07/04/2020

Mystery House: A compact escape room experience [Review]

Mystery House… I think my very first time to see this game was in Berlin. It was still a prototype brought my Cranio Creations, a board game publisher rooted in Italy. Anyway, this game is designed by Antonio Tinto. The horrific artwork on the box might be uninviting and make your blood run cold, but it should be that way for a somewhat horror board game, isn’t it?

Mystery House, what is this game?

The plot is, this so-called Mystery House moves through time and space. It has its own mind and nobody knows where and when it travels. Only the brave (or the foolish) ones have the guts to enter this bleak house. The interior changes every time it goes on a voyage and so its odyssey.

Mystery House comes with two stories. The core set also provides the ‘house’ that becomes the backbone to tell the tales and its future endeavour. To cut the chase, this is a cooperative game where all players all investigating the ungodly events that happen or have happened in the house. So, yes, this game needs your deduction skills because it’s actually a puzzle game.

Setting up the house

Based on the printed grid, place all the ‘walls’ on the respective holes.

First and foremost, Mystery House needs an app-companion to convey the saga. This app can be downloaded on Android and iOS. The house itself is actually a box with grids and holes. The story consists of a number of ‘walls’ that build the interior and exterior of this menacing place. They should be placed according to the grid printed on the top of each wall.

After downloading the app and setting up the house, you are good to go. Just tap ‘Start’ on your phone.

When the setup is complete, it will look like this. See the holes on each side? You can peek into the house through these holes. And yes, you have to rotate the box to cover them all. It’s not a daunting task but it’s not easy as well. Good luck!

Gameplay

During the session, you will gather clues and open the path to other rooms in the house. This is done simply by interacting with the app. You will tap on the grid number and find out with what item/finding you can interact with. The app will guide you through the game to pull out some walls and useful stuff that will help you to solve the puzzles.

This is how the app looks like when you start…
… and when you interract with blocks.

When you encounter a puzzle, you have to give codes or item you have found to make the path to the centre of the house. There’s also a narration on what happens and so on. If you come to a dead-end, you can resort to asking the app about the clue you might have missed. Use this feature sparingly or it will affect your rating after the game is complete.

Your adventure will be rated at the end of the game based on how long do you need to finish the story and how many times you rely upon the clues given by the app. There’s a time limit to solve the story but it does not necessarily mean you lose when you don’t finish the game before the deadline.

Experiences with Mystery House

This game reminds me of Escape Room that gains popularity in this past few years. You have to try, though! It’s a good way to grind your gear. Cranio Creations stowed the puzzle and actions into this 3D puzzle style board game splendidly. The puzzles from both stories, Family Portrait and The Lord of the Labirynth, provided in the core box are quite simple but I prefer the latter one because it was more challenging.

The box should be placed on an eye-level to provide clarity during the game. You can peek inside easier. Bring a flashlight with you and play under adequate lighting because it’s quite dark inside the house.

When you take out some blocks, other paths and blocks behind it will be available for you to peek. Bring a flashlight because it’s quite dark inside.

The puzzles

Most of the puzzles require you to solve some logic/mathematics problems. You really need a pen and papers to doodle. Some of them were not obvious so you really have to try to interact with the items and rooms you are actually examining. Be careful and do not audaciously tap here and there trying to figure out which one fits! Whenever you tap the wrong one, it will deduct 30 seconds from the remaining time.

Replayability

Absolutely none. Yes, it is not actually a legacy game. You can actually reuse all components for a new gaming session. However, once you finish the story, that’s it, you will never enjoy the game anymore because you have known the outcome and how to solve it. What you can do is moving on with the next story every time you finish with the previous one.

Once the case is solved, you will not find any joy playing that story once more. You will have to wait for the next expansion to come.

Components, artwork, and theme

I love Mystery House because it is quite flexible in the storytelling. The house itself can transform and narrate other stories. The artwork is pretty dark but it is still lying on the SFW domain. Most of the items are clearly illustrated and the ones hidden are concealed neatly. This style really compliments the theme of this game.

The components are all a-okay except for the ‘walls’. I think they were too flimsy and might be better produced with denser material. It’s true that the ‘walls’ need to be thin enough so it can slide through the box seamlessly but it can be better.

The artworks’ style really suits the theme so well, by the way. You will really love it.

Opinion on Mystery House

This game is a great puzzle game. I love it! It gives a three-dimensional-experience you can play on your kitchen table. The puzzles are complex enough for you so you don’t have to feel bad spending approximately €30-ish to have a one-shot game. Anyway, it is a good investment, though, because I know that they have released another story expansion this year.

Mystery House has lots of potential because of its flexibility on the plot and storytelling. I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow manage to add more mechanics and more complex riddles in the future. Also, with the help of the app companion, they can still tweak and explore how they want to serve the next expansion.

The game is meant for 1-5 players. Yes, you can play solo, too! I’ve tried one session with 2 players and the other with 4 players. I feel that it’s most enjoyable with a maximum of 3 people. More than three heads and you will feel a bit crowded and it’s harder to rotate the house to look what’s inside. The more does not always mean the merrier, I suppose!

Verdict

Mystery House is definitely a no-brainer for those who like puzzles and riddles. It is a family game you might want to put on your wish list. If you are a fan of Unlock! or EXIT series, you will definitely adore this one.

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