Note: I received a free review copy of Unfinished Case of Holmes from iDventure.
If you don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Escape Rooms and Escape Room type games. As of writing this, I’ve played six Exit: The Game games, six Unlock games (all the ones released before 2018), the four cases from the base game of Escape Room: The Game, and almost 20 actual Escape Rooms (and probably some other things that I’m forgetting). So… I like those types of games.
Unfinished Case of Holmes is another Escape Room type game with puzzles centered around you trying to resolve an unsolved murder from over 100 years ago. It uses an app along with the printed game materials, and the timed mode gives you two hours to complete the case.
There aren’t many rules to the game. There’s a little assembly of one of the puzzle pieces before you start and you have to download the app, but after that the timer starts and you just start playing. The app has an introduction that you read, and the game itself contains a bunch of cardstock papers and some envelopes with different puzzles. To play, you have to do the puzzles in order and input the correct answer into the app. As you complete puzzles, the app will introduce more story and let you know what the next step is, until you complete all the puzzles and solve the mystery. The app also has some hints. I played on expert mode, which apparently has fewer hints, but it still had 3 available hints per puzzle. If you want to take a hint, there are previews of each hint so you can choose one, but choosing to take a hint will take off time from your final score.
The game comes in a thin package that just contains a stack of cardstock papers and some envelopes
I played the game with 5 players, since the owner had told me that was the best player count (and we finished with 30 minutes left after hints). But due to the linear nature of the puzzles, it felt too crowded and I felt that it would have been better with 1-2 players. Some of the puzzles were pretty neat and fun, but others were unclear or inconsistent. Some of this may have been due to translation issues, but part of it was also because of the high player count, so not all of us could view the main page of each puzzle (or the app on the phone) at the same time.
Most of the puzzles are broken out on the full sheets of paper that come with the game
Because of the lack of rules, it also wasn’t clear to us if we were supposed to be looking at everything that came with the game right away. With other escape room type board games, there are usually things that you don’t open until later, but the instructions that came with Unfinished Case of Holmes didn’t mention anything about what you were supposed to look at. After solving some puzzles, the app told us to use the contents of certain envelopes for other puzzles, but I’m still not sure if that means the envelopes were supposed to be closed before then. The instructions also mentioned that it may be required to use tools in the app or “some other elements existing in each household.” It wasn’t clear to us if we were supposed to be using things like Google (one puzzle actually required the use of Google Maps). Since I’m used to Escape Rooms where use of the internet is forbidden, this was weird to me and took away from the experience of an analog game.
In addition, the story left our group unsatisfied, since it seemed very light and not fully fleshed out. With the premise of an unsolved murder, we were expecting more excitement to the story, but when we finished the game it was a little anticlimactic.
Overall, although some of the puzzles were great and fun, I was disappointed in Unfinished Case of Holmes. Since I love Escape Room type games, I was expecting more from the experience, especially since I thought it would work with higher player counts. I think that it would be a fun experience with 1-2 players, but because of the linear style of the puzzles and the app, I wouldn’t recommend it with higher player counts.
Some puzzles use the contents of these envelopes, and the app tells you to open them
Unique puzzles, and each one was different
Some puzzles have multiple steps that are each interesting
Hint system gives a preview of what the hint will be for, so you don’t waste it on something you already know
The hints will give answers if you’re stuck
Heavy use of an app
Narrative isn’t fleshed out
Linear story (one puzzle at a time)
Some puzzles may not have enough information to be solved
Instructions are vague on what other tools (ie. Google) you should be using
It’s unclear when you can look at all the physical contents of the game