50 Clues: The Pendulum of the Dead – Norsker Games – Review

50 Clues: The Pendulum of the Dead - Norsker Games - Review 1

The Leopold 50 clues series offers a great set of puzzles to solve and a unique story to unroll. There is nothing else like this on the market today. 

Joseph Summa

MeepleGamers

7/10
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Theme and What is it?

8/10

First of all, I am covering a review of all 3 games as a single series here.  50 Clues: The Pendulum of the Dead sets up the trilogy of games.  It draws players into their role of Maria.  Maria is locked up in a psychiatric ward and is on such strong medication she has trouble remembering the details of her plans.

But don’t worry.  She has left herself clues, roughly 50 of them if the title is any indication.  She planned meticulously and now just needs to go through the execution of her plan.  

In Pendulum of the Dead, Maria seeks to find her son and the tools she needs to deal with a massive problem.  Leopold.  This demonic soul has been jumping bodies and threatens the whole world.  Maria is the only one with the knowledge and preparation to stop him.

In White Sleep, she will need to do some distasteful things in order to gather the power necessary to confront Leopold.  But, the world is at risk so whatever is necessary will be done anyway.

In The Fate of Leopold, Maria tracks down where the soul of Leopold currently resides.  Then she deals with the current carrier.  And I do mean, DEALS with him.  But that isn’t the end, she has to battle and trap the demonic soul to put an end to the nightmare forever.  It is worth noting that she was not wrongfully committed in the asylum to begin with.

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Gameplay Mechanics

8/10

Since Maria cannot remember her plan in detail, the players must guide her through the execution of her plan by interpreting and solving the clues she left behind.  This is very equivalent to an escape room and has some comparisons to games like Unlock and Exit.  There are a lot of really excellent puzzles.  There are also occasionally a puzzle with a very unsatisfying solution or where there was a ton of information in front of the players and none of it was relevant to what to do.

The game requires access to the internet to play as codes are typed into the website to execute combinations of objects or investigate places.  It does have a good hint system with the first one making sure you didn’t forget to grab cards you were told to get and are looking at the correct ones.  The second hint gives some idea of how to approach the puzzle.  The final hint shows the solution if the players just cannot make it.  I have to admit we used this at least a few times.  Don’t be afraid of the first hint ever.  The second you might want to be properly puzzled first.  And the third is when frustration and fun start to get mismatched.

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Initial Impressions

9/10

As you are playing the role of a crazy person, you have to do some strange things in 50 clues.  Occasionally you might do something wrong when solving a puzzle.  This is particularly relevant during timed puzzles where a guard or other person is closing in.  If the players might do something Maria didn’t intend to do.  Rather than being told “errr, wrong.  try again.” the 50 clues series instead has a number of divergences that will account for this.  It is never a MAJOR divergence, but it still lets the player have some direct control over the choose your own adventure style.  You will end up in the same place just have a different journey to get there.

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Game Build Quality

8/10

50 clues is just a deck of about 50 oversized cards.  It requires the internet and access to a website to function.  It is a very simple set of components but works perfectly for the storytelling and clue solving game that it is going for.

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Artistic Direction

6/10

The artwork is sometimes simple with just details of objects and locations being featured.  Sometimes there are unique people shown.  Other times, the artwork goes a little grim.  Blood and gore are definitely going to be seen during the 50 clues games.  But this is fitting with the dark thematic content being covered.

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Fun Factor

7/10

Solving puzzles is easily where the fun is for me.  There were some excellent puzzles and even some that I fully intend to shamelessly steal and use in things like D&D campaigns or contests with friends.  The one above is a particular favorite of mine.  Not saying any more than that about it as it could become a minor spoiler if you know the context.

For some of my players, they were interested in the game for the horror theme.  The trailer video teaching you how to play the game system did nothing to hide what kind of content would be present in the game.  If you enjoy jumping into the mind of a deranged serial killer, this is going to provide more fun to you than a normal escape room fan.

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Age Range & Weight

1/10

16+ is the highest age rating I have ever seen.  In the US, this would have been a 17+ Mature rating.  At the risk of a mild spoiler, you are not just a crazy person in the game.  You are a mass murderer.  In your defense, you are absolutely convinced you are doing it all to save the entire world.  It fits the theme and intended content perfectly.  But on the other hand, DO NOT underestimate the level of creepy and distasteful things that will be done during the game.

In White Sleep, your son tries to escape from you.  And you need to make sure he cannot do this again.  So you need to find a way to keep an unattended child from being able to wander off.  You figure out a way.  That is for sure.  But the way you do it will offend some sensibilities.  Actually, most every player will find it very upsetting.  This is intended by the developer.  And players who love horror and creepy suspense films will not find it too far from what they have seen before.  But there will certainly be players that might not want to think about something this disturbing while playing a game.  

The picture above was intentionally selected as this kind of decaying baby imagery is not even the most upsetting thing the games will throw at the players.  Especially since the players discover this and didn’t cause it.  Worse things the players intentionally choose to do and feel partially responsible as a result.

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Conclusions

7/10

The Leopold 50 clues series offers a great set of puzzles to solve and a unique story to unroll. There is nothing else like this on the market today. The game is mostly marketed with the story and thematic content in mind.  There are no other escape room games with such a terrifying thematic space.  Avoid these if creepy and disturbing is not for you.  Check them out for sure if you enjoy the thematic space and escape rooms.

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