We went into Cursed Cargo optimistic. It wasn't a Murder She Wrote game like Art of Murder, but it was from the same company. Sadly, it didn't measure up.
The plot has a solid premise: A member of an American archaeological expedition to the Yucatan learns that another member plans to smuggle an artifact back to the United States. Like a proper murder mystery victim, he makes sure to tell everyone that he will tell the Mexican authorities, but doesn't name the thief. Naturally, he dies mysteriously. Who killed him?
There are four other members of the expedition, any of whom might be the murderer. The police officer questions the suspects and establishes a rough timeline. You'll examine the scene of the murder (minus the body) to identify the killer.
It's functional, moves reasonably quickly, and it's nice to have the protagonist be a Mexican police officer.
This is basically identical to Art of Murder: well punched (only one unpunched pair!), but thin, overly flexible, and poor fitting. It's difficult to lift and move groups of pieces, and hard to use fit to confirm you've placed a piece correctly.
The loose fit bit us in the end, while assembling a large area with difficult to distinguish colors. We relied on piece shape and fit, and eventually ended up with 8 or so pieces that could not possibly fit. We had to search the puzzle for the piece that seemed to fit, but was in the wrong place.
The box is inoffensive.
Much of the puzzle is really good: a mixture of easy and tricky patterns, a variety of colors, and more than a few things that are absolutely strange looking until you figure out what they are. But, there is a large swath of dark blue with very subtle patterns. We've got typical overhead lighting on our table, and the pieces are typically glossy. The result was pieces that were essentially indistinguishable. We had to rely on shape and brute force for a large portion of the puzzle. Perhaps the last quarter of our time was dedicated to fighting that area.
Again, as another The Missing Piece puzzle, pieces all have four sides, with a mixture of tabs and holes. Piece shape varies a fair amount. The result simplifies finding the right piece visually. Making it a bit harder, the piece shapes don't betray anything about their horizontal or vertical orientation.
Cursed Cargo was tougher than Art of Murder, despite being the same number of pieces. It took us 3 nights, with most of an evening going to dealing with the dark blue areas.
The mystery was a huge disappointment. An essential "clue" completely ignores a significant detail in the image. There is a weak hint in the text that implies an explanation for the detail, but there is an alternative valid interpretation that renders the clue invalid. (Spoiler 1)
Another clue is an unsatisfying and implausible cliche. (Spoiler 2)
Most seriously, as aspect of the murder creates essential ambiguity the author forgot about. (Spoiler 3) Arguably other evidence implicates the murderer, but it's still weak.
If you ignore the first problem, it's a reasonably good mystery. As such, I recommend reading spoiler 1.
This isn't a great mystery. It's better than the Bepuzzled puzzles, Foul Play & Cabernet and Grounds for Murder, but not by much.
The image represents the first time Lieutenant Timinez enters the tent, in the night, illuminated by his flashlight. The body must be just off camera. ↩︎
The victim lacked the ability to call or crawl for help, but was able to quickly figure out an incredibly cryptic clue. ↩︎
We never get a clear explanation for the murder, but it's implied that it's poison. If it's poison, the onset need not be immediate, nor would the victim need to consume it immediately. Literally anyone could have poisoned the victim. ↩︎