Boxaroo – Colby’s Curious Cookoff [Hivemind Review]

Colby’s Curious Cookoff is an online puzzle hunt created by Boxaroo in Boston, MA.

Illustration of Colby in a kitchen.

Format

Style of Play: moderate-length, beginner-friendly puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: There is no time limit. An experienced puzzle hunt solver can do this in hours. Less experienced players will take a few days. One reviewer writes “quite a few days of leisurely working on this” and another writes “FOR.EV.ER. (insert Sandlot voice here).”

Price: It’s “pay what you want” but $25 is recommended

Booking: Upon registering for an account and purchasing the puzzle hunt, you can start right away.

Description

Colby’s Curious Cookoff is a puzzle hunt. You solve several multiple-step puzzles at various difficulty levels. You always get a word or a phrase as an answer. For each section, you’ll need all the solutions to solve a metapuzzle and at the very end, you solve a metametapuzzle.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

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Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Colby’s Curious Cookoff is an approachable yet challenging puzzle hunt wrapped in a story that’s endearing, relatable and beautifully uncomplicated. As a novice puzzler I thoroughly enjoyed the range of satisfaction and frustration I experienced, and the good people at Boxaroo were impressive in their response time for the live hint system. One sequence paid brilliant homage to the old-school point-and-click games that I grew up loving.

Since Colby’s Curious Cookoff seems geared for newer puzzlers, I would have liked to have seen more feedback from the puzzles letting me know I was on the right track in solving them. One part in particular planted major seeds of doubt in my mind as to whether I had figured out the right approach. I liked that the puzzles were heavy on words and phrases, but some puzzlers may not enjoy that. It’s also worth noting that while I was able to complete the entire experience, I still don’t understand how I got the answer to a few components.

Despite a few frustrations, I’ve already recommended Colby’s Curious Cookoff to several people I know. It invites players of all levels to explore their own puzzling abilities in a non-intimidating way, and I would love to see more offerings like this.

A menu puzzle depicting a few plates. This puzzle is rated 2/3 peppers.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Just a quick reminder: As an escape room enthusiast, a puzzle hunt is a totally different ball game with Googling, longer puzzles, and more steps to figure out.

At its best, the difficulty grew slowly, creating an onramp for puzzle hunt beginners like me. Although I’m not a fan of skippable content in escape rooms, I was happy to figure out solutions without having to solve all the wordplay in each puzzle.

At its worst, towards the end things got frustrating, especially one meta puzzle with tedious step-by-step instructions where one wrong assumption threw you off completely. As a hint system, you email the Boxaroo staff and they’ll send you a custom hint. While those hints always helped, you can’t expect a quick answer when it’s daytime in your timezone but nighttime for them. I teamed up with a puzzle hunt expert to finish the game to not get into a state of “I’m so over it.”

My first completed hunt: lots of puzzles, cute storyline, aha moments, and a generous price. Still, my patience level has a long way to go.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Colby’s Curious Cookoff is the perfect balance of cute and clever, and it is a monumental addition to the puzzle hunt canon. Perhaps most impressively, it’s a proof-of-concept that puzzle hunts can be both accessible and interesting, and I believe it will be enjoyable to complete novices as well as to puzzle hunt pros.

As a puzzle hunt veteran solver and designer with a decade of MIT Mystery Hunt experience, I can attest to how easy it is to become complacent with certain relatively insular standards in the puzzle hunt world. As we continue to push the limits of insidiously intricate and maddeningly difficult puzzle design within the community, we often ignore the generation of equally exciting new content for beginners – elegant puzzles which include nontrivial aha moments that embody the wondrous potential of the puzzle hunt medium. Colby’s Curious Cookoff does precisely the latter, and it will unequivocally be my new go-to recommendation to newbies.

The game is structured like a typical puzzle hunt: 4 rounds of puzzles each with a metapuzzle, plus an extended metametapuzzle sequence. I played it as a solo speedrun in one sitting, though the rounds provide natural stopping points. The website and artwork are gorgeously designed, and the experience is fully self-contained online with form fields and interactive elements to help keep track of solutions (in contrast to most puzzle hunts, which expect solvers to use spreadsheets to aid in solving). I found quite a few puzzles to be easily partially solvable, but I fully solved them all because they contained fun processes.

Boxaroo’s in-person escape room Storyteller’s Secret is one of my all-time favorites, and seeing their sleek design sensibility, technical prowess, and innovative meta structures translated to the digital medium was an absolute delight.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Imagine a baby alpaca prancing up to you with a basket full of kittens floating on a cloud of marshmallows. That almost describes how cute this game is. Colby needs help filling out his application for a cooking competition! We guide him through puzzles of his favorite food memories, and get glimpses of his adorable little life.

Immersion: There is just enough narrative to drive the story forward and build personality without distracting from the fun part – the puzzles! I appreciate how they managed to skillfully work clues into the little flavor text that accompanies each puzzle – clever little nods that you can go to for help without feeling like you’re having your hand held.

Puzzles: These puzzles are super adorable. There are several levels of difficulty that vary throughout the game with different types of puzzles. All the puzzles are themed very well, and I came across quite a few that felt very fresh and new.

Interface: They did some smart things with the interface, including functionality on the website that included being able to mark off words that have been used. When you filled in answers, they self populated in the puzzles. There were lots of little bits of functionality that I really appreciated. My only wish is that the website could save your progress while you’re working on a puzzle.

Best of all, this game is offered free with the option to donate. I donated $10 to begin with, but after playing this, I firmly believe it’s worth at least $20 and will happily send another $10. Colby’s Curious Cookoff is an adorable, clever game that will leave you smiling at the end of it.

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