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The Deadbolt Mystery Society - "Murder at the Zoo"

Updated: 4 days ago


Photo above is property of The Deadbolt Mystery Society


Company: The Deadbolt Mystery Society

Game: Murder at the Zoo

Country: USA 🇺🇸

Language: English

Type of Game: Tabletop Game 📬

Genre: Murder Mystery, Animals

Date Played: December 3, 2023

Difficulty (based on 2 players): 6/10

Size of Team: 1-4 Players (Ages 13+)

Time: Approximately 1-2 Hrs

Price: $36.99 USD (one-off box, boxes are cheaper via subscription)


Read our review(s) on other games by The Deadbolt Mystery Society - "Last Resort", "The Inheritance", "Murder at Cape Anna", "Flashback", "Hacked" and "Down the Rabbit Hole"!


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Everyone is in shock that the zoo’s beloved lion, Claude, escaped his enclosure last night and mauled one of the staff to death. How could he have escaped? And what could have prompted this normally friendly kitty to turn on someone so viciously? You’ve been called in to investigate and see if you can figure out how this tragedy unfolded…learning a lot about the zoo dramas along the way!

Photo above is property of The Deadbolt Mystery Society


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As with other DMS games we have played, this is a primarily paper-based experience, but with lots of high-quality, glossy prints, various paper sizes, and excellent graphic design. There are also some thematic physical “ephemera” that come into play to help you solve puzzles, but can also make great keepsakes (like an adorable elephant keychain, in this case). Finally, there is a Collector’s Card and a fun little sticker as mementos and reminders of your incredible intellect and detective skills.


Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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"Murder at the Zoo" is a gated experience, with some materials you have access to initially, a main envelope you gain access to midway, and a final solution envelope that concludes the story once you’ve solved the mystery. However, the largest stage of gameplay, after opening the main envelope, is fairly non-linear. We enjoyed how you often needed tidbits of information from multiple components to solve a particular puzzle, and some documents were used more than once.


There is a fair bit of reading to do; we had a great time reading aloud to one another and impersonating the various characters. The writing and characters were quite entertaining and definitely a strength of the game! Then there are specific puzzle cards with questions on them and a QR code, which leads you to download a password-protected PDF. When you’ve correctly solved the puzzle and entered the password, you’ll get access to a new part of the story and new information in that pdf. There is a final meta puzzle that requires you to bring together lots of things you’ve gleaned along the way!


Downloading so many pdfs to my phone was a minor pain, but (since we split the game over two days) it was nice to be able to easily refer back to them the next day. I was happy I had just left them open, so that I didn’t have to re-enter the passwords! Both the tiered hint system and the final solutions are also available to download as pdfs. On the two occasions we needed them, the tiered hint system seemed to work really well; though, in looking through it after we finished, it did seem like there could be more detailed hints given for different aspects of the meta puzzle. In all, the game took us about 90 minutes at a fairly leisurely pace.


Photo above is property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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The puzzles in Murder in the Zoo are generally quite approachable and would largely be suitable for newer players, though the meta requires a fair bit of compilation of multiple pieces of info! Admittedly, we needed hints twice - once, we failed to read the directions carefully enough…read them! The other time, our aging eyes failed us, and we had to grab a magnifying glass to understand what we were doing wrong, after looking at the solution. So, if your eyes are not so fabulous, don’t hesitate to take a closer look at one element in particular. There were varied types of challenges, from decryption to logic puzzles. There are no physical manipulation kinds of puzzles, though the physical ephemera are useful. We generally found the puzzles to all be fair and satisfying; be prepared for a decent amount of writing for a few. (We doubted one for a little while, but we just hadn’t found all the info we needed yet! You shouldn’t need to guess, so if you aren’t sure - wait til you look at more of the documents…)


Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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We definitely learn more towards puzzle-focused games over either extensive narrative or deduction, and for us Deadbolt Mystery Society hits a really nice balance. They are fairly story and character-rich, but there are still satisfying puzzles to solve, with some deduction thrown in as well. Murder at the Zoo, specifically, had lots of great tongue-in-cheek moments, and we appreciated the diversity of the cast. The characters are all of the type you'd find in a zoo and have legitimate motivations causing them to be suspects, so nothing feels extraneous or shoehorned in, As someone who has actually worked at a zoo, it was fabulous to see how they brought the scene to life (with a little artistic license). This is the perfect game for animal lovers or those looking for a somewhat lighter (but still investigating a murder…) theme in the DMS series. Get your Dr. Doolittle on and save sweet Claude by finding the real villain!

 

(If you do decide to try this game, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)


Disclosure: We thank The Deadbolt Mystery Society 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.


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