Madmen and Heroes is a subscription box company that offers two different kinds of experiences. The Resystance is a historical themed box that teaches you about specific historical events. The Craaaft is a supernatural themed box that teaches you about paranormal beliefs from around the world. Each box starts with an explanation about the content and what you must do to complete the game. There are a series of clues and puzzles that you must solve in order to complete your quest.
I enjoyed the themes from this company. I was able to try two Resystance boxes, the Underground Railroad and Women’s Suffrage. I also tried one of the Craaaft boxes which was Preta Problem, a Buddhist themed box. I genuinely learned some historical facts and lore. There’s no better way to learn than from a fun game or story. Unfortunately, I think the theming is about the only good virtue about the boxes.
There is a limited story with each box. It usually only consists of a rough idea of what’s going on historically or what your goals are. The Preta Problem for example had nearly two pages of writing explaining what Pretas are and how you need to find each one in the temple to help them. The information was repeated a lot and could be edited down to less than a page with clearer writing. The Resystance makes it seem like there’s a time travel meta story going on, but they never really build on that. The premise is similar to that of Escape the Crate, but that company builds on the meta story every box. So far, the Resystance is just visiting places. I have no idea what we are resisting or what’s going on.
The puzzles are usually a mess. A good puzzle is one that provides you all the information you need but still provides a challenge. Most of the puzzles in this box do not explain what they want you to do. It sort of explains what you are looking for and then there’s random clues sprinkled throughout. There’s just no clear direction for what to look for. The hint page on the website is pretty good though. They provide roughly 3 hints, a ‘how to solve’, and the solution for each puzzle. Without looking at this page though, you might not even realize something is a clue. The answers compilate to a single password which completes the story with an epilogue. Getting this password can be tricky figuring out if there are spaces or capitalized letters or the order to put them in. For me, I just didn’t find the puzzles to be enjoyable.
The quality of the images and prints are really low. Most of it looks like they downloaded from a small internet image and had it blown up a few sizes. Most of the images are grainy and pixelated. The puzzle elements are usually just tacked on like a clipart. They are made on good quality paper too which is a striking contrast. I’m not sure why they spend time printing poor images on quality paper.
Each box comes with a few trinkets. The Resystance boxes come with random things that seem useless in the game and in life. This is typical though for these types of games and this one doesn’t stand out as being the worst offender. The Craaaft actually has some really fun goodies. For the Preta Problem I got a long strand of Buddhist prayer flags and a necklace of prayer beads. They didn’t play into the game at all, but it went with the theme and I like them.
Each box is $30 a month. For that price, they do not come close to the quality and content that other companies provide. At most I would consider these boxes to have a $20 value. It’s not like they are in a big rush either considering they have a 12-month rotation for their boxes. This means every June they send out the same June box as the previous year. They have plenty of time to clean up their content and offer a finished product.
I really wanted to like these boxes because of the themes. It was a great concept that was never completed. Maybe I will give them another shot in the future if they fix their quality and revamp each box with a story and better images. I think hiring a graphic designer would be a good move. Never leave a mystery unsolved!
-J.C. Mystery Detective