Gruzzle – The Will [Review]

Consulting Puzzler

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 23, 2020

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: about 2 hours

Price:  $30 per game, delivered every other month; $87 for 6-month subscription, $172 for a year’s subscription

REA Reaction

Gruzzle is a subscription puzzle service. They send a tabletop escape game-style puzzle box to you every other month. The Will was their second game, released in November 2020.

The Will required nothing more than what came in the box and provided a fun and satisfying evening of tabletop puzzle solving. The puzzles were approachable, cleanly clued, and made creative use of paper components.

Envelopes with different items printed on them.

Although the storytelling didn’t resonate with us, it wasn’t the reason to play. This was a game for people who want to solve elegant puzzles at an approachable difficulty level.

With The Will, Gruzzle is poised for a successful subscription model. The components are inexpensive, and the puzzles are well designed. Every other month is a substantial commitment, but if they are able to keep up the quality of puzzles they’ve established with The Will, Gruzzle offers good value in the tabletop puzzle subscription market. We look forward to seeing more from Gruzzle.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Good for less experienced puzzlers

Why play?

  • Nifty tangible interactions
  • Little aha moments throughout the experience

Story

A wealthy philanthropist had passed away and left her fortune to her equally philanthropic grandchildren. However, she’d hid the fortune behind a series of puzzles, and that’s where we came in. The family had hired us to serve as a consulting puzzler to earn their inheritance for them.

The Gruzzle box depicts a child looking through a magnifying glass.

Setup

The Will arrived in a box containing a collection of labeled envelopes, some sealed and others accessible from the start. We began with an introductory letter, and then opened up the unsealed envelopes to reveal story elements and puzzles. As we solved, we “unlocked” the contents of the sealed envelopes, and eventually solved through the entire contents of the box.

While the gameplay was entirely contained within the box, we input the final answer into a website for verification and a bonus puzzle. The hint system was also web-based.

A protractor, grease pen, and assorted envelopes, each with a different name on it.

Gameplay

Gruzzle’s The Will was a standard tabletop escape game with an easy-to-moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

The Will was puzzle-focused. These were well-clued, well-tested puzzles. We played through a series of little aha moments without too much process puzzling in between. The puzzles were beginner-friendly, but we don’t expect them to be boring to experienced solvers.

➕ We especially enjoyed how one solution snapped into place. Gruzzle constructed an impressively tangible interaction with just card stock, and we enjoyed fiddling with it even after we’d solved it.

The Will was almost entirely paper-based and fully contained within the box (no web interface except for hints). It had a clear starting place and internal gating. We appreciated this approachable tabletop puzzle design.

➖ The storytelling was the weakest part of Gruzzle. Although we learned quite a bit about the characters, we never felt connected to them. We were solving the game for the puzzles, and not because we’d established any rapport with the characters or had any investment in the story. In addition, at times the plot and character development contradicted themselves.

➕ We enjoyed the cohesive art direction and visual cueing for puzzle paths. While the components were inexpensive, they were thoughtfully produced. The paper selection within The Will was smart. Color-coded pages made it easy to keep things organized.

➖ We saw the ending coming from the opening moments of the game. There was an opportunity to do more with unexpected transformations in the storytelling, and even in the puzzle design.

❓ This paper-based experience didn’t need a box; an envelope would suffice. It also didn’t need the one plastic item included with all the paper materials. While these certainly didn’t detract from the experience, they also weren’t necessary.

➕ Gruzzle’s online hint system was granular, and easy to use.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Gruzzle’s The Will or subscribe to Gruzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Gruzzle provided a sample for review.

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