Cypher House Escape – Murder at the Paisley’s [Review]

Dinner & a murder

Location: at home

Date Played: September 15, 2018

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $29.99

REA Reaction

Murder at the Paisley’s brought a light-hearted murder dinner puzzle game to our dining room table. While largely paper-based, it incorporated some tangible prop-based interactions and offered more puzzle depth than many other at-home escape rooms.

Visually, Murder at the Paisley’s wasn’t all that purdy, but this was more than made up for in gameplay quality.

If you’re looking for a small-group tabletop escape room, we recommend Murder at the Paisley’s.

Murder at the Paisley's box opened, revealing a party invitation and character envelopes.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • Tabletop escape game meets mystery dinner structure
  • Approachable and family-friendly

Story

The Paisley family loved entertaining friends and neighbors on their large farm. We were visiting for dinner when one of the Paisleys was found dead. We had to solve the murder mystery.

Character envelopes for Mathew O'Dean, head of the farmer's union, and Julie Nanda crop market salesperson.

Setup

Murder at the Paisley’s arrived in a cardboard box containing a collection of sealed envelopes and some printed materials. We logged into their web interface, where we would receive additional audio context and submit solutions.

The materials of the game were clearly handmade, mostly out of paper, with a creative use of cotton balls, and some farm-related toys thrown in for more tangible interactions.

The coversheet for part 2, features an image of a farm.

Gameplay

Cypher House Escape’s Murder at the Paisley’s was a tabletop escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

Each player received a character envelope with some special items, secret information, and character traits for groups that want to roleplay throughout the game. (We didn’t roleplay.)

Murder at the Paisley’s played out in two parts: a warm-up dinner party puzzle followed by a more in-depth puzzle investigation. There was a scheduled intermission between the two stages should the organizer want to actually serve dinner.

The puzzles were largely paper-based, but included the occasional more tangible components.

Core gameplay revolved around listening, reading, making connections and puzzling.

Puzzle components including tiles with animal feed, little plastic farm animals, and farm maps.

Analysis

+ We enjoyed the structure: We played a warmup puzzle to get to know the mechanics and the characters. We had the option to break for dinner. Then the real mystery unraveled.

Murder at the Paisley’s offered a lot of puzzle content.

+ The puzzles took standard concepts, but offered unique twists. The clue structure was clear and the puzzles solved cleanly.

+ The puzzles were thematically appropriate.

– At times, the puzzle components didn’t fit together as neatly as they should. Cypher House Escape could use tighter tolerances when designing interrelated components.

+ The tchotchkes mattered. They were part of the puzzles.

– The puzzles were not narrative-driven. They didn’t really make sense in the context of solving the murder.

– While the gameplay was high quality, aesthetically Murder at the Paisley’s felt homemade and unrefined when compared with many of their competitors.

+ All instructional and background content was available to read or listen to. We could choose or do both.

+ Cypher House Escape merged tabletop escape game with murder mystery dinner, giving us each a role in the staging and additional knowledge that would come into play later as clue structure.

– Although we liked the character concept, it could use refinement. The secret information felt a bit hokey. If you play with more than 4 players, you’ll find the characters to be unbalanced. A couple of them seemed like filler content.

+ This was an adorable, family-friendly murder mystery.

Tips for Playing

  • Keep track of your solutions on the sheet provided.
  • It was easier to use a computer than a phone for the website interactions, but Murder at the Paisley’s could be played with either.
  • There is a built-in pause for dinner, should you choose to make an evening of the game.

Purchase your copy of Cypher House Escape’s Murder at the Paisley’s, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Cypher House Escape sent us a complimentary reviewer’s copy of this game.

Cypher House Escape – Escape the Arcade [Review]

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Location: at home

Date played: October 27, 2017

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60-120 minutes

Price: $29.99 per box, plus $6.74 shipping for standard USPS First Class within the United States. (International shipping is also available at a higher cost, which varies by international destination.)

Story & setup

We woke up mysteriously locked in an arcade. After unlocking our wallet, we puzzled through the different games to earn our escape.

Escape the Arcade arrived in a cardboard box. It consisted of various sealed envelopes and 5 little boxes, representing arcade cabinets. We needed to open each little box on our path to escape.

In-game: An assortment of puzzles, a collection of little cardboard boxes representing arcade games behind them.

Escape the Arcade required an internet connection to listen to audio clips and enter answers for verification.

Puzzles

The puzzling was word-centric. We also used logic, observation, and dexterity.

The puzzles were primarily paper-based with a few more creative interactions and constructions.

Standouts

Escape the Arcade was adorable. Cypher House Escape recreated an arcade out of paper and cardboard. Each puzzle was a nod to a different classic video game. Cypher House Escape even poked fun at that all too common “out of order” game. It made us smile.

We loved one unexpected interaction that we never would have thought we’d encounter in a cardboard box.

We appreciated the hint system. While the hints were prefabricated, as they have to be with at-home games, we could take hints at our own pace, and even choose to see the solution, if we felt so inclined.

Shortcomings

One puzzle just wasn’t clear enough. We knew what we needed to do, but near as we could tell, it did not work. We eventually hacked a solution.

Sometimes we spent more time working through the instructions for how to solve something than actually solving the puzzle. We felt like the challenge wasn’t always in the right place.

Answers were easily hackable. We didn’t mind back solving to our guesses, but to avoid players jumping ahead, we recommend Cypher House Escape make the solutions less guessable.

Should I play Cypher House Escape’s Escape the Arcade?

Escape the Arcade was a fun escape room-style play-at-home game.

It was not too hard, but the puzzles were fun and satisfying.

Cypher House Escape used paper creatively in a manner that recalled the arcade games of our youth. We really got a kick out of these.

Escape the Arcade was not as polished as some of the games we’ve seen from larger producers with bigger budgets and the execution had some flaws. It had a homemade feel… because it was so very homemade. Still, it was well made.

If you’re new to at-home escape room play, this would be a gentle entry: It was affordable. It was not a long time commitment. The hinting worked well.

If you’ve played a few of these types of at-home escape rooms and you’re looking for another, Cypher House Escape offers a lot of value with Escape the Arcade.

Buy your box of Cypher House Escape’s Escape the Arcade and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Note that we reviewed the Etsy version of Escape the Arcade. It is now also available directly from the Cypher House website. It sounds like the website version has made the hint system less clunky on mobile devices and decreased buffer time.

Full disclosure: Cypher House Escape provided a complimentary reviewer’s copy of this game.