Cantaloop Book 2: A Hack of a Plan [Review]

Plan to hack

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 2023

Team size: 1 or more; we recommend 1-4

Duration: several hours

Price: about $36

REA Reaction

I say this with all the love in the world for Cantaloop Book 1: this sequel was a bust for me. Although it included the same heart that made the original game so special, it lacked the finesse in writing and cluing that gave the first game flow and interest. We started losing enthusiasm after an hour or two, and that’s before we hit the real troubles.

Cantaloop Book 2: A Hack of A Plan cover depicts an illustration of a hacker character's mugshot. Book by Friedemann Findeisen.

The first Cantaloop deftly blended snarky humor, interesting scenarios, colorful characters, and the perfect amount of silly inventory connections. Here, the locations lacked depth and intrigue, the characters ranged from bland to cringeworthy, and the writing failed to consistently guide us in meaningful ways. Point-and-click games are always a blend of straightforward and ridiculous ahas, but this had too few of either. Instead, puzzles usually made sense in retrospect, but the missing signposts were equally evident.

However, the biggest issue was a new computer-hacking mechanic, which struck me as a sadistic version of the game Robot Turtles. It required a combination of logic and pseudo-programming with an ever-increasing assortment of commands. Really, my team should have been the perfect audience for such a thing. Alas, the mechanics of this task were enough of a mess that they nearly sapped our will to finish the game, especially trying to keep track of them over multiple play sessions. For this conceit to have worked, it needed 1) a central reference list of command definitions, 2) exhaustive explanations of the interplay between different commands, and 3) a validation mechanism to keep players on track without spoiling the solution. As it was, the only way to check our understanding of each command was to compare our interpretations against the full solution of a puzzle, repeatedly discovering that no, we had misinterpreted a command while simultaneously spoiling yet another solution. In this light, these relentless hacking puzzles were literally pointless.

I do appreciate the effort to stretch the original gameplay into new areas; there’s no reason that Cantaloop Book 3 can’t still be amazing. I’ll definitely still play it. That said, approach this installment with caution. If you’re a diehard Cantaloop fan with completionist tendencies (but are simultaneously willing to skip the hacking if necessary), this might be worth playing for the unique format and the potential insight into the story. Otherwise, you’re probably better off waiting for reviews of Cantaloop Book 3 to see if Cantaloop Book 2 is actually necessary.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of Cantaloop Book 1 who also enjoy unwieldy logic puzzles

Why play?

  • To continue the saga of Oz “Hook” Carpenter, jailbird-hacker Fly, and former-jazz-singer-turned-reluctant-criminal Alice


The ragtag crew that we had assembled in Cantaloop Book 1 was preparing to infiltrate the mansion of our arch nemesis. Specifically, we needed the mansion’s blueprints as well as some intel about what to expect. Unfortunately, scouting about Cantaloop Island for this info wasn’t enough; we also needed to develop some mad computer hacking skills.


This game retained all of the core game mechanics from Cantaloop Book 1, which are thoroughly outlined in the Setup section of REA’s original review.

Game components, a red filter, an inventory written in red reveal text, and a page with an illustration of a lock and an alpha-numeric grid.

The innovation in Book 2 was a lengthy sequence of logicky, maze-like puzzles that cartoonishly simulated moving a computer virus throughout the circuitry of a computer. We controlled the virus with a set of “power” cards that we collected throughout the game.


Lookout Games’s Cantaloop Book 2: A Hack of a Plan was a play-at-home point-and-click adventure game with a moderate-to-high level of difficulty. This game was harder than Cantaloop Book 1.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, experimenting, making connections, and puzzling, with a hefty dose of deductive reasoning throughout the hacking bits.


➕ The printed point-and-click game mechanics were just as much of a marvel as in the first game. The most enjoyable passages stayed within that framework, requiring creative but reasonable sequences of actions and humorously redirecting any attempts at nonsense.

➕ The artwork was still delightful, and the attention to detail impressive. I especially appreciated how the character portraits in the conversations changed expression to reinforce the tone of the exchanges.

➖ Too many of the puzzles seemed like trial-and-error experiments with inventory items. A certain amount of inventory “ingenuity” honors the point-and-click heritage, but this game would have benefited from more consistent cluing to give direction to our actions.

➖ There was a significant typo that blocked progress midway through the game. We had to scour multiple hint sequences and consult the internet to track down the issue. Lesson learned: always check for errata first?

➖ The new computer hacking mechanic was infuriating for us. The combination of woefully underspecified rules, scattered presentation, unwieldy complexity, and lack of useful validation mechanisms made the experience a ruthless slog.

➖ One side character was clearly meant to be a creep, but his jokes and behavior were still humorless and icky. Whereas play-acting the parts was a highlight in the first game, here it could be uncomfortable. For me, this shifted the tone of the game from snark to ugh.

❓ It remains to be seen how much this installment contributes to the trilogy’s story arc. In some ways, it felt like the game ended where it began.

➕ Despite this game’s flaws, I still want to know how this story ends, and I still want to play games in this format (minus the hacking). All eyes are on you, Cantaloop Book 3

Tips For Players

  • We suggest playing over multiple sessions. It’s a long game. However, be sure to jot down what you were trying to do when you stop; it can be hard to regain your bearings.
  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear:
    • Replacement sheet for Scene B – There are game-breaking typos on the original page that will lead to pain and despair. Download the replacement and breathe easy.
    • Pen and paper

Buy your copy of Lookout Games’s Cantaloop Book 2: A Hack of a Plan, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: