The Unfinished Case of Holmes [game review]

Okay, so where do we begin? Spoilers for the first puzzle included.

Lately, friends and I have been playing boardgames once or twice a month, we’ve got a weakness for Escape Room style puzzles, but if something looks good we’re gonna give it a go, you know?

So when we got a copy of iDventure’s Unfinished Case of Holmes this week I’ll admit I was curious, used to games coming in thicker boxes (such as the Exit series) and though the Unfinished Case was was about A4 in size, the depth of the box was quite minimal, so seeing what they had was a point of interest.

 

Within, we had a letter, an “album” and several envelopes, which is pretty much par for the course, open an envelope when instructed, nice and simple.

Getting into the puzzles itself, we started with the first thing, this consists of a letter and featured a picture of an old style keyboard, our clue? One line, stating something along the lines of:

If you decude to fins me, starr with the first cluw- iye giyaw.

It’s a simple puzzle with a little thought, especially for anyone used to a keyboard, not a substitution cypher, or rather not your typical A to Z style, but a keyboard based, where every letter is to the left of the letter intended, giving the solution of “Our house”, our group took a little longer to solve this as we took that to mean the solution to puzzle 1 was the name of the house, named for the Authors wife, we essentially made that puzzle harder on ourselves but in doing so already began work on the next puzzle.

Moving on from that, we get to the big issue I have with Unfinished Case, one that honestly left me slightly disappointed.

After finishing that first puzzle, our next instruction was to get the Album in order, a selection of A4 glossy pages on reasonable thick photopaper, not in itself a problem, but looking through the pages of the album as you arrange them did somewhat spoil a few of the puzzles.

When games in the Exit series come out with their puzzles in 8 or 10 page booklets and tell you whether or not you can progress to the next page, having something bigger size-wise was nice, but the need for glossy paper, having to arrange everything yourself just to end up with unintentional spoilers did put something of a dappener on game itself.

On top of which, there is one puzzle which features a little bit of Origami, or rather on opening the game you are given an A4 sheet of paper, with instructions to cut out the square design fold it and slide it into one of the envelopes for later (why this couldn’t have been done at point of packaging, I don’t know) then when the time comes you are given a part of a photograph and have to fold this slip of paper into the appropriate shape, but you know what happened?

We open the envelope, I hand the photograph to my friends and begin folding the paper, immediately my friends have as much of a solution to this puzzle purely from the photograph as we have when I finally put the Origami section together, an entire portion of the puzzle is superfluous, uneeded and felt unthought-out.

 

That’s the best way I can sum this up, there are ways to get to the solutions without actually playing the game, without completing puzzles and that makes it feel like less of a progression, less of a game, and more like a time-filler, something added to pad out the time, round up for a higher price point, hit some imaginery target.

Beyond that, a final gripe, the solutions to your puzzles are entered into an app, which really felt somewhat unoptimised for the phone we were using it on, there was a video introduction which wasn’t formatted well and took a bit of moving things around to get to full-screen, I had the definite feeling this was just a HTML5 app exported for mobiles, would have been just as effective letting us doing it in a browser instead of downloading an app.

 

In the end, the Unfinished Case of Holmes is available on Amazon for £17.90, and I think that price point is too high for what you get, if it were £12 to £15, that would be better value for the money when the Exit games retail about £12.

They tried to make it feel like a premium product in the quality, but also cut corners on areas that just made it feel cheap.

Maybe get it when it’s on sale?

6 out of 10 seems like a generous rating here.

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