Update: Looking for more ideas? Try the 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and 2020 holiday buyer’s guides.
The holidays are around the corner, so we figured we’d make your gift giving experience a bit easier with some creative gifts for your room escaping loved ones.
Multi-staged, strange, and layered physical interactions are required to unlock and relock these nutty things.
Two of my favorites have been this ugly bastard, and this beautifully intricate one.
Note that we do not recommend these for use in room escapes. These are for fun puzzling outside of the game.
Yellow to Red Gradient Jigsaw Puzzle
Are you looking to terminate a friendship this holiday season? Nothing says “you deserve to suffer” quite like a 500 piece gradient jigsaw puzzle.
Laser cut wooden jigsaw puzzles
Got a jigsaw puzzler in your life who you truly care about? Give them a Liberty or Artifact puzzle.
These beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles are laser cut into intricate and unusual interlocking patterns.
Brace yourself, they are challenging, but rewarding. A 300-piece Liberty Puzzle is far more challenging than most common 600-piece jigsaw puzzles.
ThinkFun’s Escape the Rooms
There are a number of wonderful at-home escape room games, but at the moment the two most approachable, affordable, and available ones are produced by ThinkFun.
We’ve reviewed both Stargazer’s Manor and Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Lovingly reviewed by Shut Up and Sit Down, Consulting Detective is an intellectually heavy tabletop puzzling experience.
I’ve been picking locks since high school. It’s fun and challenging. There’s always something new to learn. Occasionally it’s also useful.
A small set of lock picks would make a great gift for a responsible and ethical loved one. Don’t go too crazy and buy a massive pick set, beginners only need a few basic picks, rakes, and tensioners to get started.
iFixit, the website behind all manner of product teardowns and repair instructions, sells their own toolkits.
I’ve kept this one on hand for years. It has helped me open every strange screw that I’ve ever attempted to remove.
iFixit has a ton of different kits available for every manner of tinkerer.
Makerspaces are magical places where creators of all sorts of stuff and skill levels gather to share knowledge, tools, and ideas.
From robotics and rocketry to sewing and knitting, most makerspaces welcome all makers. In my experience, most teach classes, have 3D printers, and woodshops.
Each one is a little different in terms of equipment and culture, so find the ones nearest you. I would recommend stopping by a few times before committing to a membership. Find the right fit.
Nintendo 3DS XL
Nintendo’s handheld system is a great platform for puzzle gaming.
Decades of exceptional Zelda games are available:
- A Link Between Worlds (2013)
- Oracle of Seasons (2001)
- Oracle of Ages (2001)
- Majora’s Mask (2000)
- Ocarina of Time (1998)
- Link’s Awakening (1993)
- A Link to the Past (1991)
- The one that started it all (1986)
The Zero Escape games are also available:
- Zero Time Dilemma (2016)
- Virtue’s Last Reward (2012)
- 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (2009)
There’s plenty more puzzling on the 3DS.
After decades of failures it looks like it may finally be virtual reality’s time. While we’ve dabbled with three of the big platforms, we’re not picking sides… yet.
We’ll keep an eye on the space and let everyone know which is best for adventure puzzling.
If you have a computer powerful enough to power it (or plan to buy one), the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift both have solid libraries of games available.
PS4 with Playstation VR is less established, but it is easier to set up and use.
Design of Everyday Things
If you only ever read one book about design, it should be this one. It’s approachable and dead-on. Its lessons apply to literally everything. (Paperback) (Kindle)
A traveler’s guide to the world’s oddest stuff. This guide to Earth’s curiosities is worth reading even if you never travel to see the strange things it reveals. (Hardcover) (Kindle)
Simple to learn and difficult to master, these puzzles are a ton of fun.
We have an in-depth review of the book.
The Code Book
A brilliant and approachable walk through the history of code/cipher making and breaking. I am in the middle of reading this one and I learn new and exciting things each time I turn the page. (Paperback) (Kindle)
Do people still gift movies in the age of streaming? If you do…
If you know someone who loves the overlap of art and technology, Tim’s Vermeer is a strangely moving documentary about Tim Jenison’s mission to recreate Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s photo-realistic painting “The Music Lesson.” Produced by Penn & Teller, the documentary follows Jenison, a Texas-based tech entrepreneur who had never lifted a paintbrush in his life, through his discoveries, triumphs, and failures as he seeks to uncover a 350-year-old secret.
I may have shed a tear or two while watching. (DVD) (Blu-ray) (Stream)
The only door it opens is a door called “nostalgia.”
This TSA-friendly lock is a joke of a lock… but it’s a convenient keychain.
Room Escape Gear
The Original Cryptex®
A Cryptex is a common locking mechanism in room escapes, but most use the junkie Da Vinci Code replicas (and yes, both are junk, even the more expensive version).
Justin Nevins, the creator of the first Cryptex, handcrafts this insanely solid Cryptex. They start at $300 for the normal version and become increasingly expensive for exquisite versions inlayed with wood and marble.
They are the perfect escape room prop, conversation piece, or proposal puzzle device. (I considered using this when plotting out my wedding proposal.)
The obligatory blacklight.
If you’re feeling charitable, these two organizations do wonderful work creating opportunities for children who desperately need to play.
Able Gamers Foundation
These folks help make video games accessible for people whose disabilities would otherwise prevent them from playing.
This charity works to get games and toys into the hands of children who are in hospitals and domestic abuse shelters. You can send the gift directly to the hospital or shelter.
If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.