The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum [Review]

The game is a book.

Location:  at home

Release Date: March 2021

Date Played: April 2021

Team Size: we recommend 1

Duration: 2+ hours, depending on thoroughness

Price: $14.95

Publisher: Ammonite Press

REA Reaction

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum is the second in a series of Holmesian branching-narrative puzzle books. With a loose, puzzle-filled story, it leads the reader through a second-person treasure hunt through the British Museum circa 1901.

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum cover with code wheel.

I appreciated certain improvements over the first installment, most notably how the puzzles felt more connected to the story and setting. The museum location also added some fun historical details. However, The Adventure of the British Museum lacked the playful relationship with the reader that made The Adventure of the London Waterworks so delightful. Instead, it was a more straightforward puzzle-filled story without too many tricks or treats along the way.

Compared to the first book, the difficulty curve felt uneven, with no smooth on-ramp to introduce the gameplay. Also, The Adventure of the British Museum suffered from errors in several puzzles. Ultimately they weren’t game-breaking errors, but they signaled a need for more playtesting.

If you enjoyed The Adventure of the London Waterworks and want to check out another take on the same format, The Adventure of the British Museum offers an afternoon of puzzling entertainment. If you haven’t yet read The Adventure of the London Waterworks, that would be a better place to start.

Who is this for?

  • Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Gamebook aficionados
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To take a virtual tour through the British Museum
  • Code wheels are fun

Story

I assumed the role of Sherlock Holmes as he investigated a mysterious letter that had led him and Watson to the British Museum. By following a series of puzzles through the museum’s exhibits, I attempted to thwart a villainous plot and escape unscathed.

The Adventure of the British Museum included abundant references to Sherlock Holmes lore, but reading without background knowledge wasn’t a problem.

An ilustration featuring Sherlock and Watson in front of the museum entrance.

Setup

Structurally, The Adventure of the British Museum appeared to be similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The story path jumped around the pages in nonlinear fashion as I turned to the section numbers corresponding with each story development or puzzle solution. But even with multiple endings, the story felt quite linear, with diversions for missteps that rejoined the main storyline soon after.

Like its predecessor, The Adventure of the British Museum included an introduction, a page for taking notes, and separate sections for hints and solutions. The same atmospheric art style brought the puzzles to life and enhanced the adventure. A code wheel embedded in the front cover parallelled the translation device found by Sherlock in the story.

Each numbered section included the “from” number so I could see where I had just come from. This came in handy for confirming solutions, and also helped when I wanted to retrace my steps.

Gameplay

The Adventure of the British Museum was a puzzle mystery escape book with a low level of difficulty overall. However, a few puzzles deviated from the average and proved to be significantly more complicated.

Core gameplay revolved around ciphers, word puzzles, observation, and math (including simple algebra).

An illustration of weathered stone fragments with a design featuring harpies.

Analysis

➕ The story and puzzles relied on a map of the actual British Museum from the period and involved real artifacts that could be found there. Avid museumgoers or history buffs may appreciate this faithfulness.

➕ As in The Adventure of the London Waterworks, the art added a lot to the adventure. Compared to that installment, this one also had fewer puzzles that required close scrutiny of the artwork in bright light.

➖ The puzzle flow was unbalanced, with the harder puzzles sprinkled throughout the story. One of the first few puzzles was among the most oblique. The narration overexplained how to solve some puzzles directly after presenting them, while others could have benefited from additional cluing.

❓ Interestingly, in a couple of instances, wrong answers allowed access to otherwise inaccessible puzzles. This means extra fun for completionists, but missed content for people who only want to read through once.

➖ At times I needed to consult images from previous sections, and flipping between pages while solving puzzles sometimes proved unwieldy. Requiring several pages open at once towards the beginning of the story was especially intimidating. Also, the page numbers of these previous images weren’t provided, and backtracking to relocate them added a bit of friction.

A map labeled "British Museum Ground Floor."

The Adventure of the British Museum made an effort to entwine the book’s structure and puzzles with the physical space of the museum. Rather than an unrelated math problem here or there, there was usually an explanation for the presence of a puzzle. The puzzles made sense in the context of the story and often tied in with the museum setting.

➖ In addition to a couple instances where the graphics were inconsistent with the dialogue, I caught errors in three different puzzles. The errors were fairly obvious, so the puzzles were still solvable, but The Adventure of the British Museum clearly needed more playtesting.

➖ One puzzle whose image was dissonant with its narrative description also included distracting noise in the graphic. Upon looking up the solution, I realized it had multiple interpretations as well. This particular puzzle could have used more fine-tuning.

❓Some might find it tedious to repeatedly use the code wheel to solve similar cyphers. Others might feel it adds to the immersion.

➕ The hint section provided solid hints, and the solution section explained the puzzles in thorough detail so that everything made sense in the end.

➕ Despite the somewhat linear structure, The Adventure of the British Museum had replay value. Even after the story was complete, the book still had secrets to share.

Tips For Players

Take plenty of notes, particularly when it comes to keeping track of pages that the book suggests you revisit later.

Buy your copy of The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ammonite Press provided a sample for review.

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