Deadlocked: The Cyphstress review
|Deadlocked have fused beer and online escape rooms together to create an epic alternative reality virtual online escape room exclusively for Siren. Take your brains on an adventure and back with this fantastic, mythology-heavy set of puzzles and riddles. Assemble your best team or play solo to navigate through the epic custom interfaces, using internet stalking across social media to hunt down our hero and join him in answering the Siren’s Call and brewing up a legendary beer, based upon an ancient recipe.|
|2 x 90 minutes|
|Difficulty level not stated|
|£10 per team|
|Online (based in Reading, UK)|
|Played by Daiman, Paul and Bharath|
|Completed in 4 hours 20 minutes|
It’s immediately clear with the opening puzzle that Deadlocked have stepped things up here. The puzzle itself is cool but the presentation is what stands out. An animated scene where you guide a boat, backed to a song specially composed for the game. It’s easier to imagine this exact same puzzle being produced without all the bells and whistles but still working. However, Deadlocked have spent that time on the polish and it makes for something truly memorable.
If you’ve played their previous game, The Insiders, this is a very perceptible leap in quality (and that game wasn’t bad in the first place!).
The Cyphstress ticks another box for me – if you read our reviews, you’ll know that I have a particular affection for games that step outside the boundaries of the website/app that hosts them. The first half of the game asks players to put their detective hats on and explore the wider internet, these moments feel natural and immerse you in the story to a degree that puzzles on a screen can’t.
The Cyphstress is the follow up to Deadlocked’s highly rated play at home debut The Insiders. This time they’ve teamed up with local craft beer company Siren to take you on a magical journey as you traverse land and sea to uncover the brewing instructions to create a refreshing bygone beer.
It’s a step up from their first outing with a more professional and cohesive feel to the theming. It’s just as detailed and expansive, sending you to both bespoke web apps and everyday websites. The charming story runs throughout both game and puzzles, where you’ll encounter atmospheric singing, sweet videos and more.
The advertising aspect is very subtle and doesn’t detract from the game. This time it’s fully digital so no printer is required. It utilises Facebook for the automated messaging, so you will need a Facebook account.
A real variety here! I think my key takeaway from the puzzles in Cyphstress was that they had a much better pace to them than The Insiders. Whereas the tasks in Deadlocked’s previous game tended to outstay their welcome, here they stuck around just long enough and, consequently, flowed into each other with more grace.
A perfect example of this was the finale puzzle. There’s an extremely similar activity in The Insiders which featured a lot of repetition, making me wary when approaching the version in Cyphstress. But it turned out to be far more refined, always keeping fresh.
And that’s the best thing about playing The Cyphstress, it’s apparent that Deadlocked have actually paid attention to what worked and what didn’t in their previous game and the resultant product is all the better for it.
The tasks are difficult and diverse, ranging from internet sleuthing, logic puzzles, observation and listening. We completed the first half in the expected 1.5 hours, but the second half took us over 2.5 hours. That was in part due to fatigue because we played both parts together, but also because we hit a couple of avoidable roadblocks along the way.
One stumbling block was with a section which seemed like it needed to be done in order, but actually couldn’t be solved that way. The other was with a conversion that we had to decipher via internet searching, but the information was very hard to find. The rest of the tasks flowed nicely, and the game made clever use of interactivity.
The finale game is reminiscent of the hair-tearing one found in The Insiders. Thankfully they reigned in the repetitiveness and difficulty slightly this time. They also added the option to play in standard or two player mode. We chose the latter, which upped the difficulty significantly, but it didn’t work particularly well for our separated team of 3 as one person was left with little to do.
Echoing my previous comments, the puzzles had a great pace and flow, with fantastic attention to detail as far as theming was concerned. Just simple things like the sound design filled out the world and it’s that care to the overall craft that makes The Cyphstress such a fun game to play. This hasn’t been knocked up in a weekend and it’s easy to see where corners could have been cut. But they haven’t. Ultimately, it’s evident that Deadlocked truly care about the experience they’re offering, a game crafted with a genuine passion.
This is one of the best play at home puzzle challenges I’ve played so far. It’s full of pleasing interactions and challenging tasks that awarded me with plenty of Eureka moments. It fostered teamwork between us and directed us to varied locations which kept my interest throughout the 4+ hours. I particularly liked the innovative ideas like the interactive video and storytelling.
The only minor niggles were the points I mentioned for the puzzles, and I found the finale video a bit cheesy! Due to the difficulty level, this game is suited more for experienced puzzlers.
For the breadth and variety of content that you get, £10 is an amazing deal, especially when stood next to other games in the same genre. It’s also a decent length, running at least twice as long as most other offerings in the market. If you’ve been enjoying playing online games, this is a must-play. If you’re on the fence about them, this is also a great place to start. It’s reasonably priced with a fair difficulty. Basically, it’s hard not to recommend this wherever you stand with online experiences!
And I’ll add for no reason that I also enjoy Siren’s output, have good memories about one of their beers, Tidal Wave. They’re a great brewery and, if anyone from there reads this, please consider bringing back Dippy And The Equinox!
Considering how much content you get with The Cyphstress, £10 is fantastic value for money. For a team of 3 it works out at just £1 per hour each! And it’s not just any content, it’s well-crafted content that you can tell has been made with love and passion. Get your team together, virtually via a video conference service with screen sharing if necessary, and play this now!
Theming - 8.67/10
Puzzles - 8/10
Enjoyment - 8.33/10
Value - 8.67/10