Debunking Mystery Ventures & A $50,000 Prize

For our first video essay, we present an investigation of Mystery Ventures.

We looked into this dubious puzzle competition with a $50,000 prize that allegedly starts in a week. Here’s what we found:

And we share a few thoughts on what we get out of solving puzzles.

Thank you to the folks in the Escape Room Slack for helping investigate this. Thank you, especially to Anthony Hoover from Cypher House Escape.

Bluefish Games – Hincks Gazette [Review]

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Puzzle newspaper is surprisingly satisfying!”

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 7, 2020

Team size: 1-2; we recommend 1-2

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: $22 for 3 months, $39 for 6 months

REA Reaction

Quick, affordable, and surprisingly fun… with an emphasis on the surprise.

A copy of the Hincks Gazette being held up in front of a fireplace. The frontpage headline reads, "Talking plants now talking back. House plants sassing families all over town."

I don’t typically enjoy the writing in tabletop puzzle games, but The Hincks Gazette was humorous and well written.

The puzzle types that Bluefish Games used throughout this experience fell into categories that I usually dislike, but Bluefish Games managed to make each and every puzzle intriguing and exciting.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, and each time I started thinking, “this isn’t going to be for me,” my expectations were subverted in the best kind of way.

Quick-hit subscription games are tough. It’s hard to sustainably produce quality content on an ongoing basis. Will The Hincks Gazette maintain this level of quality over the long haul? I cannot say. For now, however, I’m really happy with this product and wholeheartedly recommend it for word puzzlers.

I doubt that The Hincks Gazette will blow your mind, but for the price and the level of commitment, like The Curious Elevator of Mr. Hincks, this was easy to recommend.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Smart puzzling in an elegant and inexpensive package
  • It’s funny


We picked up a newspaper with a curiously incomplete story about sassy talking houseplants and how to make them stop being mean. The catch was that the last part was missing, and we really needed to fix our talking houseplant. The negativity was getting to us.

Continue reading “Bluefish Games – Hincks Gazette [Review]”

Next on the RECON Stage: David Kwong of The Enigmatist

Last winter, many escape room players were wowed by The Enigmatist, David Kwong’s one-man show that artfully combined magic, puzzles, cryptography, crosswords, and storytelling. The show sold out a year-long run in New York City.

David Kwong of the Enigmatist with a image projected on top of him.

This week, The Reality Escape Convention (RECON) announced David Kwong as a speaker at this year’s digital global Reality Escape Convention.

David will be speaking about blending magic into puzzles, and making these accessible for every skill level.

The Magic

The true magic of The Engimatist was that on surface level none of these thing should have fit together. Yet, Kwong wove them into a beautifully cohesive experience that wowed and impressed at the same time.

The other magic of The Enigmatist, was, of course, the magic… which was also fantastic.

We’re so excited to have this magician reveal some of his tricks… of accessible puzzle design.

About Kwong

With his expertise in puzzles and illusions, David Kwong delights and challenges audiences around the world with his intellectual brand of magic.

Escape room players and creators were captivated by his sold-out one-man show, The Enigmatist and now we’re bringing his unique perspectives on puzzle-based immersive entertainment to the RECON stage.

He has experienced many stages – as a veteran “cruciverbalist” (crossword puzzle constructor) for multiple publications, and a consultant for films such as Ant-Man and Now You See MeRead his full bio on the RECON website.

We’re thrilled to have Kwong share his unique insight on the art of blending magic into puzzles for every skill level.

Join us at RECON

RECON ’20 is a free digital event with curated talks covering aspects of experience design in physical and digital media. The RECON team is excited to welcome Kwong to the RECON stage

RECON is about sharing knowledge and building community. You’re invited to join in strengthening a sustainable escape room industry that recognizes creators, players, and the challenges of 2020.

Great Escape – Survivor [Review]

“We’re going to talk about this game forever.” -Dan Egnor

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 3, 2020

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: from €50 per team of 2 to €105 per team of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Survivor was one of those rare, unforgettable games… one of those games that left me amazed that it exists at all. Survivor was a game that – as one of my travel companions said – I’ll be talking about forever.

In-game: A man sitting on a rock in a cave.
Image via Great Escape

This game took place over 2 acts.

The first act consisted of a reasonably traditional escape room experience. The set was lovely and the puzzles were mediocre, but the weak puzzle flow was smoothed over by a helpful character who swiftly jumped in front of otherwise obvious flaws in game design. The actor did this so effectively that we honestly enjoyed what would have been a disaster in almost any other game.

In-game: A cargo net under a thatch roof.
Image via Great Escape

The second act… I can’t spoil it. The most memorable part of this game was realizing what the second act was. The second act was a physical challenge. Great Escape’s booking page warns:

  • “Not suitable for people with fear of heights.
  • Athletic clothing is necessary.
  • Require basic physical abilities.
  • Recommended players to carry a second pair of shoes and socks.”

You can infer quite a bit from those warnings.

So the question that I’ve been pondering since playing this game was:

“Did I like Survivor?”

My feelings were and remain complicated:

  • I’m glad that I played it, but this game was not for me, not at all.
  • Lisa would have loved it, but she missed it due to her real job.
  • I’m honestly amazed that anyone thought to build this thing, and I legitimately wonder if the building can handle the weight of this game.

I recommend this for people who like physical adventure and have good balance. (That’s my struggle, if I’m being honest.) Be prepared for a workout because Survivor was a wild ride.

Who is this for?

  • The physically fit
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A hilarious actor/ gamemaster
  • The reveal of the last act 👀


We were a group of explorers traveling by hot air balloon when a storm had brought us down on an uninhabited island. We’d created a raft and attempted to leave, but another storm had dragged us back to the other side of the island, where we hadn’t yet ventured.

This side of the island was full of surprises.

In-game: The interior of a cabin.
Image via Great Escape
Continue reading “Great Escape – Survivor [Review]”