Hunt A Killer, well known for their series of mystery boxes, where each one you obtain fills in more and more of a mystery is now creating single boxed mysteries too. For those days you feel like stretching your brain a bit and getting to the bottom of a mystery. Suited for one to as many players as you want you'll be able to dig deep into these boxes for an afternoon of mystery solving. The Mystery at Magnolia Gardens follows up with the player as a secret companion to Nancy Drew, with a mystery sent to you at your address you need to dig in to help Nancy Drew solve her mystery.
In Mystery at Magnolia Gardens, Nancy Drew was meeting with a friend when both came down with the same illness. Recognizing that both she and the victim have been poisoned Nancy Drew set about gathering as much evidence as she could before the same symptoms began to afflict her. Now bedridden, but on the mend, she needs another to look at all of the evidence she has collected to narrow down her list of already few suspects and catch the culprit. Opening the box you're greeted with a letter from Nancy Drew, witness statements, a map of the venue with important locations marked, flyers for the Fatal Flora exhibit that was occurring at the time, and all manner of other documents. Even a locked box with a padlock and sticky notes are found in this package. As explained in her letter you need to work through all of the evidence to successfully catch this almost killer.
From before you open the box the premise of this mystery is fantastic. It sets up everything as you'd expect a classic Nancy Drew novel too, the only difference is that after gathering evidence it's up to you to fill in the blanks. The plot point of Nancy succumbing to the same illness as the victim is that perfect level of spice, when the culprit's plan goes awry as well as a perfect point for you to step in. All of the evidence is presented to the player from the get-go, with the exception of the contents of the locked box but it wasn't too difficult to crack that combination. Where other Hunt a Killer series are designed to slowly allow you to remove one suspect week per week this neater one-off experience does a better job of not confusing the player. It's difficult to trust anything when you're just waiting for the plot to get spun on its head the next week.
The core gameplay of this single box mystery is in picking apart the different pieces of evidence presented to you, building out a timeline, and finding inconsistencies or extra clues among the evidence. At a difficulty level of two out of five diamonds the Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens did a good job of laying out which clues were relevant to which alibi. Each of the six suspects has their own timeline of events for you to organize and corroborate with one another. After building the path of the night you can then look at the variety of other evidence and clues. Office documents, pamphlets of the event, and even seed packets all get used in ruling out who can, and who can't be the killer.
The linear nature of each suspect's testimony leading to specific additional props that then would work to further rule them out was fun yet streamlined. I can definitely imagine how with fewer clues in the testimony could immediately make a puzzle like this much much harder. Luckily there is a website that you're directed to on the back of the envelope that can give you further hints if needed. A few of the suspects are easy to rule out, but as you get to the last two or three the line definitely blurs so you've got to be looking very closely at the clues involved.
Should I Buy Hunt a Killer Presents Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens
Hunt a Killer Presents Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens is a fantastic mystery in a box tabletop experience. As you're unpacking the box for the first time it is a bit easy to begin to worry about the wall of information you're about to have to consume. Luckily doing it alone, or working together with others, it's a really rewarding experience. If you're a keen mystery solver Mystery at Magnolia Gardens might come off as somewhat linear, but it's a good jumping-on point for a fun afternoon.
The copy of Hunt a Killer Presents Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens used in this review was provided by the publisher.