Photo above is property of Cold Case Inc.
Company: Cold Case Inc.
Game: The Stonewood Mystery
Country: United Kingdom 🇬🇧
Type of Game: Digital Escape Game 💻
Genre: Mystery, Detective
Date Played: June 19, 2023
Difficulty (based on 2 players): 6.5/10
Size of Team: Unlimited
Time: Approximately 3-5 Hours
Who killed teenager Emily Williams? Cut down in her prime. She was a bright young thing... and a bit of a brat. You'd want to wring her neck but she didn't deserve this. Somebody - somebody she must have known - on that fateful Sunday night in question came to her house and strangled her to death, and that somebody is still out there. But why? The trail has gone cold, and the police - having exhausted their investigation without definitively pinning a suspect - now turn to you in the hopes of finally cracking this case. You are her last hope, her last chance at justice. But the fictional rural English town of Stonewood Meadows is a place where people go to escape the evils of the city, nothing bad could ever happen here in this idyllic little hamlet, surely? Unravel the tangled web of evidence to uncover the ugly truth underlying this simplistic facade. Was it her creepy neighbor, or her deadbeat brother, the rocky boyfriend, the manipulative best friend, or her overbearing school tutor? If you like dateline mysteries come to life then you will love "The Stonewood Mystery".
Video above is property of Cold Case Inc.
🆃🅷🅴 🅶🅰🅼🅴 🅿🅻🅰🆈
"The Stonewood Mystery" is a digital mixed media game. To a certain extent most of the evidence can be downloaded as a pdf and viewed offline, but the audio and video components of it require that you access them online. The actual website which acts as a way to navigate the case file is easy to use, it's well organized, it has everything all laid out perfectly. It's very convenient. I actually kind of prefer this over a tabletop game because of how easy it is to use and how it lends itself to the process of organizing one's deductions and setting up a little detective battle stations, and also that it enables a greater variety of media formats other than your plain old fashion print on paper. And you will need a process because to begin with you will be sifting through a goodly amount of interesting case material, trying to separate what is essential from what is not, all the while slowly making connections between pieces and building your logical case. It's a true to life kind of detective case, filled with police reports, photos, txt logs, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, shopping receipts, interviews, and all other kinds of bits of information, each with their own unique information and significance. It's all quite realistic and natural seeming, an inspired simulation, and in many ways it's the closest thing you'll experience to playing a real detective. The story is plausible and not outlandish, it doesn't really have any crazy or fantastical disappointing leaps of logic, and by the end when it was all revealed, though I had solved the crime correctly, there were still several clever details which I had to admit they got me on, which didn't bore me in any way but tickled me to know that it had yet more clever layers. I went through several phases while playing this game: first being skeptical, feeling like I had seen this kind of thing before, then intrigued but slightly blanked as I tried to survey the mass of information, taking it all in and building my case, until at long last I was truly and completely obsessed, endlessly pacing and retreading the documents, putting in overtime as day turned to night turned to day, drinking my tenth coffee of the day and filling the ashtray, all while my wife left messages about how she was taking the kids. Which is to say that despite the fact that the format is not novel per se, nor that the mystery is more than what you might find on a Dateline Sunday night special, but despite these things this game is still worth your time because the evidence and the mystery and the puzzles at the heart of it are believable and extremely well designed. You will have fun playing it, it will wrack your brain, and by the end you will be quite satisfied with how it all finally ties together, I promise you.
Photos above are property of Cold Case Inc.
It's the little things, the subtle details, the making connecting out of all these disparate little pieces of information, the implied context, the building of a narrative, the sudden identification of a significance, the building of a great logical edifice, until the circuit invariably and undeniably leads you to one final suspect. As I mentioned, both the evidence and the puzzles are quite realistic. There are no puzzles per se, only the challenge of building a picture of what really happened through a realization of what is implicit in the evidence presented before you. You need to think like a detective, which means you need to think through the natural connection of things, place, time, image, narrative consistencies, fact from fiction. At times it will feel like you don't know, can't know, because there is no external confirmation, and that's frustrating, but it's also exciting. In the end you are still left to make a leap of faith because what really happened is never and will never be explicitly stated, but only deduced and concocted by your own head, until the end of course when you do get everything laid out for you, but not before you take your one and only shot to correctly identify the killer.
Photos above are property of Cold Case Inc.
A game that offers realistic evidence, with a plausible narrative, and which simulates actual detective work, is the hardest to create but also therefore the highest form of puzzling art.
And in this case I thought overall I was seeing something of a masterpiece being painted. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, in reality it's better described as a very clever and well done mystery. But truth be told it sucked me in, and had me straining my detective powers to such a degree that art became life. A well crafted mystery challenges a player to think about the nature of their reality, to see just how every piece is interconnected, so as to make those essential connections which transform the cold dead fact of evidence to logical life. It is still simply a detective kind of reality, but a good story which forces you to play at being a kind of inductive and deductive genius like Sherlock Holmes will push you to puzzling limits of such dazzling heights that the immersion will feel like a drug. If you live for those eureka moments then I highly suggest you put your own creative powers to the test and play "The Stonewood Mystery" today!
(If you do decide to try this experience, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)
Disclosure: We thank Cold Case Inc. for providing us with samples of the game. Although a complimentary experience was generously provided, it does not impact our opinion on the review whatsoever.