Hatch Escapes – Mother of Frankenstein [Review]

Assembly required.

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 2023

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 1-3

Duration: 12-18 hours (or more)

Price: $120 for all three volumes, or $40-50 each sold separately

REA Reaction

Mother of Frankenstein is a tabletop game stitched together from letters and journals, jigsaw puzzles, papercraft, and challenging puzzles. And it’s a real monster: completing its three volumes took our group more than 17 hours. Over the course of a few weeks, we followed a fictionalized story about Mary Shelley’s experiences before and after she wrote the seminal sci-fi novel Frankenstein.

The front of the Mother of Frankenstein Volume One box, with the other two boxes stacked behind it

Hatch Escapes describes Mother of Frankenstein as “a novella with puzzles,” indicating how much reading is involved. If you shy away from walls of text in games, this is probably not the experience for you. Similarly, you should be at least somewhat excited about spending roughly half the gameplay time on jigsaw puzzles and paper folding. 

Mother of Frankenstein also contains other puzzles, most of which we found unusually difficult for a tabletop puzzle game. Some individual puzzles took us up to an hour to solve, and in a few cases we decided to give up and read the answer online. It was clear how much care and cleverness went into designing the puzzles, especially seeing how seamlessly they fit with the story and themes. But from a player experience perspective, the process of solving them sometimes felt like doing homework. According to the design diaries (linked at the end of the game), the creators wanted certain puzzles to feel like “a bit of a slog,” and they succeeded. Expert solvers may appreciate the grueling nature of these sequences more than casual players.

Handwritten documents labeled "Exercise 1," "Exercise 2," "Notes on Father's Music Lesson," a page with music notation, and an envelope marked "Solution"

After playing Mother of Frankenstein with a group of three, I think it would work well as a one-player experience. Hatch Escapes recommended that we not split up to work on puzzles, but the letters and booklets weren’t always conducive to group solving—plus a single player could play at their own pace, in a way that parallels the intended use of the Shelley Volumes in the story.

Mother of Frankenstein is an ambitious game with a unique approach to narrative and thematic puzzle design, but it’s not for everyone. The ideal audience would enjoy reading, story-based puzzles, jigsaws, and tricky, period-appropriate brainteasers. If its ingredients excite you and you don’t mind the price tag, it has some interesting features to explore.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Literary-minded players
  • Jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Highbrow puzzling
  • Story-gameplay integration
  • Jigsaw puzzles with a twist
Close-up of a 3D jigsaw puzzle depicting trees lining a castle wall


We had received a collection of Mary Shelley’s belongings from her son’s estate that had been hidden away for many years. Opening the Shelley Volumes unlocked a complex challenge that she’d created as a way to tell him their family’s story.


Mother of Frankenstein was divided into three volumes, with each volume containing three or four sections. Hatch Escapes suggested dividing each volume into several sessions, since each box is labeled as taking 4 to 6 hours to complete. (Our play time varied from 3 to 8 hours per box.)

Each box can be played independently, and although the story is continuous, the game states do not need to be preserved between volumes. Hatch Escapes provided a comprehensive hint system on their website, as well as hint cards available for purchase separately.

A stack of documents decorated with colorful artwork


Mother of Frankenstein was a play-at-home narrative puzzle game with a high level of difficulty. Core gameplay revolved around reading, wordplay, deduction, jigsaw puzzles, and papercraft.

Hatch Escapes provided tips about how to structure our gameplay within each volume. The mood, pacing, and fun factor varied throughout and between volumes, so we were never sure what kind of experience our next session would be. We could be constructing a jigsaw puzzle, wrestling with complex logic problems, or solving a sequence of riddles. All along the way, letters and journals accompanied the gameplay with a gradually unfolding story.


➕ Mother of Frankenstein’s story was told through letters and other writings, but also through the puzzles. As we solved the puzzles, we couldn’t help but absorb the story as well. This kind of narrative puzzle design is rare, and very cool when it works.

❓Reading was a big part of Mother of Frankenstein. Certain sections required us to read stacks of letters or sheafs of poems before we understood how to proceed. Your enjoyment of this game will depend on how much you like reading as part of a puzzling experience.

➕ Mother of Frankenstein included a variety of puzzles, and most of them felt thematic, whether we were assembling a jigsaw puzzle or following along with a research journal. It was impressive how the puzzle mechanics tied into the story.

An invitation to the Alchemist's Ball, a drawing of a ballroom, and a chart labeled "Where were the four of us at each half-hour?"

➕/❓ The jigsaw puzzles were unique and challenging, and we appreciated how they were reused later. Of course, if you don’t like jigsaw puzzles, theres no way to fast-forward through them, because you can’t write hints for jigsaw puzzles.

➖ The papercraft section slowed our momentum considerably. We appreciated the idea of adding puzzling elements to the construction, but in practice these complications felt more like obstacles. Whether due to fiddly components or our own lack of dexterity (or both), we abandoned a couple of them out of frustration.

➖ The more standard puzzles also stretched the limits of our proficiency and our patience. Some of them felt under-playtested, particularly in the second and third volumes—cleverly and intricately designed, but less elegant to solve. Even our favorites sometimes required leaps of logic. We solved some puzzles by trial and error, brute-forced others, and leaned heavily on the online hints. More advanced puzzle solvers may have a smoother experience, but for us—even as an experienced escape room team—the gameplay felt overly demanding.

➕/➖ Our group had mixed feelings about how well the ending rewarded us at the end of our long puzzling journey. Overall, we found it emotionally resonant, but not revelatory. This may be partly because we had slightly misinterpreted the events of the finale, a fact I only realized as I was revisiting the game to write this review.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a medium table
  • Required Gear: pen or pencil, computer with internet access (for online hints only)

We also found it useful to have adaptable lighting, such as a flashlight, and scotch tape.

The first box provides a specific starting point, and all three volumes offer a suggested playthrough order. It may be helpful (and won’t really spoil anything) to take inventory of what’s in a given box before deciding where to begin.

If you’re sensitive to smells, it’s worth taking the time to air out the foam components (especially the jigsaw puzzle in volume three) before you begin that section.

Once again, these puzzles are hard, so as it says on the “Start Here” sheet, don’t feel bad about using the hints. If you’re in a rut, it will probably make the experience more fun to just move on.

Some of the elements are destructible, but you can purchase a refill pack from Hatch Escapes and reset the game for another group to play.

Buy your copy of Hatch Escapes’ Mother of Frankenstein, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Hatch Escapes offered a media copy for review, but Sarah had already received a copy of Mother of Frankenstein as a gift!


  1. I thought Volume 1 was 90% brilliant; Volume 2, 50%; and Volume 3… by the time I hit the roof section, I was done. It became more of a slog the deeper I got into the game, but the writing remained stunning. I honestly would have preferred more text puzzles like the wonderful letter ordering puzzle in the finale. The physical puzzles didn’t have the quality of PostCurious, and Hatch had shown in Volume 1 that their strength was writing compelling prose with puzzles elegantly woven into the text. It’s a shame the novella aspect lessened as the game progressed.

    1. That’s a good point about the writing being a highlight in the first volume especially. You can’t help but immerse yourself in the story with that letter puzzle.

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