The Mystery of Mystery: Playing a New Superhero Recruit

September 28, 2020 | Sessions | 4 comments

Suit up as a superhero recruit in the cartoon streets of Chicago as a strange plot unfolds from villains unknown in Mystery.

Let’s just say that I’m exploring a few different kinds of solo games and experiences in preparation for a themed October. More details forthcoming! Much as that announcement is shrouded in suspense, I opened up Mystery for the first time. The superhero theme is very prevalent at the moment. Why not embrace it and set out for adventure?!

Game Overview

Game Name: Mystery
Publication Year:
2016
Designer:
Cédric Asna
Artist:
Stivo
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)

That’s right: It’s another gamebook from the series of Graphic Novel Adventures! The unique themes and mechanics can lead to some hits and misses. In this journey, you play a superhero recruit trying to make your way up the ranks. On the surface, there are plenty of choices about how to build up your character. Whoosh!

Into the World of Superheroes with the Graphic Novel Adventure, Mystery

All the Special Powers

A character’s abilities come in the form of 4 powers. Most are self-explanatory, although “Super Rich” is explained as a way to bribe others or access innovative gadgets.

I may need to go double-check the rules, but I thought powers couldn’t exceed 4 points. Hmm… Interesting.

To begin with, 2 power points may be split up between any of these powers. Awesome! I could see plenty of unique ways to get started and build a memorable superhero.

This might have been better if there were little details for each power level. Am I just floating, or can I ZOOM?! Ha!

Crafting a Hero from the Available Powers in Mystery

Meanwhile at HQ…

The introductory scene introduced hilarious characters and some comedic elements. I was so excited about this world! That’s a rarity, because I have a dark secret…

Superhero themes don’t appeal to me. What?! It’s true, and not the easiest thing to admit with them everywhere!

Maybe I just need to go back to the old days. I actually liked playing with action figures and turning them into heroes way back in the day. Can I recapture that fun?

I hoped to try to with this unique sort of adventure. My recruit was just about ready to fly around Chicago!

An Introduction from the Leader of the Superheroes in Mystery

Diverse Characters

Before heading to the streets, rooftops, and skies, though, I had an important choice. What did my character look like? I had a trio of options, though anything was possible.

I always like to call out games that try to be more inclusive and diverse. Maybe it’s not perfect, yet it was refreshing to see this selection of options. Nice superhero suits, too!

Superheroes can be very diverse in their powers and abilities, yet appearances sometimes seem uniform.

I couldn’t quite decide on who looked right… I just assumed I could mold my appearance as needed!

Choosing a Character to Play at the Start of Mystery

From Fun and Excitement to Disappointment

As I progressed through the story to explore every place on the map, it looked like there were specific ability scores that acted as gates. So rather than develop a character, I actually had to follow a specific path towards advancement. I got it to a certain degree but was still a little frustrated. Why leave customization open when it didn’t really matter?

At the same time, maybe I’m simply outside of the target audience. As a child, I think I would have truly enjoyed reading through the adventure and laughing at the scenes. A few were a little questionable, like discovering a superhero putting his underwear on the outside of his suit. Ha ha! So take my experience with a grain of salt. Adults are not kids.

Yet I still like to think I’m a kid at heart! There were some funny and dramatic moments tucked into the storyline. Rather than worry about too much, though, it was still enjoyable to sit there quietly and see the mystery unfold.

A Daring Rescue

Hero Points, oddly labeled HP like hit points, may be earned or even lost based on a character’s actions.

It’s important to collect these because they determine hero ranks. Lower ranks can’t access certain areas of the city, so it’s vital to act like a true superhero. I… Didn’t.

No spoilers, but there was an incident with an ice cream cone. I saved it with a flourish to face the amazed crowd!

Only I went overboard. This was a funny moment when I made the wrong decision. Or was it? Who decided the ice cream didn’t need saving?! So many rules for a hero!

Saving the Ice Cream and Terrifying the People in Mystery

Session Overview

Play Number: 1 and 2
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)
Required Play Space: 14″ x 18″
Setup Time: Almost None
Play Time: 1 Hour per Play
Outcome: 208 and 579 (1 Win and 1 Loss)

At first, I was a cafeteria worker when I failed to make it to the second rank. Oh, dear! Then I had the ideal path pretty much memorized and made it through my next play at the very top. It was fun, though short-lived and stilted. I really didn’t have a chance to make decisions, unfortunately.

A Simple Way to Calculate Overall Performance in Mystery

%

1 Play

Affordability

Price & Value

4

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

3

Originality

Design & Theme

5

Quality

Components & Rules

10

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

5

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

2

+ Pros (Positives)

  • There are a handful of comedic moments sprinkled throughout the adventure that poke fun at superheroes.
  • Despite the reusability being low, there are some interesting scenes to uncover for the first time.
  • The illustrations capture the superhero genre very well and often feature the character’s gloved hand.
  • All of the sample characters are diverse and make it seem like anyone can be a superhero or even a regular hero.
  • It may be a small point, yet the way the panels are randomly divided makes accidental cheating very difficult.
  • Finding a few hidden or disguised elements can be very fun, particularly when a discovery leads to something big.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • There is only a single main path forward in terms of abilities and how to allocate points, which is very limiting.
  • Although the map is presented in an open-world fashion, there aren’t branching storylines nor many side quests.
  • It’s very easy to miss a couple of vital ways to advance early on, which can lead to getting stuck at a low rank.
  • The optimal path is simple to learn and utilize in just a couple of plays so that there is little reason to play more.

More Mystery

Explore related posts about Mystery!

Continue the Conversation

Have you played through Mystery? Perhaps there are a lot of fun times to be had for the right player! Are there other gamebooks you like to play? I’ll return to this genre at some point, although as I hinted at earlier, October is going to have an interesting slew of games… A theme month, if you will. Prepare for plenty of solo game goodness ahead!

4 Comments

  1. Have to agree on the “one path” thing. I started with a particular type of hero and couldn’t get enough Hero Points to advance to the next level to continue the story. I liked what I was seeing, but that “must follow a certain power progression” was a bit annoying. I put it down at that point and never picked it up again, though I did want to see where the story was going. I’m glad to know I wasn’t crazy for thinking that it was all about choosing the right powers. That’s definitely disappointing.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it, Peter. I can appreciate the limitations of a graphic novel adventure, yet I would have been happy to play a specific superhero. Maybe progress could have been measured in hero points, thereby adding more decision-making or some sense of player agency.

      The initial customization gives the wrong impression. Not to spoil things too much, but if you don’t want a superhero who can fly… You’re going to get stuck without any way to progress very early. My hero idea didn’t pan out at all, and it felt like I was punished for choosing incorrectly.

      Still, I think the right audience would get some more enjoyment out of this one! This collection can be hit-or-miss, though I’m happy to say that this has been the only one where I really felt limited. It almost feels like it should have been a book so the story could be the focal point, rather than giving the illusion of player choices. At least there are more gamebooks to try out!

      Reply
  2. Infamously, in the Marvel Superheroes RPG (1984), you’d lose more karma points by being late to a charity function than you’d gain by stopping the bank robbery you saw on the way.

    Reply
    • Can’t be late! This is hilarious but somehow doesn’t surprise me. Is this common in the superhero realm? That’s the only explanation here… Ha!

      Reply

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