A charming and well-polished adventure that’s bursting with great puzzles.
Played 19-20 June 2020
2-player team: Jamie & Mim
Completed in 2 hrs 20 mins
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.
Theme / immersion
Without the time pressure you get in a live escape room, Deadlocked have invested in a fun and compelling narrative. Your interactions with the mysterious hero come with a great mix of humour and adventure that you can’t help but smile at.
The use of audio, video and social media messaging give the interactions a much greater sense of realism, moreso than in their previous game, The Insiders. I regularly forgot that I wasn’t interacting with a real person (and in a couple of instances, I fully suspected that I was. Either that’s one hell of a clever AI or one of the creators replied to my messages).
The lion’s share of the game is online, but a number of elements can be printed out. This only added to it. Printing off a scanned journal to pore through the puzzles added that degree of tangible realness that many play-at-home escape games — even dedicated print-and-plays — fail to achieve.
Puzzles / signposting
The Cyphstress has puzzles galore. Expect a mixture of deduction, code cracking, split information and pattern recognition. There are also cool elements involving audio and optional VR.
Those who’ve played The Insiders will recognise some of the elements used here. But they don’t feel samey. Deadlocked has built on and improved these core mechanics to great effect.
As you progress, you get little snippets of commentary from your contact, which act as good signposting for many of the puzzles.
There was plenty here for our 2-person team. Neither of us every felt redundant and we were always relying on one another to help solve each puzzle.
Hints / overall experience
Hints are available from your contact, or from a dedicated hints page. We only used the hints page once, when we’d thought ourselves into a hole and the messenger bot wasn’t able to pick up on our mistake. The hints on the website are subtle enough that you’re still able to figure the puzzle out for yourself.
It was a seamless experience from beginning to end. Players have the option of having a day’s delay between parts 1 and 2, or going straight in. We opted to dive straight in, but still ended up taking a day’s break to clear our brains.
The Cyphstress is a collaborative game with Siren Brewery. What pleasantly surprised me is that you’re not force-fed the corporate tie in. In fact, Deadlocked has cleverly crafted their puzzles around the brewery’s offerings that only really twig in retrospect. This meant that nothing jarred or disturbed the immersion, but still tied in with the company.
The Cyphstress is a wonderful, well-polished game that’s filled with charm and has excellent puzzles to boot. As we finished the game and the end credits rolled, I felt good. Not just because I’d ‘escaped’. Not just because we’d solved all the puzzles. But because I felt like I was a part of the story.
It’s a rare and joyous feeling in a puzzle game. I heartily recommend you give it a go. And at £10, it’s incredible value for money.
Designed by James Hamer-Morton and Charlie Bond
Cost: £10 (or £35 with a 12-pack of Siren craft beer)
Duration: 2 x 90-minute chapters
Requirements: Computer/laptop with sound, access to Internet, access to social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)