Some few days ago a strange package arrived at my doorstep. Filled with curiosities and puzzles, I feared its playful nature held a much darker secret. An invitation to an auction? Music lessons? A smattering of strange poems? What does it all mean, and what does it have to do with Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein? These are the questions players must unravel in Mother of Frankenstein, a brand new story-driven puzzle game that just launched on Kickstarter. We got the chance to try our hand at the first portion of the game, and the result was incredibly satisfying.
Mother of Frankenstein is a cross between a shared narrative experience, puzzle solving, and classic escape room clue-finding for as many players as you can fit around a table (though the creators recommend 1-6). Created by Hatch Escapes, an escape room and gaming company in L.A., and produced by Prodigal, the entertainment company behind Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, this puzzle game comes with a high pedigree. But what's the story?
You've just received, through a successful bid at auction, a series of sealed but hollowed-out books that Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, left her son Florence upon her death. Florence wanted nothing to do with them, and urged them destroyed, but they were secreted away by well-meaning members of his household. Now they've come to you, and it's your job to solve their riddles and learn all about Mary Shelley's dark secrets.
The game comes in 3 volumes, and we were provided a prototype of the first. Inside, along with a letter from Mary Shelley to her son, were 3 envelopes containing puzzles related to Shelley's favorite subjects as a young student: Music, Poetry, and Astronomy. The goal behind each envelope was to find a proper order to interlock pieces in a large ring (you can see those plastic ring pieces in the photo above).
But finding that proper order was different for each challenge. We won't give anything away, as discovery is 100% the point of this game, but the envelopes had us sifting through poetry, learning to read sheet music (for real, there was an actual miniature lesson involved), and charting the courses of the stars above.
Difficulty-wise, Mother of Frankenstein is not afraid to offer up some true brain-burners, but this is not the kind of puzzle game that leaves a player feeling frustrated and without hope. It just takes a bit of time, and patience, and the solutions will come to you. In fact, there were plenty of times when we sat trying to figure out not the solution, but what kind of solution we should be finding. Mother of Frankenstein invites the imaginative kind of problem solving that we love best in these kinds of games.
Along with sheafs of paper reproducing weathered documents, the game contains a puzzle and interlocking rings. What we saw was a prototype, crafted in-house with limited resources, and the results were stunning. If this is what Hatch Escapes can pull off on their own, we can't imagine how incredible the quality will be when it's professionally produced.
All in all, Mother of Frankenstein is, as far as its first volume is concerned, a masterpiece of a puzzle game. Unlike so many other escape room-style games, Mother of Frankenstein has a story that you'll actually care about, which will compel you forward in your quest to learn its secrets and dive deeper into Shelley's world. It's not very often we get this excited over a prototype, but with the quality and ingenuity on display here, we're completely hooked.
What do you think of Mother of Frankenstein? Do you like puzzling escape room games like this? Let us know in the comments below.
The copy of Mother of Frankenstein used in this preview was a prototype of the first volume, provided by the publisher.