Can you unlock the ancient chest, find the Balthazar Stone and break the ancient curse?
Join Elsa Winslow on her journey to Sharktooth Island. To solve the mystery, you must unlock an ancient treasure chest, find Balthazar’s Stone and break its ancient curse.
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We approached this a little unsure of how it would end up. The promo material left us fairly certain that it would have a decent build quality, but we were unsure of how the puzzles and story would play out: a decent challenge for puzzlers, or a name famous in a different realm cashing in on the escape room bandwagon?
As we expected, the materials were all generally good quality, although on unlocking the stone at the end, we realised that this bit of the box wasn't glued and we could have just slid the wood aside without troubling the padlock!
When it came to the puzzles, we found that some puzzle elements weren't coherent with the story's timeline, which lead to us not realising that we hadn't used some things fully. The overall story didn't quite hang together.
We've only done 2 of the 3 so far - do this one before The Ghost in The Attic as it's the weaker of the two.
The Balthazar Stone is nearly a great game, but unfortunately it gets lets down by a series of minor niggles in nearly every aspect so it's hard not to leave feeling frustrated, both as a player and on behalf of the creators that they didn't deliver the potential that the game clearly has.
Let's start with the good: the game centres around a physical box. Even though it's laser-cut plywood, it's a good size and weight and and it's beautifully-decorated. It feels interesting and satisfying to interact with. As you play through the game, you'll find various smaller artefacts - all above average quality, that would make nice souvenir pieces if you're the sort of person to display trophies of your game conquests, say. The puzzles are relatively solid, and there's an online hint system if you get stuck. The game is totally non-destructive, and there's also an excellently-clear guide as to how to reset the game and pass it on to someone else.
- There's a lack of clear signposting at one point near the start, which led us to spend 10 minutes trying to solve a puzzle without yet having been given all the materials required to do so. We then eventually decided to give up and consult the hints site, only to discover that the first online "clue" you can reveal is actually required to proceed in the game!
- One of the puzzles is either broken, or contains red herrings - it's a bit hard to say. But it certainly made us waste time solving things that turned out to have no relevance to the game.
- A part of the game requires internet access, but it's very thin webpage content, and does not make nearly as good use of the medium compared to similar games from Society of Curiosities or The Detective Society. The simplistic presentation of the online components also does not match the quality of the physical presentation of the box itself.
- Even though the story and puzzles were generally well-executed, there was nothing we hadn't seen before, and everything very much sticks to the standards expected of a "haunted pirate box"-esque game. That's not a huge problem, but don't expect any surprises.
- But the biggest problem: the final puzzle has a catastrophic mechanical failure, which led to us reaching the end of the game after only solving about half of the puzzles. Frustratingly, it seems that this was known about and has been reported by several reviewers who received early copies of the game (who were then sent replacement fixed boxes), but KS orders were still sent out using the defective boxes, and despite contacting the company I've not been offered a replacement.
It's such a shame, as this could have been one of the top at-home games, but instead we left with a sour taste. I'm awaiting delivery of the next two in the series, and am hopeful the designers will learn from their mistakes... fingers crossed!
I purchased this puzzle box as part of a trio of puzzles. This was the first to arrive. I was pleasantly surprised that the box inside was nicely presented and was a wooden box rather than a cheap cardboard emulation of a box. I started the puzzle today and didn't want to rush through it, taking my time to enjoy the mystery. It took about 2 hours in total to solve which was short enough to maintain my interest in the puzzle.
The puzzles were quite simple once you figured them out but a little bit daunting at their discovery. They require a lot of logical thought but are very solvable with the appropriate clues available. I used the first clue on the first puzzle to get myself going but was pretty much able to solve the rest alone. The clues were setup in a way so that you didn't need to use them, but if you did you could reveal a small clue, then a larger one, then the answer. This meant that at no point would you be stuck and unable to move forward. Frustratingly, once I had solved the puzzle I wasn't aware that I had done so and I ended up using this feature again to figure it out. It would have been nice to have some indication that this was the end, I was staring at the Balthazar Stone trying to figure out what the runes meant. However this was just a code you needed to enter on the website to confirm you had solved the puzzle.
You don't have to solve all the puzzles in order, I had solved the crossword puzzle before even attempting the box and I had figured out the very last 2 clues on the final puzzle before finally finding the first. The first puzzle to open the box was ingenious. Overall, I think the puzzles could have been a tad more difficult, but I think 2 hours is a long time to spend on a puzzle and if it had been extremely complex I would have given up out of frustration so the balance is about right.
I am torn over the requirement to use the internet to solve the puzzle. The internet clues are great and are a way to ensure no cheating happens along the way, however it would be nice to have a puzzle box that is entirely self contained. They did make the internet portion of the puzzle relatable, it was part of the mystery and not just a gimmick.
i would have liked the first clue I used to get myself going to be more cryptic. I was unsure where to start and after 30 minutes of blustering around I clicked the first clue and then thought, oh, I didn't even look at the box yet. It would be nice for them to add a cryptic clue to begin with rather than spelling it out in the first clue. It was this reason I didn't touch the clues going forward.
The website also gives full instructions on how to reset the puzzle back to factory default so you can gift to a friend. This makes the initial purchase price a little easier to handle as it is a great gift.
I am looking forward to the next mystery agency puzzle to hit my doorstep.
A superb and well thought out set of puzzles. Just tough enough to be a decent challenge. The puzzle elements and clues are well produced and very inventive. My only criticism would be a bit of damage to the box which had clearly not been done during transit as it was internal. Must have been a manufacturing issue but it's early days and there are bound to be teething troubles. As expected the Mystery Agency are sending a replacement, lighting fast response to a problem and great customer service. I will be buying all the others.
Reviews by escape room review sites
This was an amazing debut by The Mystery Agency, founded by Henry Lewis of the wonderful Mischief Theatre (for even more fun check out their plays, DVDs and TV shows!)
We kickstarted the full set of three, so they worked out cheaper than they are now available for, but I feel that as long as you fully immerse yourself in the story and take the puzzles and adventure slowly, then this is great value for money.
There were some known issues with the inside of the chest for earlier adopters, such as our box structure mentioned earlier, with broken internal walls or locks that had come away from their shackles. Be sure to take your exploration of the physical elements slowly and don’t use these as an opportunity to cheat! There are also some logistics issues for the deliveries but considering this is a new venture for a small team new to the market, its initial popularity and what with Brexit, Covid and other barriers to deal with, this is not surprising and some patience may be needed, but it is very much worth the wait.
We can’t wait to see what other mischief we get up to in the other two titles from this group, and from the website, it looks like a fourth is already in the planning!
You are sent the box by The Mystery Agency, hoping your puzzling skills might be able to help in uncovering the mystery that surrounds the Balthazar Stone. After all, the professor who had it last went crazy trying to decipher the riddles and open the case. He even tried *whispering* brute forcing the lock, but alas! The Balthazar’s Stone keeps it’s secrets.
I loved The Balthazar Stone. It had all the right elements of mystery and discovery that I want in a good at-home escape game. The game materials are great quality and feel like real artifacts.
The puzzles are really well designed, making me feel like a real armchair treasure hunter. The seamless attention to detail that I’ve come to love about Mischief Theatre is clearly evident here.
I’d recommend this game for anyone who’s a fan of Society of Curiosities and is hungry for more. It’s less challenging than the Society of Curiosities games, so I’d say it lends itself more towards a casual or family game night.