Kids on the Case
Location: at home
Date Played: November 18, 2021
Team size: We recommend 1-3 kids plus an adult
Duration: 45-60 minutes
Within the genre of puzzling games for kids, The Professor’s Missing Potion stands out as a well designed, satisfying experience that did many things well for its audience. It offered an introduction to some common puzzle types within a cartoonishly immersive plot and environment. It used smart design choices to make the gameplay manageable for kids while still engaging them in delightful and authentic ways. Its fantastical plot, variety of interactions, and subtle humor connected well with my kids’ imaginations, effectively convincing them that they might actually be doing something real.
My main critique regards some minor quality control issues that detracted from the experience. First, no orientation materials were included in the downloaded files. This undermined my ability to set expectations and to make sure we were referring to the print materials as intended. This unease dissipated as the game progressed, but the scarcity of information between purchasing and beginning the game was a gap in the customer journey that could easily be bridged to give players (or their adult sidekick) more confidence. Also, the final puzzle seemed to have an error that forced us to guess rather than solve, resulting in anticlimactic feelings about the conclusion.
Ultimately, though, The Professor’s Missing Potion was a solidly entertaining kids’ activity that literally evoked childlike wonder. We’re glad we played and hope The Detective Society makes more games for this audience.
Who is this for?
- Young puzzlers (we recommend 9-14 year olds)
- Newbie puzzlers of any age
The scientists at Blink Workshop had created an invisibility potion…which was promptly stolen. As “legendary detectives,” we were summoned to help Prof. I. T. Errol identify the thief and recover the missing potion.
After watching the intro video, we navigated this game by connecting with Professor Errol via WhatsApp (note: players in the UK can use SMS text messaging instead). The professor provided us with a series of instructions for gathering information about the culprit and the missing potion. For each instruction, he told us what materials to explore. When we discovered the requested information, we submitted our answer via WhatsApp to progress to the next clue. Professor Errol was kind enough to offer helpful redirections if our answers didn’t make sense, and he was always available for hints.
Preparation Pro-tip: Before handing this game to a group of kids, preview the intro video and establish the SMS (UK) or WhatsApp (non-UK) connection with the professor. If there was a problem with the phone number you provided when purchasing the game, this step will help you detect and correct it before frustrating the main audience.
The Detective Society’s The Professor’s Missing Potion was a kid-focused combination of an online puzzle hunt and a print-and-play escape game. Considering an audience of ages 9-14, the puzzle difficulty ranged from easy to moderate and involved following instructions, noticing details, and making connections.
Players need to be comfortable reading a few pages of text, performing multiplication and division, interacting with websites, and SMS texting (within the UK) or using WhatsApp (outside the UK). An adult accomplice can bridge gaps in these skills, but players will increasingly enjoy the game the more they can handle it on their own.
➕ The intro video mesmerized my kids. They watched it at least ten times and reported it as one of their favorite parts. Teenagers and adults might find it to be a bit cheesy, but for a tween audience it seemed on point.
➖ Presumably in pursuit of optimal immersion, the game omitted any kind of orientation materials that might set expectations for the game mechanics. I wasn’t sure whether to pre-cut the printed materials, whether they were all in play, whether I could enhance the experience by hiding them, etc. A simple how-to-play cover sheet for the printed materials would solve this problem without breaking the immersion once the main game flow begins.
➕ The online universe was simple enough to thoroughly engage kids without overwhelming them. It was also well written enough to reward anyone interested in browsing through it.
➕ By incorporating printed components, this game avoided tab management issues that are so common in online puzzle hunts. Here, the puzzles often used multiple pieces of information across all media, but providing some information in print prevented us from needing more than a single tab per puzzle. This was an elegant design choice, especially for a young audience.
➖ The audio nature of one puzzle was a sub-optimal form factor for interacting with the relevant information. We relied on the transcript of the audio instead of replaying it repeatedly.
➖ As far as we could tell, the final puzzle had an error in it. I wondered if perhaps the print components had gotten out of sync with the corresponding online elements during editing.
➕ The online portions work equally well on a phone as on a computer. We opened them on a laptop so all players could see them better.
➖ The game included an audio clip of a heavily accented, broadly caricatured nationality. Though brief and innocuous in isolation, this kind of humor builds stereotypes for kids, so be prepared to discuss it.
➕ The interactive mechanics of this game delighted my kids. They sincerely believed they were communicating with the professor and manipulating various online mechanisms. They even asked if it was okay to snoop through the people’s information like this. Answer: Just this once…
Tips For Players
- Space Requirements: Small table or floor space to spread out printed components
- Required Gear:
- Device with SMS texting capabilities (within the UK) or WhatsApp (outside the UK)
- Color printer
- Writing utensil
- (Optional) Computer or tablet if you want to display online portions more easily for multiple players
Buy your copy of The Detective Society’s The Professor’s Missing Potion, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: The Detective Society provided a sample for review.