Star-Crossed Puzzles – Romeo and Juliet [Hivemind Review]

Romeo and Juliet is an online game created by Star-Crossed Puzzles

A wooden chest labeled, "Romeo also spots an empty table with an abandoned card game. He sits to think about how to open the chest."

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on-demand

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • “Aging lit majors like myself” – anonymous Hivemind reviewer

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: 45-60 minutes

Price: £9.99

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is a browser-based game, played through a series of texts and images, where you are following a story, solving puzzles, and entering the answers to progress to the next section. Answers must be exact and in all caps. If you get an answer wrong, you remain on the same page. Hints are available if you are stuck.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

“O, teach me how I should forget to think.” – Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene 2.

Star-Crossed Puzzles’ Romeo and Juliet seeks to reimagine one of William Shakespeare’s iconic tragedies by defying the stars and rewriting the tragic ending. But what if this mixture does not work at all (Act 4, Scene 3)? Unfortunately, Juliet, that is the case here.

The website mentions that the game was “designed with teenagers in mind” and that the puzzles might not be challenging to solvers with some experience. I can definitely agree with the second part, but I believe that even most teenagers would find the puzzles to be too simplistic and lacking in nuance. Some puzzles show a level of promise, but they need better cluing or another layer or two to be enjoyable.

All in all, I believe the intention here to be noble; I would love to see more games that focus on education while also being enjoyable. Sadly, this particular entry into that realm was perhaps released too hastily and without enough sets of eyes to notice the many errors in this game. To quote Friar Laurence in Act 2, Scene 3: “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”

Cindi S’ Reaction

Honestly, I haven’t thought about Romeo and Juliet since 9th grade English Lit class, but when I saw an online game themed around the star-crossed lovers, I was intrigued! This game follows Romeo’s journey back to Verona after being banished by the prince. (At this point, I refreshed my memory of the story and characters, which helped to understand the tasks in the game.) There are quotes from the play at the start of each section that added to the overall experience, followed by thematic puzzles that involved making layered connections to find codes or other solutions. Unfortunately, one puzzle needed a logic leap to solve and at least two required outside knowledge (unrelated to the play). The hints for these puzzles were not really helpful and there was no way to solve them without access to the internet. Additionally, solutions had to be entered in ALL CAPS and exactly correctly or you could not progress, resulting in some frustrating moments. Even so, I still liked the unique concept and parallels with Shakespeare’s work.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

I’m always on the lookout for interesting and educational puzzle experiences, and as such I really wanted Star-Crossed Puzzles’ Romeo and Juliet to be great. Unfortunately, I have very little positive to say about this game. It demonstrated a severe lack of attention to detail in its execution, and the puzzles — if they can even be called that — were poorly conceived.

This game was targeted at 13- to 16-year-olds, and the Star-Crossed Puzzles website mentioned that “more experienced escape/ puzzle room enthusiasts may not find the puzzles have a high level of challenge.” But my issue was not with the puzzles’ low difficulty level (though many of the puzzles were too trivial to be interesting to anyone older than elementary-age gifted and talented students) but rather with their inelegance, clunky presentation, and general irrelevance to the Shakespearean source material.

Specific issues included:

  • A smattering of small typos in the copy.
  • No explicit indication that answers had to be entered in all caps and with spaces. This was mentioned only in the hint system.
  • A terrible hint system that sometimes stated the obvious, sometimes provided information that should have been on the main puzzle page, and was generally poorly worded.
  • An overly tall header on each page that required repeatedly scrolling down to view puzzle content.
  • An unclued anagram in a context that negated the need to even solve the first layer of the puzzle.
  • Random leaps of logic that could have felt intentional with the addition of some well-worded flavor text.
  • Overly long decryption tasks from text baked into images.
  • No difficulty progression. A puzzle toward the end was laughably trivial.

I admire the intention behind what Star-Crossed Puzzles is attempting, but Romeo and Juliet was neither educational nor enjoyable. All audiences, whether old or young, deserve elegant, intentionally designed puzzles.

Fro’s Reaction

I liked the concept of this game – puzzles set amidst a retelling of a classic Shakespeare play – and could see this format having applicability as a fun teaching tool for students reading literary works for the first time. Unfortunately, the execution needs refinement. Some puzzles were almost too easy, while others were confusing and could have used better cluing, and I didn’t find the hint system particularly helpful. I found one puzzle so frustrating that I ended up requesting the answer and moving on. I would like to see a different input mechanism for the passwords required to move from one level to the next. The current system was difficult to use and made gameplay tedious.

I liked what the creator did with the storytelling aspect at the end of the game, and I see potential in the game’s overall concept, but adjustments are needed to create a more cohesive and enjoyable game flow.

Disclosure: Star-Crossed Puzzles provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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