The Master Theorem [Review]

Pure Puzzle Play

Location:  at home

Date Played: 2019-2020

Team size: 1 – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: about $29.99

REA Reaction

The Master Theorem was a pure puzzle book presented beautifully.

Whether or not you buy this really comes down to a single question:

“Do I want a puzzle book?”

-You

If the answer is “yes,” then buy it… otherwise don’t.

The Master Theorem book cover.

The Master Theorem simply succeeded at puzzle book. It was pretty, well written, and beautifully presented. My only gripe was that its solid-enough hint system could have been a little bit more nuanced and user-friendly.

Whether you’re a seasoned puzzler or brand new to puzzles, there’s something to enjoy here… the difference will be how much time you spend enjoying it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level – it will teach you over time if you’re a newbie

Why play?

  • A collection of finely crafted puzzles
  • The layouts and color print quality was beautiful
  • The solution descriptions were especially thorough
  • The writing style

Story

The Master Theorem was narrated by the mysterious character “M.” M’s goal was to grow his global secret society of problem solvers, something that the world desperately needs more of… so M produced a book for an expanded reach.

Setup

The Master Theorem consisted of 42 different puzzles ranked by difficulty:

  • 🟢 Easy
  • 🟡 Intermediate
  • 🔴 Hard

The book itself was split into 3 sections:

  • Puzzles – Each puzzle was presented as a 2-page spread with flavor/ instruction text on the left page and a color image on the right page.
A training puzzle based around the Caesar cipher.
One of the “training puzzles.”
  • Hints – Each puzzle had 3 tiered hints that were presented using a basic Caesar cipher with a shift of one space. On the The Master Theorem website, the hints were available and (thankfully) decrypted at the click of a button.
  • Solutions – Each puzzle solution came in a 2-page spread that mimicked the layout of the original puzzle, but provided a detailed explanation written in the same distinctive voice as the rest of the book.
Caesar cipher puzzle solution.
And the solution page.

Gameplay

M’s The Master Theorem was a standard puzzle book with a varied level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Overall, the puzzle quality was consistently strong and the difficulty rankings felt about right.

➕ I genuinely appreciated how this book strove to teach puzzler’s logic. If you are already familiar with the concepts, you can breeze through the earlier puzzles. My guess is that true newbies will pick up a lot of tools along the way.

➕/❓ The writing and voice of The Master Theorem was consistent and distinctive. In its intro, the book compared itself to a blend of The Dead Poet Society meets Connery-era Bond… and that was an apt description. The writing was smart, self-assured, and a bit proud of itself. Each puzzle was introduced with a page of text that felt a lot like a blog post written in the aforementioned style. We genuinely enjoyed the writing, but could also imagine some finding it not to their liking.

❓ Beyond the voicing and presentation, there wasn’t really anything tying these puzzles together.

➕ The print quality and book design were top-notch. This was a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing product.

➖ The rigid 3 tiers of hints were clunky. Some of these puzzles would have benefited from having many more smaller and nuanced nudges. Also, the Caesar cipher was annoying. The website helped a lot, but as someone who really enjoys doing puzzle books because they don’t involve technology, this detracted from the experience of an otherwise beautifully self-contained experience.

➕ At the same time, the solutions pages were phenomenal. They eliminated guess work if we were unsure of how something solved.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: It’s a self-contained book.
  • Required Gear: Pen, paper, and occasionally the Internet helped

Buy your copy of M’s The Master Theorem, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: M provided a sample for review.

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