Rabbit Hole Recreation Services – The Wonderland Society – The Initiation [Review]

A leporine cabal.

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 4, 2021

Team size: we recommend 1-2

Duration: 30-60 minutes

Price: $20 for pickup at Rabbit Hole Recreation Services, $30 with shipping in the contiguous US

REA Reaction

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services, a Colorado escape room company, created their play-at-home game The Wonderland Society – The Initiation last year in the throes of the pandemic. While the title The Initiation references the players’ initiation into The Wonderland Society, it equally describes the game’s purpose as a newbie- and kid-friendly initiation to ciphers and puzzle solving.

After delighting in the layered puzzles in Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ in-person rooms, I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed to find The Initiation to be light in both depth and quantity of content. The puzzles were mostly variants on substitution ciphers, with some small observational ahas. At a relaxed pace, I finished in around 20 minutes.

But I was not the target audience, and I appreciated the polish and care that went into creating a game perfect for those just getting into puzzles.

While puzzlers with some experience likely won’t find enough value for the price, The Initiation would make a delightful gift for kids or families. And if you visit Colorado, make sure to visit Rabbit Hole Recreation Services and check out their truly stellar in-person rooms: Mystic Temple, Paradox, and Frost Base Z.

An assortment of envelopes with alphanumeric codes, an old looking journal, and an envelope with wax seal.

Who is this for?

  • Good for kids, families, and new puzzlers
  • Decryption divas
  • Aspiring secret society members

Story

We received a mysterious envelope inviting us to join a secret society — but only if we could complete our initiation by solving a sequence of puzzles.

Setup

The Wonderland Society – The Initiation arrived in a brown letter-size envelope containing a wax-sealed introductory letter, a set of envelopes, a decoder book, an answer sheet, and a society membership coin.

The game consisted of 8 short puzzles (technically 6 puzzles as 2 puzzles led to 2 answers each) and a final metapuzzle. The puzzles were labeled in a way that suggested an order, though the envelopes were unsealed and we could technically solve the puzzles in any order we wanted.

There was a web-based answer checker and hint system.

Gameplay

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ The Wonderland Society – The Initiation was a standard play-at-home escape game with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and decoding.

Analysis

➕ The Wonderland Society – The Initiation would make a nice gift for a family or a young puzzler-to-be. Easily solvable in one sitting, its range of decoding tasks was fun, approachable, and polished in presentation. These puzzles each featured light aha moments which would be obvious to puzzlers with some experience, but which could be exciting for someone just getting started.

The Wonderland Society – The Initiation made a little go a long way. Although the game consisted of printed paper components, nice paper and an elegant design made it look and feel like the mysterious package you might receive from a secret society.

➖ The answer to each puzzle was a sequence of seemingly random letters and numbers. Though a metapuzzle at the end revealed a new layer of meaning, each puzzle along the way felt a bit less satisfying than it could have been, and I didn’t find this tradeoff to be worth it. That said, less experienced puzzlers may take little or no issue with this flow.

➕ The website that accompanied this game was slick and streamlined. With a single text field, we could either type a puzzle answer to check whether it was correct or the unique identifier for a specific puzzle to get a hint for that puzzle.

➕/➖ Upon confirming each correct puzzle solution online, we received a few lines of additional background information about The Wonderland Society. These narrative threads were engaging and well written. Had they been incorporated into the puzzles in some form, this narrative could have felt more essential to the game.

➕/➖ The one non-paper component of the game was a metal membership coin imprinted with the Wonderland Society logo. This was a beautiful souvenir for the game, though we wished it had been woven into the puzzles.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pencil, paper, and an internet-connected device

Buy your copy of Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ The Wonderland Society – The Initiation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Rabbit Hole Recreation Services provided a sample for review.

Note: This take-home game is purchasable from Rabbit Hole Recreation Services’ general bookings page. The booking time you select while purchasing is irrelevant and just a relic of their booking system.

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