Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- 50 Clues

Game: 50 Clues

Publisher: Norsker Games

Designer: Jeppe Norsker

Year: 2019

50 Clues is a new series of escape room games from designer and self publisher Jeppe Norsker. This trilogy will be released at Spiel 2019 in both English and German.

Be warned, 50 Clues is an experience for adults only. The theme has pretty graphic violence, and you are taking on the role of a character who begins the story in a mental health facility and goes on to do some truly awful things. If this doesn't sound like something you're comfortable with, then don't try 50 Clues, but if the theme doesn't make you want to turn away then you'll find a great escape room experience in these three boxes.

We put together some SPOILER-FREE thoughts on our experience. (All photos are of a preview deck and in no way spoil the games)



Gameplay

In 50 Clues, most of the answers to puzzles will but input as a code into the website, which will then dispense a little story and tell you whether to draw additional cards from the deck. Puzzles come in 4 main forms. There are hidden numbers of cards which simply let you draw the numbered card from the deck. Then there are items with red codes, these items are combined with another item with a red code to progress simply by typing both the red numbers in either order into the relevant box on the website. Next there are black box codes, these are simply typed into the black box in the website. Of course there is usually half a dozen of them, so you'll need to work out a puzzle to find out which one is the correct code. Lastly there are many puzzles that give you a number as part of the solution. In this case you would type in the number of the card followed by the numerical solution you came up with in order to pass the puzzle.



Generally speaking 50 Clues is a highly narrative driven escape room game, which means that how you progress is usually fairly obvious (even if the puzzle itself is not!). However should you ever become stuck there is a hint system in place. Due to the strong narrative the website is able to always keep on top of where you are in the story by the puzzles you have solved. Simply press the hint button once to find out a basic hint, usually which puzzle you need to do next and which cards you need to do it. Press it a second time and you will get a more in-depth hint, with more of a clue of how to complete the puzzle. Press it a third time and it gives you the answer. After every successful puzzle the app will rate you from 0-5 stars, with clues taken and mistakes made draining your score. The game is not time based so you can usually take as long as you need to solve puzzles. Though a handful of puzzles in the 3-game series do trigger timers to appear on the app! At the end of each game you will be given a percentage based on how well you did.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

The wonder of 50 Clue's highly narrative approach is an escape room where you are rarely stuck. While you do often get given parts to later puzzles, it's usually fairly obvious that this is the case. A key with no lock is obviously useless! The hint system in itself is robust enough to deal with any issues should they come up. The other thing which assisted with not getting stuck was the difficulty level, perhaps because the puzzles were rarely highly abstracted, this felt like an easy escape room game. Though I feel this is in part because I didn't spend much time working out what they wanted me to do, but instead was focused on how to do it, which is certainly to the game's credit. Still those looking for a highly challenging escape room game will likely be a little disappointed.

That brings us on to the theme, which is... dark. You are playing as person who will do not very nice things. Sometimes you will find yourself not with so much of a puzzle, but a heinous act, which it is obvious that you *must* do, the test is more are you willing to? The art on the cards is bleak which really helps with the portrayal of this particular story. Some of the art can be a little disturbing, but is never detailed enough to be outright gory. Though bear in mind that I have a comparatively large appetite for horror stories. Just go in forewarned that there will be a few things in this game which will make you feel uneasy.

Overall I really enjoyed the 50 Clues trilogy. The dark twisted story kept me engrossed, if not grossed out. The puzzles had enough of a bite to get a sense of satisfaction, while not being so complicated or convoluted that I felt I was uselessly staring a card trying to work out what I'm meant to do. I did feel like the games were a little shorter than advertised and, like many escape rooms, I'd worry how well it would play at higher player counts as it's hard to get multiple people in on a puzzle at once. But as a 2-player experience it worked incredibly well. So long as you can stomach a dark tale, this is definitely a game to check out! If you are worried that the theme may be too much for you then watch the official how to play video, it sets a good expectation for the things you might see, but runs through a fake demo game which means no spoilers!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

50 Clues is one of the more simple escape room experiences I've had. I don't think the puzzles were easy by any means, and we certainly made use of a few hints, but the sequence of the game was very logical and the narrative really helped to support your progress through the game. The game is played pretty much one puzzle at a time and does provide you with information out of sequence, but it's always very easy to spot what comes next. There was no destruction required in the game, but you'll only play it once. You can pass it on to up to 19 more people though, after which the code will expire. None of the puzzles need folding or cutting, but we did use pen and paper a lot and sometimes replicated some things that were drawn on the cards for ease and to not mark the game.


Besides the obvious drawback of a theme that might turn people away, there's no a whole lot that I didn't enjoy about 50 Clues. Whilst narrative isn't typically my thing, 50 Clues doesn't include a bunch of non-gameplay related flavour text, it's all important and it all guides you to decisions you make in the game, which is the perfect amount for me. I was slightly disappointed that there wasn't a final tally of your scores from the three games since it's a trilogy, but the three games do need to be played sequentially and the narrative runs through all three. Otherwise, all three games in the series were strong, but I liked the third one the least, so ended on a bit of a downer. The use of the timer in the third game wasn't great fun for me and a few of the 'logical' combinations weren't quite so logical for me.

I quite enjoyed the gritty theme, but mostly I found 50 Clues to be an excellent escape room from a narrative, mechanical and a puzzle quality perspective. The difficultly level was just right for me, making me feel smart, not stupid and I was gripped throughout all three ~1 hour games.


You Might Like...
  • The series has a lot in common with Unlock, mechanically, but with an easier app interface.
  • The story of the game really guides you to the obvious moves, making it feel like an easier escape room game.
  • There are plenty of puzzles, challenging enough for you to need a pen and paper, but not impossible.
You Might Not Like...
  • The theme is VERY dark and may be unsettling, or offensive, to some people.
  • There are a few timed puzzles which feel unnecessarily stressful, but thematic.

The Verdict
8/10 The story of 50 Clues is surely designed to shock. I hope that this draws many people to the game, generating some hype that leads the right people to enjoy this really great narrative escape room experience. It's on the easier end of escape room experiences because of how well the story and the puzzles are intertwined to lead you to the right actions. There's no shortage of great puzzles either, and it's our favourite escape room in a box that we've tried.


50 Clues was a review copy kindly provided to us by the Norsker Games.

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