Podklobukom – The Biohazard Trilogy [Hivemind Review]

The Biohazard Trilogy is a light puzzle hunt created by Podklobukom in Slovakia.

A Bony Discman CD Player, headphones, and a CD.

Format

Style of Play: light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, a pen and paper also recommended

Recommended Team Size: 1-5

Play Time: There is no time limit. Plan on 1-2 hours per installment, depending on your experience level

Price: €50 total for the trilogy (Installment 1 is free and the following 2 installments are each €25.)

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is a linear puzzle hunt through a linear series of web-based puzzles with light thematic content between puzzles. You enter a solution to get the next puzzle.

There is an option to get 1 hint and then the solution on each puzzle. There is also a scoring system based on solving for speed without hints.

The game relied on Google and other puzzle tools more than on the provided code sheet.

A letter slid under a door.

Hivemind Review Scale

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

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

My decision to give this game a 2-star rating rather than a 1-star rating hinged largely on the overall enjoyment factor. My friend and I found ourselves laughing out loud at several points throughout the game, but not always for the intended reasons. This game was clearly designed by folks with a love for ciphers and deductive reasoning. There were several very clever mechanisms employed. Unfortunately, there were also some very generic ones as well. There were a few fun “aha!” moments throughout, a couple of bizarre (and narratively unnecessary) sexually themed images (PG-13 stuff) and some rather disturbing (albeit comedically illustrated) animal testing references. Honestly, the story felt a bit retro-fitted to the game. Frankly, the narrative through-line was difficult to follow and somewhat unnecessary in my opinion. Rarely do I say this, but this game didn’t really need to have a story and could have instead been presented as merely a series of puzzle challenges. We also encountered some issues with the English language page not loading for us and some annoying booking confusion. We were able to work around it with some browser tricks, but it was frustrating and may be a deterrent for some folks. Is this game for everyone? No, probably not. But puzzle folks and game designers may find some interesting moments in here.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This 3-part game is plagued by questionable puzzle design choices, and I would not recommend the second and third parts to any audience. The first part is free and by far the easiest of the trilogy, and it would serve as a pleasant, though non-comprehensive, introduction to common ciphers for newer solvers. I particularly thought the last of these 5 puzzles was a cute example of a simple multi-step puzzle hunt-style puzzle. The second and third installments, however, were frustratingly choppy experiences, oscillating between trivially simple cipher translations and poorly conceived head-scratchers which derived their increased difficulty from arbitrary obfuscation or misleading presentation rather than more momentous ahas. Through this critique, I want to also emphasize that I genuinely enjoyed certain puzzles and found some others to have cute underlying mechanics. It seems like the puzzle author(s) have an awareness of the elements that go into puzzle hunts, just not the awareness to elegantly piece them together into cogent experiences, and I would encourage them – as well as other escape room designers unfamiliar with puzzle hunt culture – to accept feedback from a wider pool of playtesters and try their hands at the many fabulous puzzle hunts available for free online. For this game in particular, which was produced in Slovakia, it was evident that some elements were lost in language and cultural translation, though I’m not sure how much that directly affected the choices made in visual puzzle presentation.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I identify as an escape room enthusiast, but a relative puzzle hunt newbie, having played just a few simple hunts that we could finish in half an hour. I found this trilogy to be more substantial than those, spanning several hours with individual puzzles ranging from a minute to almost an hour apiece. Installment 1 in the trilogy is essentially a quick tutorial on how to think through ciphers and puzzle hunts. Installment 2 is a harder, yet approachable set of puzzles with a large leap in difficulty near the end.

Installment 3 is the quandary to me. It’s much harder than the others, but not for the reasons I might expect. We figured out the encryption mechanisms for each puzzle without much difficulty, but we didn’t know we had figured them out because there was little to indicate we were on the right track. Furthermore, the clue system disincentivized its own use; each puzzle had only one clue before giving the solution, it often repeated what we already knew, and it was expensive in terms of leaderboard points. All that said, I definitely felt accomplished when we finished, and I oddly enjoyed the different experience of staring blankly at the screen while mentally churning through possibilities for a long time. Ultimately, it left me still intrigued enough about puzzle hunts to continue exploring them, possibly with more teammates in the future, to make the price more appealing and hopefully shorten the blank-staring phase.

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This is a puzzle hunt-style game in three installments. It is not an escape room-style game. It is for experienced puzzlers, in my opinion. The intro installment is free and worth playing for a casual puzzle experience – pretty easy puzzles with at least one moderate puzzle. Installments 2 and 3 are paid content and ramp up in difficulty. The puzzles are good in general, but there are many other puzzle hunts that are better for the money. I am a good, but not great puzzler, and found myself stuck more and more as I got into parts 2 and 3 (nothing like the intro section). The puzzles were hit-or-miss to me and some even with the solutions exposed were not resonating – several felt like the answers were a stretch. In addition to some difficult puzzles, the hint system provided only one hint for the puzzle and then the solution. Especially in the third round, it would have been nice to have at least 2 or maybe 3 hints per puzzle.

At a certain point (mainly in installment 3), I lost a bit of confidence that the answers to the puzzles were making sense and went for hints and solutions more quickly as a result. Sometimes it was my problem, but at least a few times the solution did not flow very well. The concept was very good and the games did not have any technical glitches – but in general it was just a series of themed puzzles. Before there were escape rooms, I spent a lot of time with puzzle hunts all over the US and there is a lot of content available online – some at no cost – that is equal to or better than these puzzles. Overall, not bad and not without fun aha moments, but not something I can recommend in the current version versus other available digital options.

Disclosure: Podklobukom provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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