The Morrison Game Factory Review
I like this game a lot. A game about solving a mystery in a game factory, solving puzzles with parts of board games? Be still my beating heart. The Morrison Game Factory follows in the footsteps of well-known all-in-one puzzles like The Detective Society (review), Hunt A Killer (review), and my favourite game of 2020, The Baker Street Irregulars (review).
If you’ve never played a mystery game, let me set the scene for you. The first impression can be quite daunting. There’s a box full of stuff. You take it all out, have a quick look, and then realise you have no idea what you’re meant to do with any of it. Luckily there’s a letter addressed to you, dear detective, one which sets the scene and gives you a hint of where to start.
From there, my job as a reviewer gets really difficult.
I can’t tell you too much about what happens in the game, because if I do, you’ll know what to expect, and where’s the fun in that? What I can tell you, however, is that the story running through The Morrison Game Factory is extremely good. The writing is excellent, the characters are captivating, and there’s a running theme that’s reminiscent of one of my favourite films from the 1980s.
No, I’m not going to tell you which film.
The puzzles are nicely paced. Nothing so abstract and outlandish that you’ll never be able to figure it out, while at the same time presenting a bit of a challenge. I was delighted when I thought I might be getting near the end of the story and then found I was only halfway through. There’s a mixture of logic, code-breaking, and just reading between the lines. Everything in the box plays a part at some point, and I love it when a game does what The Morrison Game Factory does, and makes me come back to some items more than once.
If you find any part of it heavy going, and can’t quite muster up the brainpower to find the solution to a puzzle – or even where to start one – there’s a great online hint system. The online system is more than just a glorified FAQ though, it plays an integral part of the story, so let me make it clear here that an internet connection is required to play. It’s not a case of “this is just an online game with the audacity to make me buy a box”. Instead, the website (it’s not an app) helps push the story along, and acts as a way to give you feedback, so you know your answers are right.
Or not, as the case may be.
If you’ve ever played any mystery games, there’s one thing which sets the great ones apart from the ones that are just good. That one thing is the story. Without a good story, what you’re left with is a box of puzzles, and while that might be cool for some people, for the rest of us the story matters. It’s what pulls everything together and adds impetus to make it to the next puzzle, to find out what happens next.
The writing in The Morrison Game Factory is outstanding. I’ve not been this drawn into an ongoing mystery since The Baker Street Irregulars. It ought to be expected I guess, given the involvement of Lauren Bello who wrote for The Foundation and The Sandman TV series. It’s frustrating because I really want to talk to someone about the story. I want to tell you, the reader, all about it, but I can’t. I can’t ruin it for you. Let’s just say it really is well-written, and evocative. I don’t mind admitting I was close to tears at one point.
I really enjoyed Death At The Dive Bar (Hunt A Killer) and the scenarios I’ve played of The Detective Society, but the story on The Morrison Game Factory blew them away. Only Dave Neale’s writing in The Baker Street Irregulars comes close.
Forewarned is forearmed
I’ve just got a couple of potential problems to be aware of, one of which is a teeny bit spoliery, so if that bothers you, skip down to Final thoughts. Firstly, for those of you who don’t live in the US, there’s a spot where you’re required to call a US phone number. That might not be a problem for some, but for me I’d have had to enable international dialling on my mobile contract. Luckily, it’s not a dealbreaker. The same information from the call is also on the website that you’re given right near the start in both audio recording and transcription forms. Top marks for providing both.
Secondly, the online section of the game uses a website, not an app. As such, it’s cookie-dependent. If you’re planning on taking your time and playing it across multiple days, just be aware that the next time you visit the site, it may not have remembered your progress. Again, not a deal-breaker, just an annoyance, and one that might not even happen to you. I only mention it because I played the game through twice, once using my brain, once checking the hint system, and the second time through it forgot my progress when I had to continue the next day.
It probably won’t come as a surprise at this point to learn that I loved my time with The Morrison Game Factory. It doesn’t do anything radically different to other games of this ilk, in terms of puzzles, locks, codes etc., but the way it does it is brilliant. The story is so good and you’ll find yourself invested in it, dying to know what happens at the end.
Tying the theme to a board game factory is another great touch. For those of you into board games who haven’t played a mystery game like this before, this is the one most likely to grab your attention. Playing with board game pieces to solve puzzles is really good fun.
The only downside to the game, like all of those in this genre, is that you’ll probably only play it once. There’s no branching story to get you coming back to explore again like in Children of Wyrmwood (review), so unless you have a terrible short-term memory, there’s no challenge in playing a second time through. It’s the kind of game you’ll want to talk to other people about though, so expect to lend it to friends and family so that you finally have someone to compare notes with.
Mystery mastery, I loved every minute. The Kickstarter campaign launches soon, you can find out more by clicking here.
Preview copy provided by PostCurious. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
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The Morrison Game Factory (2024)
Design: Lauren Bello
Art: Steve Thomas
Playing time: 240 mins