Dale Yu: Preview of The Medusa Report

The Medusa Report

As you probably know, the Opinionated Gamers are big fans of escape rooms and puzzle hunt games.  In the past few years, we have reviewed all different sorts:

  • Escape the Room board games  (Exit, Unlock, Escape the Room, Werewolf)
  • Real physical escape rooms (Playground, Mission Mars)
  • Virtual escape rooms done over the internet (The Escape Game)
  • At home escape room puzzles done by physical escape rooms (Chasing Hahn)
  • Print and play puzzle packs (example)
  • The first game of the trilogy from diorama.games, The Vandermist Dossier

I was again contacted by the designer and given a chance to play an advance version of the second game in this planned trilogy.  The company is planning a Kickstarter campaign in May 2023, and they were looking for some players to try it out.  I will show a few pictures of the components here, but don’t worry – no spoilers.  In addition, the designer said that some of the components would be upgraded from what I have based on the success of the campaign and what sorts of stretch goals were reached… Though, like with the first game, I’ll admit that again I was pretty blown away by what I found in the box in its current prototype state!.  The attention to detail of the components is frankly amazing.

The investigation that you started in the first episode continues on in this next installment; and you travel to far away locations trying to find Abigail and to try to determine who or what Medusa is.  “An American nuclear physicist is found dead in the USSR in the height of the Cold War. What happened, and what does any of it have to do with Abby and her enigmatic father?”  

As I mentioned above, the components are really quite good, and plenty of attention has been spent on getting the details right.  There is even a real floppy disk included!  (I spent quite a bit of time poking around in my basement to see if I still had a computer that could load it – but no luck… part of me is actually curious if there is some bonus material or something else cool on the disk.  It totally wouldn’t surprise me if there was!)

You will solve the different puzzles in the game, with the game pushing you along the path as the story advances.  In general, there is only one active puzzle at a time, and the way the puzzles are made, you’ll know when you’ve completed a puzzle and have moved onto the next one.  If you get stuck, there is a hint system in place – which gives you incremental hints so that the satisfaction of solving a particular puzzle is not spoiled (where possible).  Most of the hints (online for the prototype) have at least three levels of hints.  Of course, if you get to the final hint, it is simply the solution to the puzzle, but I like the way that before that, the hints walk you through the process of solving the puzzle in stepwise fashion – so that you might be able to just back into solving mode with the right nudge. 

Everything is contained within the box – all of the pieces of the puzzles are provided to you.  You will not need to use the Internet to look anything up.  The puzzles are well constructed, and the way that the designer has used ALL of the material in the game is commendable.  (For our game, we did not need any hints, which was good as the diorama website is currently down – and the designer assures me that site will be up and running soon, and certainly by the time the KS fulfills).

I did appreciate the way that the puzzles and the narrative story were woven together; never did it feel like a puzzle was just thrown in randomly; the solution (or solution process) of the puzzle always was related to the evolving story.  Additionally, the continuity in the story and characters from the first installment was very nice.

Like the first episode, the components really seal the deal for me.  Though I know that the bits were made specifically for this game, they really look and feel old!  Frayed edges, worn surfaces, creased photos, water and coffee stains on the documents, etc.  

The game is meant for 1-5 players, and the documentation suggests that the game will take 2-3 hours.  For our game, we were required to have Internet access as the hint system was found online; though it appears that plans are for the final product to have hints included (though I think it would be exceedingly rare for any group to come together to play this without at least one player having Internet access on their phone…).  The episode is self contained, so you do not need the original in order to enjoy this one.  However, I should note that the designer did include some bonus puzzles which can only be done if you have the first chapter of the set – and I think that’s really neat.

For this experience, I had a small group (just me and one other) and we spent a rainy afternoon working through the puzzles in the box instead of trying to do chores.  The two of us did the episode in just under two hours, doing the whole thing without interruption.  It was a great experience at this player count, as we each had plenty of things to to read and examine – and when a puzzle required us to work together, we could sit on the same side of the table and really both be working on the same thing.  For my own tastes, I’d probably put the upper limit of players at 4 – while I certainly can see where having extra eyes/brains on a puzzle might help at times, I prefer to do these sorts of things when everyone has something to do actively…

Everything is well done, and all of the puzzles are well constructed.  I think part of the reason for this is that this version is actually a re-do of the original Dutch game.  Says the designer “Like The Vandermist Dossier, this is a re-imagining of our existing Dutch game. I’m having so much fun improving every little thing I can: replacing puzzles, fleshing out characters and adding tons of little details. When the prototypes start getting visually interesting, I’ll be sure to share as many work-in-progress shots as I can.”

For anyone looking for a solid and unique puzzle game experience, I would highly recommend The Medusa Report.  It should go live on Kickstarter this month, and you can check it out there for yourself! 

Kickstarter link – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/diorama/the-medusa-report

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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