Finders Seekers – Chicago Mystery [Review]

The next best thing to a deep-dish hot-dog pizza…

Location:  at home

Date Played: April 15, 2022

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 1-4

Duration: no time limit, but likely less than an hour

Price: $30

REA Reaction

The Chicago Mystery from Finders Keepers was a solid representation of what the series has to offer: rich details of a famous location (Chicago!), simple and contained puzzling, and a quality, reusable object from the focal locale (here, a Cubs foam finger).

Finders Seekers box beside an assortment of paper components and a large, blue, foam hand that reads, "Go Cubs!"

As in other Finders Seekers episodes, this game’s priority was presenting historical and geographical details of a particular place within the context of a light puzzle-hunt. Here, using evidence to solve a decades-old mystery proved to be an effective framework for structuring these details. The educational information was superfluous to the tasks at hand, but its bite-sized delivery made it more available to a broader audience.

Concerning gameplay, each puzzle was approachable and straightforward, relying on making the appropriate connection between 1-2 game materials. Most puzzles were simple presentations of common structures, but they were all fair and thematic. Newer players might find challenge here; experienced players will not.

As with the rest of the Finders Seekers series, I wouldn’t recommend this game to enthusiasts whose primary focus is puzzling. The puzzles were neither novel nor challenging enough for that use case. However, anyone who thrives on accumulating facts and images of the world may enjoy this game and/or series. Those details are what set Finders Seekers apart from other puzzling games.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Wannabe world travelers
  • Newbies

Why play?

  • Play this particular episode if you love Chicago or want to love Chicago.
  • Subscribe to the series if you love learning about new places with a side of light puzzling.

Story

Many years ago, the Medici mafia family stole two Seurat paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. Despite leaving clues all over the city, the criminals were never caught. Surely you can do what the police never could: use the case file to identify the nine(!) thieves.

Setup

Per the conceit of enacting an investigation, this game was structured around nine “evidence submission forms.” Each form listed the “evidence” (i.e. game materials) to consult related to a particular location in Chicago, which conveniently led us to one of the nine thieves. After identifying the thief associated with a particular location, we validated the answer by scratching off the thief’s space on the Suspect Lineup. After catching all the thieves, we accessed an online meta-puzzle that used all of the information we had gathered.

The nine puzzles in this game were all independent from each other, so many people could play parts of this in parallel. However, the overall experience would be much shorter.

A suspect lineup beside a folder and a piece of evidence.

Gameplay

Finders Seekers’s Chicago Mystery was a standard play-at-home escape game with a low level of difficulty.

Puzzles involved observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕/➖ The informational tidbits in this game might be interesting to fact-finders and travel buffs but were nonetheless irrelevant to the gameplay. That said, they were spread throughout the puzzles in bite-sized chunks. This put the information in context for players who prioritize learning about Chicago while also making that information palatable and/or skippable for more puzzle-minded players. The integration in this episode felt more consumable than in others.

➕/➖ The Finders Seekers blog had food and ambiance suggestions for enhancing the immersion of this episode (and others as well). However, the game materials didn’t link to that information, so we didn’t discover it until after we played.

➖ The game came with an empty “case folder” that seemed intended to house all of the evidence pieces. It felt unnatural to put all of the game materials into this folder for the sole purpose of taking them back out again. Delivering the materials within this folder would increase the immersion experience of this game.

➕/➖ In order to be approachable, the puzzles were largely not memorable, which is typical for Finders Seekers episodes. I had to revisit multiple parts of the game to find details for this review.

➕ The scratch-off answer validation mechanism was fun and interactive.

➖ One puzzle may be disproportionately difficult without outside knowledge. In theory, it was a straightforward pattern-matching exercise, but there was a significant amount of noise to sift through.

➕ Even though I expect most use cases for this game to fall between 1-4 players (fewer for experienced players), it could expand to entertain more people. Because all puzzles (except the meta-puzzle) were independent, a creative host could distribute the game materials to entertain many guests in parallel, albeit for increasingly shorter periods of time.

➕ One discovery legit made me hungry. A week later, the memory still made me hungry. Powerful stuff.

A cat on a couch looking curiously at a foam hand that says "Go Cubs"

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: Table or floor space to access 2-3 game materials at a time.
  • Required Gear: Pen and paper for note-taking.

Buy your copy of Finders Seekers’s Chicago Mystery or subscribe to the series, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Cratejoy provided a sample for review and if you purchase through our Cratejoy affiliate link, REA will get a small percentage of the sale.

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