Update April 25, 2022: Check the comments to note the improvements since the time of this review.
Mind your manors
Location: at home
Date Played: February 16, 2022
Team size: 2+; we recommend 1-2 kids plus 1 gamemaster
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: about £12 ($16)
The Case of Auntie’s Manor was an approachable escape room kit suitable for introducing young puzzlers to the genre. With fairly straightforward puzzles, crisp art, and an evolving story, it kept my kids’ attention and made them feel like competent puzzlers. One puzzle even caught their imagination long after the game itself, leaving a lasting impression of the experience. They only wished for a more interesting setting than “just a house.”
The support for the gamemaster in this kit was a step above other kits that we’ve used. I particularly appreciated the concept of the “Game on a Page” guide, which summarized the plot progression, hints, and result of each puzzle. It was designed to enable me to support the game flow with a single paper. I’d like to see a tool like this in any escape room kit.
The experience was marred somewhat by a series of minor imperfections that accumulated into a general lack of polish. None of these broke the game (especially with a nearby gamemaster), but my detective-minded kids pointed them out enough to warrant noting here. Additional copy editing could have uncovered some of these issues earlier, and it would only take minor design revisions to ameliorate them.
Paper Adventures has a solid escape kit framework that, with a few tweaks, could sustain a welcome series of affordable games for kids. We look forward to seeing how these games evolve!
Who is this for?
- Kids (ages 8-12)
- Young story seekers
- Children who are unfamiliar with classic mind reading tricks – they’ll be amazed!
- Wannabe gamemasters who enjoy setting up, directing progress, and redirecting wayward thinking
- Expose your kids to a set of simple but solid puzzles.
- Create a simple escape room that leverages rooms you might already have in your home.
- There’s a cartoon corgi.
Someone had stolen our Auntie’s favorite painting of her precious corgi, Fifi. We, as empathetic relatives, had agreed to interview the people in her manor, track down the culprit, and recover the picture.
This game required an adult gamemaster to prepare the materials ahead of time. Preparation involved printing ~20 pages of materials, cutting out puzzle pieces, and ideally spreading the puzzles throughout the home. Each of the six puzzles included a full-page “chapter” introduction that explained developments in the story and motivated the puzzle.
Paper Adventures’s The Case of Auntie’s Manor was a kid-focused, play-at-home escape game party kit with a moderate level of difficulty for the audience. Kids will probably need at least a little problem-solving support from a gamemaster.
Players move from room to room in your home, meeting new characters via the story descriptions they find and solving their puzzles along the way. Puzzles involved careful observations, making connections, decoding, and math.
This experience required an adult gamemaster to provide hints, validate answers, and direct players where to go next. The game provided a “Game on a Page” single-sheet reference to support this effort during the game as well as a more verbose Game Master Book that thoroughly explained each solution.
➕ The “Game on a Page” reference sheet for the gamemaster was a concise and highly effective way to help someone manage the game flow. It consolidated the key points of all the puzzles on one page.
➖ The “Game on a Page” did not include the puzzle solutions, making it unnecessarily difficult to validate answers. Paper Adventures could easily perfect that tool by adding this important detail.
➕ You can authentically translate the game’s setting to your normal living space. Giving kids a reason to move and change surroundings helped maintain their interest. They were always eager to discover where they would go next.
➖ On the flip side, it would be hard to dress the game up if you wanted to. Despite the realism of exploring a house, my kids wished for a more inspiring scenario, even if they would have had to use their imaginations to see it.
➖ Some important details were too small to analyze easily, and some game pieces were too small for kids to manipulate precisely. Giving kids a magnifying glass would be a thematically appropriate work-around for some of these issues.
➕ One puzzle involved a clever repackaging of a classic mind-reading trick that truly dumbfounded my kids. If your kids aren’t already familiar with the premise, be prepared to have your own mind read at least a dozen times in the aftermath.
➖ One puzzle solution incorrectly described the next puzzle, leading to a brief argument about details of the latter task.
➕ The meta puzzle at the end used clues from the game in an approachable and satisfying way, even if the narrative conclusion was slightly outlandish. My younger daughter (6) liked the activity enough to tape the results together as a keepsake afterwards.
Tips For Players
- Space Requirements: Preferably six different rooms to locate puzzles in. However, you can also play this as a tabletop game, just with fewer interactions.
- Required Gear:
- Color printer
- Glue sticks or tape
- Phone (optional)
- Unless your kids just happen to love cutting things out, do all the cutting and assembling of game pieces before the game. There is no narrative reason to reserve any cutting for the game itself, and some of the pieces are small and hard to assemble.
- As the gamemaster, take time before the game to write the puzzle solutions on the “Game on a Page” reference sheet. Then you will be fully prepared to run the game with just a single sheet of paper!
- Offer your kids a magnifying glass as one of their tools for playing the game. It will help them with some hard-to-analyze details.
Buy your copy of Paper Adventures’s The Case of Auntie’s Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Paper Adventures provided a sample for review.