Riddlefactory is a company out of Copenhagen that produces laser cut/ laser etched puzzles and props for escape rooms.
They asked if we’d be interested in writing about them, and we said “only if we can review the puzzles.” A day or two later a box filled with puzzles showed up. I’m still not clear on how they got it to us so quickly.
If you’re an escape room player, it is possible that you may see these props in an escape room at some point.
If you want to preserve the mystery, stop reading now.
General prop buying advice
When purchasing props, always think through why the item appears in your escape room. Don’t buy props and then shoehorn them into your designs.
This item looks like a piece of wood held within a wooden frame. When held up to a reasonably strong light, however, it reveals a hidden message.
If you look at it on an angle, you can vaguely tell that something is weird about it, but it’s hard to see the message. This thing does its job.
Riddlefactory is able to customize this item at no additional cost; it simply adds a few days to delivery.
If I were using this in an escape room, I would produce a strong hint structure that directs players towards holding the thing up to the light. More likely, I’d mount it to a set piece where it looked inconspicuous and design an interaction to turn a light on behind it.
I think this item is a cool concept. Its effectiveness will depend on how it’s used. Think that through carefully and the Illuminating Wood puzzle could be an interesting addition to an escape room.
Transparent Digit Puzzle
The Transparent Digit Puzzle is composed of 4 identically shaped pieces of clear acrylic. Each piece has a different portion of a code. Stack them one on top of the other to reveal the complete code.
When viewed individually, no one piece betrays the code. In the puzzle that I have, however, depending upon the pairings, it is possible to guess most of a code with 2 pieces. With any combination of 3 the code becomes pretty clear.
For escape rooms, I recommend placing the lock with that code on something that could be opened early without harming the game flow. Alternatively, I recommend giving the players the final three pieces at the same time.
This puzzle could be improved by adding a little visual noise that prevents the player from simply filling in the gaps.
Riddlefactory is able to customize this item at no additional cost.
The acrylic plastic is reasonably durable, I took these pieces to a local park and subjected each of the 4 to a different form of torture to simulate the beating they’ll take in an escape room (15 drops from 5 feet in the air onto concrete, 15 slams on the ground, 15 swift strikes against a concrete bench, and abrasive rubbing against 3 different surfaces). During the impact tests, they got roughed up a bit, but survived… I did get some funny looks from passersby. The abrasive test caused more damage; acrylic scratches badly.
If you’re designing a puzzle-centric room, and you aren’t concerned about abrasion, this could be an interesting prop. I’m having a hard time imagining these in a narrative-driven game, but if you can dream up a way to do it, the Transparent Digit Puzzle works well.
Freemason’s Cipher Decoder
$35: Wood, $45: Acrylic
This one is not a puzzle; it’s a representation of the Freemason’s cipher key, also known as pigpen. It’s etched onto 4 pieces of either acrylic or wood.
With this prop, note the advice in Better Ways to Handle Letter Codes in Escape Rooms.
As with the previous items, Riddlefactory is able to customize this product at no additional cost, but allow a few extra few days for delivery.
Pigpen is used all too often in escape rooms where it doesn’t make a lot of sense. If I were designing an escape room set in the 1700s or built around the American Revolution or Freemasonry, I’d absolutely use pigpen and I’d consider buying these in wood; acrylic feels way too futuristic for a 200+ year-old cipher key. I would also either scramble the letter positions or make sure that the players receive the key before the cipher.
The Sliding Lock is a mechanical puzzle. Although shaped like a lock, it is actually a semi-blind maze. You have to shift the sliding blocks around in order to slide the puzzle open and release the wooden shackle.
As a mechanical puzzle, I like the Sliding Lock. As an escape room puzzle… I can’t imagine it surviving for long under true play conditions.
The puzzle is reasonably complex. It took me a few minutes of focus to solve. It’s a one-player experience; it cannot engage a team of people.
The wooden shackle could easily be twisted and snapped. I didn’t break it (it’s too nice), but I know for certain that I can.
The body is held together by screws that I was able to open with my fingers. From there, taking the entire puzzle apart was trivial.
Of the puzzles we’ve received from Riddlefactory, this has been my favorite puzzle to hand to friends to solve (outside of a room). It’s fun, satisfying, and aesthetically pleasing. I would purchase it as gift. I cannot see the Sliding Lock lasting in an escape room.
$85 (No longer available)
The Viking Box is a complex puzzle box that measures 7 x 4.25 x 2 inches. Riddlefactory clearly states that this product is best as a lobby puzzle and I wholeheartedly agree that this should not be used in an escape room.
It took me 3 focused attempts to open this box and it would have been hell in an escape room. The Viking Box has a few deceptive attributes that require focus and attention to detail. Each time I sat down and worked at it, I realized something that I had missed the previous time. It’s clever.
It’s also breakable. The corners are beautifully laser cut to allow for rounding, but they are a physical vulnerability. Much like the Sliding Lock, the Viking Box is closed with screws that I could release with my fingers. Especially considering how challenging it is to open, I could easily see players destroying it in an escape room, which would be a tragedy.
I would use this box as a gift… or to stash a gift. I felt truly satisfied when I got it open. Please don’t put it in an escape room.
Riddlefactory has a number of additional products to explore and they offer customization. If any of this interests you, check them out.