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Diorama Games - The Medusa Report



You might have recalled that back in September 2021 I reviewed an amazing Kickstarter called The Vandermist Dossier. It was a revamp of a 2017 Dutch Puzzle Tabletop Game and I absolutely LOVED it. Balancing both an engaging narrative experience and perfectly timed puzzle reveals, Diorama has a knack for building games that puzzlers across the world will enjoy. When the North American Puzzle community learned they were bringing forth an English version of the Europeal acclaimed game we all rallied hard and the Kickstarter was an amazing success.

Two years later and when I received word they were putting together the amazing sequel I was determined to get myself a copy and, thankfully, Diorama was happy to pass along a review copy of The Medusa Report. I am also pleased to tell you this game is everything I wanted and more. So let’s dive into why you should back this Kickstarter on May 23rd, 2023!


The Story:


Continuing from where The Vandermist Dossier left off, Helena Vandermist from the Filomela Institute is reaching out again. After helping her find out what happened to her sister you quickly learn something darker lurking behind the agency that hid Abby all those years ago. In fact, it appears she fled the agency and is missing again. Fortunately before she vanished she left instructions and a report behind for her sister to unravel…but Helena isn’t the most puzzle savvy. Contained in this report is the location of where Abby is lying low but also something about The Medusa which seems to be at the centre of Abby’s flight. As you begin to unpack this report you realise the mystery and secrets contained within will take you down the road of Cold War secrets and espionage that raises more questions than answers…are you prepared for the truth?


The Medusa Report follows a linear puzzle progression that effortlessly tells a story through showing and not telling. Each document has clues to discern but also vital information to build the story. I loved reading through confidential documents, letters, sticky notes, and the works because I felt immersed in the story as someone putting the pieces together. Each solution adds to the story and guides you further along so that by the end you feel confident tackling the questions posed by Helena on top of just where her sister is.


This does mean you want to take your time reading things over. If something is directing you to a letter, go read it! I appreciated the level of sign posting here that also allowed the story to keep pace as I never was wondering what I needed to do next or where to go. You also want to remind yourself there are two additional questions to answer on top of just locating Abigail and following the story closely reveals some VERY curious things. Personally, the story was extremely satisfying so it is worth investing extra time in. The ending itself was satisfying and it has me VERY curious on how this will be unveiled in game three!



The Puzzles:


The puzzling, as I mentioned before, is linear with excellent sign posting, starting with the Dear Detective Letter. As you move through the story you are prompted with questions in the documents that push you to move forward. Follow the story as you can potentially spoil things if you try unpacking everything at once. The puzzles are not overtly difficult but they require visual awareness - that is to say they will reveal things in front of your eyes as you solve them which created multiple “aha” moments when the solution appeared in front of me. Coupled with fun ciphers and pattern recognition I felt that this is excellent for all levels of players. This is a puzzle game that truly pushes you to handle your items and thus the puzzling felt truly thematic to the story and world.


Now, the quality of the puzzle components needs its own paragraph. Suffice to say, each item looks and feels like something out of a Cold War spy movie. The different textures, mixing of paper and plastic and the unveiling of the components and their secrets took the puzzling to a new level. I am someone who loves when the world of the game is effectively bridged with the game components and this is a game that has that it spades.


And, for those with a keen eye there are bonus puzzles to draw you in so keep a copy of The Vandermist Dossier handy (or go buy it). They are more challenging than the main game but the satisfaction is HIGH.


Ultimately the puzzling here is enjoyable and immersive in a way that I want more games to achieve. This is the kind of puzzling I love and Diorama has done it once again.



The Company:


Now, while I did receive this as a review copy I did also back their last Kickstarter (and I will definitely do it again!). The game itself arrives in a sturdy box and immediately upon opening it you are being set up for the game with this box that looks aged. Inside you have instructions on how to access their website and, most importantly, the hint system. The full online system was not up and running when I played but I was impressed with the use of visual and written clues to aid players as I feel with a game like this, sometimes a visual can be extremely helpful. The hints range from a prompting question to explaining what needs to be done before providing the actual solution. This is perfect for any new players tackling this game as it provides clear on-ramping for them to feel comfortable and not have to worry about struggling.


When the game officially launches there will also be an online portal for submitting the final solution and will provide a good epilogue to tie things up. For me the solution was sent via email. it was a email process but they did show me how players would receive a summary of the events of the game that actually worked pretty well with the set up.


Conclusion:


Set in a richly immersive Cold War era time capsule, The Medusa Report immerses players in a puzzling world that is engaging, exciting, and winding. Taking about two hours to play through, I was absolutely absorbed in the game and took delight with each reveal. I remember starting the game and after seeing an absolutely perfect puzzle reveal in a small early on puzzle, I sat back and said to myself, “I’m going to love this game.” By the end of the game I still found this statement true. If you love a balance of storytelling with thought provoking puzzles this is a game that will grab your attention. I felt a part of Helena and Abby’s journey and seeing the progression has me excited for game three.


The Medusa Report will be launching on Kickstarter Tuesday May 23rd! To follow the Kickstarter click here and to learn more about the game and company click here and here - if you haven’t tried out The Vandermist Dossier I highly recommend checking that out in the meantime!


Disclosure - This game was provided complimentary for a fair review.




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