Hatch Escapes – Mother of Frankenstein [Review]

Love, scandal, & puzzles

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 13, 2020

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 3-5 hours

Price: back on Kickstarter at $89 for the standard edition of the game

REA Reaction

Mother of Frankenstein was a narrative-driven experience with ample puzzle content.

Hatch Escapes has a history of putting story at the center of their productions. One of their co-founders Tommy Wallach is a New York Times bestselling author… and his expertise showed in Mother of Frankenstein. The writing was fantastic, which it needed to be. When a company makes the bold decision to retell the story of one of history’s most significant authors through an immersive narrative, writing quality matters.

Beyond the writing, Mother of Frankenstein included high quality puzzles and production (of the beta version). The Astronomy puzzle in particular was a standout puzzle, not just in this game; it ranks among my favorite puzzles.

An assortment of red, green, and brown interlocking tracks each with a symbol in the center.

We played about 40% of the full, 3-volume game, and between that experience and hearing more about what is coming next, I can comfortably say that we are sold on Mother of Frankenstein.

If you’re down for a narrative-focused experience with puzzle content evenly and thoroughly dispersed throughout, I’d strongly recommend backing this beast on Kickstarter. I’m already eager to continue the journey.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Exceptional writing, characterization, and voicing
  • Solid puzzling with a couple of true standouts

Story

Over the course of 3 volumes, Mother of Frankenstein reimagined the life and experiences of Mary Shelley that led to her writing Frankenstein. Shelley was quite the interesting character in her own right.

A welcome letter tied off with red, green, and brown ribbon.
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Significant Updates to DarkPark Games’ Conspiracy-19

Back in June we released a review of DarkPark Games’ Conspiracy-19. We described the game as, “interesting, bumpy, and fixable.”

In response, DarkPark Games has issued significant patching to Conspiracy-19, by augmenting the digital side of the experience.

Pomotional image displaying the contents of the game box.

The most notable shift was a complete overhaul of their hint system.

Beyond that, they added quite a few smaller quality-of-life improvements that I suspect will dramatically improve the flow of the game, but it is admittedly hard to assess this in a game that I have already played.

Our review has been updated to reflect these changes to the best of our ability without changing what was originally published.

Should I Buy?

If you were on the fence about Conspiracy-19, I think that it has been significantly improved, and I feel a lot more comfortable recommending it at this point.

That said…

DarkPark Games’ latest creation, Witchery Spell, is special on a whole different level, and I would easily recommend it before playing Conspiracy-19. Both are worthy of playing, but Witchery Spell is magical.

DarkPark Games – Witchery Spell [Review]

Coven fresh.

Location:  at home

Date Played: August 9, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: about 2-3 hours

Price: $58 plus shipping from the Netherlands

REA Reaction

Witchery Spell stood out from the crowd of play-at-home escape games by combining story, puzzles, and design into a polished, cohesive experience. DarkPark Games didn’t just assemble a box full of themed puzzles that could be found in a magazine. They conjured a self-contained experience that felt magical from start to finish.

Through its intricate physical elements, realistic websites, and player-driven gameplay, Witchery Spell made us feel like part of the story. The props and documents included in the box were clearly chosen and created with care. It was easy to ignore the few hiccups we ran into as we pursued the mystery to its conclusion.

The story was perilous and suspenseful, but more mystical than scary. Along with the moderate difficulty level, this makes Witchery Spell approachable to anyone who’s comfortable with the occult theme and slightly dark storyline. 

A pentagram surrounded with decorative symbols, with a lit candle in the center.

Witchery Spell was comparatively expensive for a play-at-home game, especially with international shipping. If cost is a factor, it’s much more affordable to grab a refill kit or two and find someone to split the bill with. 

Witchery Spell was a solid example of the potential of interactive storytelling to transport players to another world. The price may seem high, but it reflects the quality and value of this unique game. Not having had the opportunity to play any of DarkPark’s real life games myself, I can safely say Witchery Spell lived up to their reputation.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sorcery enthusiasts
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Intricate, tactile components
  • Puzzle–story integration
  • Magical ambiance

Story

Years ago, five young girls found an old book and followed a ritual within, binding them into a coven. When one of the five disappeared after her 23rd birthday, the remaining four sent us a package of mysterious items to investigate. Our goal was to save them from the same fate.

Papers including a typewritten letter and a newspaper clipping reporting "Burned Body of Woman Found Near Riverbank in Cleveland."
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Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion [Review]

“… And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Location:  at home

Date Played: July 6, 2020

Team size: 1-5; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 120+ minutes

Price: about $30

REA Reaction

Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion was fun and playful. While the puzzles were adequate – some a bit better, some a bit worse -and generally unremarkable, it was written and illustrated perfectly. You play Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion for the overall experience.

Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion box art depicts th Mystery Inc gang in front of an ominous mansion.

This game plays like it was born out of a lab that dissected all of the other store-bought tabletop escape games and mixed what they found with top-notch Scooby writing. The result was unique, even if almost every component in the box could have come from any other tabletop escape game. The magic was in the brilliance of letting the narrative material shine.

Scooby-Doo is smart escape room material. Scooby is multi-generational and mystery-focused. Its tropes are entirely achievable through escape room gameplay, tabletop or otherwise.

Play Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion because you enjoy Scooby-Doo or because you have a family or group of friends seeking carefree amusement… because that’s what this was: light-hearted fun.

Who is this for?

  • Scooby-Doo fans
  • Story seekers
  • Cartoon art fans
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic Scooby character writing
  • Easygoing, exploration-based play
  • You’re a fan of the Scooby gang

Story

The Mystery Inc. gang of Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred, and of course Scooby, had been summoned to a haunted mansion to investigate the ghost of Lady Fairmont. Hijinks ensued.

Map tiles with the various charactr pieces on or surrounding them.
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Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Game: A is for Arson [Review]

A Mixed Bag

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 14, 2020

Team size: we recommend 1-3

Size: two 500-piece 13 x 10 inch puzzles

Price: about $15

REA Reaction

This puzzle packed two gimmicks into one box.

Even as an avid jigsaw puzzler, the prospect of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into the same box was a bit intimidating. As it turned out, that worked a lot better than I’d expected. In fact, this was easier to assemble than most of the 750 – 1000 piece puzzles that I’ve solved. The clever trick here was the different depths of field in each image.

A is for Arson box art, shows an ominous scene with various chemicals and a zippo lighter.

As an added twist, the story booklet set up a mystery that we could solve using the evidence we observed in the puzzle pictures.

So, how did this all come together? Well… it was a mixed bag.

The jigsaw puzzles were fine, even if the puzzle pictures were inelegant. (The box art was way more interesting.)

As a mystery game… it was also fine. The mystery was solvable, although some clues were a bit hard to read on account of the image quality.

The biggest stumble in A is for Arson was the narrative, which substituted cultural and ethnic stereotypes in place of actual character development.

A is for Arson was conceptually brilliant; I wish that it had stronger execution.

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers

Why play?

  • The unusual design of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into 1 box
  • The additional story/ mystery content

Story

Investigators had been summoned to the charred ruins of a local Indian restaurant to investigate the origins of the suspicious fire.

It turned out that there were quite a few people with a motive for torching the place.

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