Boxed & Online Escapology

Chilling Screams – Mansion Of The Damned

Mansion Of The Damned
18 February 2022
At home
1.0 out of 5.0 stars

I had gotten a hold of the full first season of Chilling Screams, a monthly prescription murder mystery type game. Each month, another chapter is released and subscribers are tasked with solving all the clues and puzzles to eventually discover what happened at the Manor Of The Damned. I played all six chapters in one afternoon, so I think this gives a little of a different perspective than playing one per month, so do keep that in mind.

First off, this isn’t a cheap subscription, clocking in at somewhere between 25 and 30 quid a month, depending on your subscription level and offer deals. This is the cost of the average London escape room, so I’d expect quite a lot of good content per chapter to make it worth it.

But more on that later. First off, let’s have a look at the theming. Advertised as a horror mystery thriller, I would expect quite a bit of scary/spooky content. This game does indeed revolve around a mysterious haunted manor and involves a few very dark plot point, but overall I wouldn’t rate it as scary as such. On a huge plus, they do not use jump scares, which I am very happy about as I find those cheapen experiences quite a bit. Still, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be as I expected more criminal and less supernatural content, but that might just be me.

It’s suitable for casual horror fans as well. But be warned, their advertising methods are a bit iffy. When I first checked out their website, there was a “see if you qualify” type questionnaire, with claims of limited time deals (complete with countdown) and a bombardment of emails (I quickly unsubscribed as I do not enjoy aggressive advertising methods at all) which seems to still be just the same when I checked while writing this review. Ick.

With the high price point, I’d expect at least an hour and a half of play time per chapter to actually make it worth it. Exit games cost 10-15 and have at least 60 minutes play value, just for comparison. However, chapter one only took me about 20 minutes to solve, and from there on each chapter averaged about 30 minutes play time. Not the play value I expect as a single player with the given cost. There just wasn’t very much to do per box.

The props are also a bit odd, some are quite good value, but many are red herrings that simply have no use in the game at all. Why include (warning, spoiler) for example a pack of playing cards if this is of no use in the game whatsoever? And then there were other props that were… questionable at best. For example there was a scrap of paper with jagged, ripped edges, but they were printed on a regular piece of paper, so there was a white border of paper around the jagged looking edges. Weird. Or other props that could have easily been die cut to shape that were also left with large white borders for no reason. The inclusion of items that weren’t needed felt like playing for time to me, as if the creators wanted to confuse players in the hope they would take longer to solve puzzles by wasting time on unnecessary props. Not a good look, the money needed to create and ship these props could have been used to elevate the other props to make them look better, or to create a few more puzzles instead.

Another thing that irked me was that outside knowledge was needed to solve some puzzles, for example there was no morse code alphabet included, but morse was indeed used in the game. Sure, you play the game online so have Google handy, but I expect games to include all information needed to solve the puzzles, anything else is just lazy and builds access barriers. Talking about access barriers, none of the recordings, some of them being very dodgy voice messages, included transcripts. I searched for them a few times, but couldn’t find any method to read the text used in the recording rather than trying to hear what was being said. Not very inclusive for people with hearing difficulties or those whose first language isn’t English who might need to read along to understand what is being said.

I also found some of the connections between puzzles to not necessarily make a lot of sense, or be a bit tenuous at best. And that’s coming from someone who played through the entire six chapter set in under three hours. Sure, the puzzles that were there were a good variety of different strategies and game mechanics, so there’s definitely a few good ones among them. There just weren’t enough of them. I’d say three boxes taken together, with all red herrings removed, would have been what I’d have expected from one box, play value wise. So instead of six disappointing monthly boxes, this could have been two quite enjoyable ones. So, there’s definitely potential, it’s just not utilised to be what it could be.

Overall, definitely a disappointment for me. Maybe they have gotten better with later seasons, but Manor Of The Damned wasn’t great for an experienced player. I don’t know if they changed later instalments to have more quality content, so I can’t judge the newer seasons they have available, but I cannot recommend Manor Of The Damned in any way, unfortunately.

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