Deadlocked – The Cyphstress [Hivemind Review]

The Cyphstress is a point-and-click adventure game created by Deadlocked (Reading, UK) in collaboration with Siren Craft Brew.

Cyphstress Online Escape Room promo illustration, depicting an woman with keys, and clocks in her flowing hair.

Format

Style of Play: point-and-click adventure game with audiovisual components

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Note that you need to have accounts on common social media platforms.

You’ll want to have your computer’s sound on.

Also, one part of the game unexpectedly asks you to play on two devices with a video chat. This is definitely worth doing.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: two 90-minute sessions, which can be played as one long session

Price: £10.00 for standalone game & £35.00 for bundle pack with The Cyphstress beer (which does not ship to US)

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Note that the booking page requires a UK postcode in the billing information. If you aren’t in the UK, you can look up a random UK postcode and use that.

Description

This is a story-driven series of puzzles presented as a point-and-click adventure game, integrated with other online mechanisms, including audio clips, and social media. As the story unfolds across two chapters, characters give you tasks to perform by tracking down information across these channels. You submit solutions in several different ways.

An assortment of Siren Beers.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Immediately upon finishing this game, I said to my teammates, “This was the best brand activation I’ve ever experienced.” To be clear, The Cyphstress is ostensibly a puzzle game created to promote a line of beer of the same name. On paper, that sounds less than appealing, but the experience ended up being so delightfully designed and so thoughtfully crafted (pun intended?) that we actually forgot we were being advertised to and became completely absorbed in the game and storyline. I’d recommend The Cyphstress to anyone, casual players and enthusiasts alike, and would even go so far as to suggest folks in the marketing realm look to this as an example of how a puzzle experience can be integrated into your ad campaign.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

The Cyphstress had me craving a tall, cold one by the end for all the right reasons. This fully digital game manages to weave a plethora of artistic, narrative, and interactive elements into a well-polished whole, and at £10 per team it is an unbelievable steal for 2-3 hours of play. The puzzles – in a multimedia mix of escape room and ARG styles – were diverse, accessible, and full of clever little twists that’ll amuse even seasoned enthusiasts. Passionately created by seasoned escape room designers in celebration of their favourite local brewery, this game is one of the most genuine and impressive brand activations I’ve experienced.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This game has a theme song! That alone might be worth 3 stars…

I kid, but seriously, I was wooed from the beginning by this quite literal “siren’s call.” Both the narrative and production value of the song foreshadowed a strong cohesion among the game’s puzzles and aesthetics. Indeed, the puzzles and interactions were well produced, impressive in their variety, and supportive of plot points in the story. Despite their polish, however, some of the puzzles in the first half of the game overstayed their welcome, requiring a bit more repetitive work than I prefer. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the game. It incorporated so many of my favorite features: non-linear puzzle-solving, multi-layer puzzles that feel mentally taxing but avoid frustration, and collaborative activities where subgroups within your team must contribute in unique ways. Overall, this was a pleasant adventure and an easy recommendation. After all, a week later, that song is still stuck in my head…

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

The Cyphstress was one of the strongest online-only games I’ve played. It combined great puzzles, solid storytelling, and an incredibly well hidden promotional collaboration. Deadlocked was able to make a similar game to The Insiders, yet they used all the parts I loved and tweaked the parts I didn’t love to make a strong and different experience. I’ve never seen a promotional game so perfectly capture the essence of the product while still being subtly promotional. This is one of the few online games that actually works well with more than one player, and really highlights the collaborative parts. I wish I was in the UK to actually get the beer to go with the game, yet as a stand-alone experience it was still phenomenal!

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

That was refreshing. Deadlocked teamed up with a local brewery and produced a 2-part online point-and-click adventure.

For me, the opening sequence was the standout. Right out of the gates Deadlocked highlighted what would be most enjoyable about The Cyphstress: its voice acting, charming characters, and narrative focus.

The puzzles were solid. The aforementioned first puzzle was by far my favorite, but I can’t point towards a dud in the bunch. Even the thing that I found particularly grating during one puzzle sequence had a purpose and payoff. I don’t know that it was totally worth the payoff, but if I’m being honest, I was so pleasantly surprised that it was deliberate that I forgave the mechanic entirely.

Finally, games that promote a brand tend to feel heavy-handed and advertise-y; this was decidedly not the case with The Cyphstress. Deadlocked tied this game to Siren Craft Brew with an abundance of restraint and grace. The way that they handled this was smart, and made us smile. If I didn’t live an ocean away, I’d go try their beer simply because I respect that they let Deadlocked incorporate their brand with such a light touch.

Disclosure: Deadlocked provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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