50 Clues Trilogy
50 Clues Trilogy
- Played November 2020
- 1-5 players
- $70 USD (for all 3 games)
- Contains graphic violence, unsuitable for children
- What People Say
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS and GRAPHIC CONTENT!!! After much debate, the ERA team has decided to post this review. Although we believe the subject matter of this game is inappropriate for a North American audience, we also believe you have the right to make this decision for yourself (hopefully the information we share about our experiences will help you make an informed choice). Our team’s final thoughts and recommendation will come at the end of this review.
Not long ago members from our Toronto ERA team had the chance to review a unique card based trilogy of games from the designers of 50 Clues. Each part of the trilogy (Pendulum Of The Dead, White Sleep, The Fate of Leopold) is its own game and purchased separately. We went into this experience with a high degree of excitement having been told by the game designer that the trilogy is a dark series of stories that is also highly immersive. The components for each game were pretty basic: Impressive cover art on each box, a deck of cards, and an online website interface to input your answers and receive more story information. Were it not for the impressive artwork, we’d say it wasn’t anything to get excited over, but first impressions were generally positive.
The immersion of this game is where the controversy is found. You start the game with a prologue to the story. We’re dropped mid-scene into the middle of remote wooded forest in Northern Europe. It’s also at this location a detective makes the grim discovery of a child’s body decomposed and stuffed inside a briefcase (they include art work of the child’s remains). Fast forward years later and you are now the main character who was convicted of the crime. You find yourself inside a mental health prison and you are compelled to escape so you can complete your god-given calling of getting rid of the evil King Leopold who will full resurrect soon if you don’t do something about it. What is it that you have to do? Not much aside from stabbing a guard in the throat, kidnapping a child, killing a teacher by knifing them in the face, choosing to blind a child with nail polish in their eyes, and of course ultimately killing more children as a sacrifice…adding to this, each action is accompanied by artwork on the cards showing the gruesome visuals. Do you have a choice not to do these things? No, they are the only way to advance the game. And yes we were warned about this being dark, but surely there has to be a limit on what is considered entertainment?! What’s worse is that the game is incredibly immersive, well developed in its story, and draws you into the life of your character. For the first time in our 7+ year history of ERA, we had to take breaks because it was too graphic and disturbing for us.
The puzzles within this trilogy are similar in style to the Unlock! game series where you’ll be combining items and/or actions from one card with items/characters/actions on another card. At times there are choices in which puzzles you can choose to solve first, but generally the puzzles are linear by nature. We had to be mindful of not letting our disapproval of the game’s subject matter interfere with our evaluation of the puzzles. A variety of opinions and preferences surfaced in discussing the many puzzles you’ll find within the game, but we all agreed there wasn’t much of a noticeable difference between puzzle quality, difficulty, or amount between each of the three games. Each part of the trilogy had its share of puzzles we enjoyed, each had a puzzle or two we felt was too vague or abstract, and each had a consistent level of difficulty which resulted in 90-120 minutes of game time. The hint system is effective, but also had some moments of being too vague. What makes this game unique is the scoring system. Your score isn’t penalized for taking a long amount of time in solving a puzzle, but you are penalized points if you take hints and/or make incorrect guesses. Some puzzles are on a timer and in those rare instances you are given points based on accuracy and speed. Overall our team agreed the puzzles were slightly better than average compared to most puzzle based games.
Did we have fun and would we recommend this game? No, we didn’t, and no, we wouldn’t. This is a first for us, but after a lengthy discussion on this matter the ERA team decided we couldn’t in clean conscience endorse this game. Is the game well designed? Yes. Is it (disturbingly) immersive and creative? Yes. But no matter how much we may have enjoyed the actual mechanics and design aspects, we don’t think a game should EVER require you to choose criminally violent actions (against children no less) for entertainment. It doesn’t sit well with us, and we’re disturbed with all the research and statistics out there linking violent forms of entertainment to violent mental health disorders that people may choose this game and think it’s ‘’just a game’’. Do we want to see a ‘’cancel culture alarm’’ raised over this? No. In fact, it needs to be said the ONLY thing we want to see happen here is for our followers to make an informed choice of their own. We’ve shared our experience with the game and our preference (that others choose not to purchase it), but in no way do we endorse any harm to the 50 Clues team as it directly contradicts our values. We wish them well and hope they use their talents with more wisdom and discernment moving forward.