Updated: Apr 17
On 26 June 2019, Roy Marshall vanished from his prison cell, even with CCTV surveilling him at all times! All collected evidence of this inexplicably mysterious event has come to your desk and it is up to you and your team to solve the case of 'The Vanishing Gambler'…
The Mystery Agency provides a series of very high-quality detective cases and escape-room style puzzles designed by Henry Lewis (best known for the West End production, The Play That Goes Wrong) and a cohort of skilled producers and creators from the theatre world. On this platform of theatre, the comedy has been replaced with thrilling whodunnit conundrums, codes and clues.
This is the second Mystery Agency box our team has completed, with thanks to the publishers for supplying us with copies for us to play and review; our first was The Ghost in the Attic. We are able now to pick up some trends worth highlighting. First and foremost, the components remain absolutely top quality - impressively so: real padlocks, torches, poker chips, playing cards and convincingly produced websites all come together for a tactile, exciting and realistic production.
Each story presents itself at first as a supernatural event but is solvable with the pure application of the mind - very much in the vein of a Sherlock Holmes or Jonathan Creek adventure - and like those famous names, a strong sense of grounding in our reality is created by some names and nods repeating across puzzles. This is an effective and unexpected world-building element that adds to the tension of the puzzles.
Again tho', much like our contemporary real life, this puzzle is completely dependent on the internet! Detective Agents will need a device with connectivity (preferably a laptop or iPad because of their larger screen size). The use of websites and [REDACTED](!) really adds to the sense of delving into the events of the mystery. However, this does introduce us to a frustrating aspect of this puzzle: we identified the correct username to access an online database but didn’t include a space between the first and last name (because in my real life experience, a username never has a space). Here, apparently, we should have done and that 'mistake' led us to disregard our conclusion and waste time revisiting everything, which was a bit annoying.
Our team found this puzzle quite a bit harder than The Ghost in the Attic, mainly because several clues depended on the cracking of other clues, and yet there was no obvious linear path suggesting which order to approach them. This led to some stalled moments where we were compelled to look at the hints which the Mystery Agency provide in increasing degrees of helpfulness, tho' not good for our collective egos! That said, the harder the task, the sweeter the taste of success, and much excitement and celebratory noise was generated with each difficult breakthrough. Nevertheless, I would recommend this puzzle game to the more established room-escaper than beginner.
The Mystery Agency say that their puzzles work with up to six players but we felt the optimal number for this particular experience is probably three or four players. That said, every mystery is completely resettable, so if you find you have too many people interested in joining in, simply reboot and pass the game on for their enjoyment on another night (something that the Mystery Agency commendably encourages).
Two mysteries down here at Board's Eye View, it's with even more confidence that we can thoroughly recommend the Mystery Agency puzzle games for gamers and non-gamers alike. They're entertaining, involving, challenging and exciting. Simply a great night in!
The Vanishing Gambler is available now from The Happy Puzzle Company.
(Review by Michael Harrowing)