was a far more intriguing mystery than the Alice murders.
Similarly, there were a lot of hints at other conspiracy and corruption in the City’s government and upper class. Ultimately, this was all dressing.
There were far too many things to read.
There was a set of cumbersome rules that turned this investigation into a turn-based game. We disregarded them and just attacked the evidence as we saw fit. It worked better this way as it reduced the gameplay time.
There were glaring inconsistencies in some of the documents. These inconsistencies seemed like clues, but they were merely errors.
The nifty objects that we found in the box frequently didn’t do anything beyond look pretty.
The clues that ultimately excluded most of the suspects were painfully obvious.
We had no idea how that list of suspects was created. As we investigated these people, I felt like we were harassing fictional citizens with next to no evidence to even justify a questioning.
Should I play The Mystery Experiences Company’s The Mad Hatter?
From a graphic design standpoint, there was a lot to love, and I was drawn into the world of Forrest City.
I love the idea behind The Mystery Experience Company.
However, the puzzle quality just wasn’t there. The mystery fell flat and the investigation itself didn’t feel plausible. Even after cracking the proverbial case, I didn’t believe that we had enough evidence to pursue an indictment, let alone a criminal prosecution for murder.
While I haven’t played their other games, comparing notes with trusted sources, it sounds like The Mad Hatter was superior to some of their previous experiences.
Maybe I’ll check back in a year and see where they take this. Here’s to hoping that their games are on an upward trajectory. In the mean time, I think there are better ways to spend $30 and an hour or two.
Any other recommendations for at home puzzling?
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