Board Game Review

Making Choices and Taking Names (50 Clues: The Leopold Trilogy)

Games of choice often take on two forms. Choose Your Own Adventures, or Escape Rooms. When you take on a multi-choice Choose Your Own Adventure, you’re usually faced with whimsical, glamorous scenarios. Dragons, wizards, a quest and a reward! The other alternative to that is the obstacles and single tracked route of an escape room game. You’ll have a goal and need to crack codes. Now imagine these two genres, these stylings of games, had a baby. A Choose Your Own Escape Game, only there is no escape, no whimsicality, no glory. Only a pure objective from your mind and a path to victory. You’ll get choices to make, but you might not want to make them. That deranged child is 50 Clues: Leopold. And I’m not ashamed to admit I loved it.

What It Is

The game is difficult to explain without spoiling things. We will also only be giving our reaction to the first in this trilogy of games. Although we’ve now played and completed all three, it wouldn’t be fair to give an overall reaction as it might give elements away. This is a game that needs to be played blind, or as blind as possible, so this review aims to give as little away as possible (although bragging rights, we got 97% on part 2!). We’ll give you the rundown of how to play and our reactions, but we won’t be defining specific events. That would ruin the magic. Although magic is probably the wrong word. Blight may be more suited.

The game is an escape room in a box-esque choose your own adventure amalgamation, driven by an app. You’ll solve puzzles, but you’ll choose how you tackle situations. Also, you’ll be timed and score points, so it can become competitive. But the main thing to know is the theme of the game… and it has to come with a warning. The game is dark. Very, dark. There’s your clear cut warning. It’s a very, very dark game. We’ve got strong stomachs but even we uttered an “Oh wow!” or two throughout play.

What You’ll Do

50 Clues is an app driven game; you get a code for your specific game which enables you to play the game so many times. Smart of the developer’s side as it prevents game duplications and knockoffs. Also, you don’t destroy elements throughout play. It’s a game of open discussion, choices and combinations. You’ll discover things in the game, identify clues, combine objects and discover codes. There’s nothing to stop you inputting every combo you get… But all these choices, random guesses and inanities will reduce your score.

You’ll soon come to realise everything has a ‘certain logic’ to it, and then you’ll crack the code. It’s a fantastic system where you can see everything available to you but still need to consider what you’d do in that situation; throw yourself into the game if you will. This undeniably gets you gripped and helps your understanding evolve with the game; you’ll want to win, want to unlock things and want to achieve your goals.

To win, you’ve got to get through all the clue cards and achieve your goal. Each chapter’s goal is different but a clear part of the overall story. Although there’s only one or two solutions to each puzzle, there will often be logical reasoning to justify more, but as in life, sometimes they just won’t work. What’s most impressive about the game is its ability to sometimes get you on a big roll, you’ll be thinking in sync with the game and be solving the puzzles like lightning. But, one stumble, and you’re again questioning.

The decisions in the game come in many flavours. Logically solved ones. Those that are solvable due to a lack of choice, and those you won’t want to solve. Genuinely. The most obvious option isn’t always the most desirable. There is that sense of achievement usually when cracking codes and progressing, but this game can sometimes leave you with undeniable guilt and a hollow feeling – an incredible thing for any game to do. You’ll get invested in the happenings, and if you’re not, you’ll be invested in the collateral created.

It’s not always actions you take that will strike you as shocking. The game has a fantastic element to it where you’ll be wholly invested in the aim. You’ll be so invested you’ll justify what you’re doing in some calmer contexts… And then you’ll discover something that makes you return to reality. No longer can you identify a reasonable situation to cause these events or happenings, and you’ll have that “oh wow” moment.

Who Is This For?

I know I said one warning, but it needs mentioning again. This is an adult game with dark themes. I wouldn’t introduce this to some adults I know due to their weak stomachs, but that’s simply out of courtesy to them. The game itself is excellent in its execution and ability to tell a story.

  • Anyone who loves a quality story will enjoy this! You’ll go through a sequence of being engrossed and needing to take a step back.
  • Anyone with a knack for puzzles will enjoy this as some of these puzzles are real brain ticklers. You’ll need to think outside the box and consider what it is you’re being asked. There is the clue button on the app but that’s genuinely for emergencies
  • Anyone looking for something unique will enjoy this too. It’s similar to what we’ve played in Escape Room in a Box games, but never with such a theme and being app driven.

Who Isn’t it For

Children. Anyone under the age of 18 or anyone with a weaker stomach. Again, I don’t want to give spoilers, but you really don’t want to play this if you get spooked relatively easy. We love a good dark theme, but even we took a step back in some situations.

If you have played this and realise it isn’t for you, that’s understandable. You’ll naturally be a tad shaken by the happenings within this once you’ve played it. And honestly, we think that’s an integral part of the game. Part of the experience. It’s what makes you a human being. Those areas in the story where you can’t justify something or are reluctant to do something demonstrate your grip on what’s right and wrong in your head. I have seen comments about this where others have shamed the game’s theme and happenings, but it’s a storytelling experience. The warning aren’t to be taken lightly. And when you are playing, it will be as we said: if you aren’t invested in the goal, you’ll be invested in the collateral.

The Game’s Quality

There’s no denying the game’s simple in its components. An app and some cards. At first glance it can seem quite simple, especially with the speed that technology and games are developing. This simplicity is deceptive. The app is made excellently; it’s user friendly and runs the story between cards. Simple phrases and explanations tie one card to another and narrate your outside actions and bits between decisions, which is something we’ve found some escape room in a box games miss. A phrase as simple as “You enter the code and padlock opens with a snap, inside you find an old map and a pen. Look at card 82” has way more impact than “correct, reveal card 82”. It seems silly but without these minor additions you risk becoming a spectator to the events rather than a participant.

The cards are of great quality. Some of the most sturdy and robust cards we’ve seen for any game! The fact that everything is saved and nothing is destroyed gives warrant to that, but these genuinely feel quality. And that’s not even talking about the art! It is superb. It’s all monochrome for the most part but doesn’t leave much to the imagination. If there’s something you need on a card, it will be there. The detailing is meticulous and you only remove a card when you are 100% finished with it. Plus they’re very well illustrated. They have a certain style to them, and it’s quite captivating and fits well with the theme. But again, third warning, (despite there only being one) some cards contain dark illustrations.

In a Nutshell

We are massive escape-room enthusiasts. We’ve done so many we’ve lost count of them, but we’re hooked on them and we always escape them… so far! Saying that, we’re also fans of escape-room in a box games, and again, we escape them too! But they’re more of a game than an escape experience. 50 Clues is an experience more than a game, but not one you’ll escape. It’s a game in a sense you can win, compete and play along. But from what we went through, I’d say it’s more of a unique experience where you go into another person’s shoes. You justify their actions, you become that person. Only when it’s gone too far or it’s completely out of your norm do you snap back to reality! However, that lulling in and out of reality whilst playing is something I’ve never experienced.

It’s crazy how well executed the game’s theme is, and how consistently it runs. If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty and you’re a fan of that choose your own / escape room vibe, this is for you. It’s a game I’d love to recommend to every gamer I know, but only do so to very few due to its content. Did we mention it’s dark?