Cantaloop Book 1: Breaking into Prison was described to me as “a really good point-and-click adventure game in book form… that actually feels like a point-and-click adventure game.”
After taking this product into the lab and studying it, I can confirm that description as entirely accurate.
The art, writing, characters, and puzzle design all worked together to feel like a great point-and-click adventure game. The difference is that you can play it in a small group, with physical (albeit mostly paper) props, and enjoy it communally… like an escape room.
Our group of 4 loved playing Cantaloop. It was smart, funny, and craftily designed, with all of the tropes that make people love (or hate) point-and-click adventure games. If that sounds appealing to you, then this is a must-buy. If you despise point-and-click adventure games on computer, I doubt that Cantaloop will suddenly convert you.
When we finished playing, we mused about how this game could easily be translated into a mobile app, and go full point-and-click adventure game… but concluded that it shouldn’t, because it would be less fun.
Paper might be the future of the point-and-click adventure genre. No joke.
Who is this for?
Point-and-click adventure lovers
Any experience level
Strong writing and characters
Tons of humor
It felt like a proper point-and-click adventure
Charismatic crook “Hook” Carpenter is back on Cantaloop Island and assembling a new team for one last job. The catch: the hacker he needs for this job is locked up in prison.
Ravensburger’s The Temple Grounds Escape Puzzle hasn’t had an official release in the United States, but it is available on Amazon for a few dollars over retail price, and our copy was sent to us by Tammy McLeod, REA Hivemind Reviewer, and jigsaw puzzle Guinness World Record holder.
After spending a couple of days solving The Temple Grounds, I’d wager a guess as to why it hasn’t been republished in the United States: it’s a damn hard jigsaw puzzle. It’s the most difficult of the series thus far, in our opinion. It’s overwhelmingly green and brown, with low contrast.
Difficulty does not make this a bad jigsaw puzzle; it’s more than solvable. There are textures and patterns to work with… but they are harder to identify and more nuanced than what we’ve seen from the rest of the Escape Puzzle series.
The escape puzzles within the finished picture solved cleanly, although one of these puzzles really suffered from the dark shades of brown and muddy contrast.
The other struggle with this puzzle was the edge (which is always a bit strange in Escape Puzzles). There were edge pieces that we could not rationally fit into the puzzle. This was by far the weakest element of the product.
Overall, The Temple Grounds is the Ravensburger Escape Puzzles on hard mode. Don’t play this as an introduction to the Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle format. If you’re new to Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series, try out the Space Observatory or Witch’s Kitchen for a fantastic starting place. The Temple Grounds is for skilled jigsaw puzzle solvers who like a puzzle that requires a higher level of skill or a willingness to grind through the challenge.
While I am happy that I solved it, I also think it’s fine if this one isn’t re-released more broadly.
This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.
While exploring the ruins of an ancient temple, we’d stepped in the wrong place and slipped down a steep slope into the ruins. With the sun going down, we needed to find our way out.
❓/➖ The puzzle art felt optimized around difficulty. There was a lot to look at, but it wasn’t fun to view. There was a ton of visual noise.
➕ The puzzles solved cleanly.
➖ While one low contrast puzzle was solvable, the details were so challenging to see that my fellow solvers struggled to see the key clues even when I was pointing right at them.
➖ There were edge pieces that seemed to have no real home within the puzzle. The Escape Puzzle’s edge pieces are an essential part of the concluding metapuzzle, so there is always a bit of oddness with these, but this took it to a far stranger place. It felt like the edge was doctored after the fact to make the puzzle work, but no one took the time to make any of the adjustments feel even remotely organic.
➖ The metapuzzle was cute, but nowhere near entertaining enough to justify how botched the puzzle’s edge design was. This also made it fairly easy to backsolve the puzzles within the picture. It was sloppy.
❓ This was a hard puzzle. Whether that’s good or bad is in the eyes of the solver.
➕ The hints were detailed and clear (even if a small, inconsequential segment wasn’t fully translated into English).
Buy It Now
Pickup your copy of Ravensburger’s The Temple Grounds Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Team size: a 16oz bag is a lot of Twizzlers, trust me
Let’s get this out of the way: classic Twizzlers are allegedly “strawberry” flavored. I like classic Twizzlers, but if you were to put an unlabeled classic Twizzler in my mouth and ask me to guess what the “according to Hershey” flavor is, “strawberry” is not what I’d guess.
The classic Twizzler tastes like “red.” Classic Twizzlers resemble the taste of strawberry in the same way that mozzarella tastes like bacon.
All of this is to say that actually identifying the flavor of any Twizzlers product is a bit like playing a game of “guess what number I’m thinking?” You’re not going to get it right, and if you did, it’s because you got lucky.
The positive news is that these Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists taste pretty good. Also, I respect the overall execution by Hershey: no crazy contests, no forms, and no insane legalese… just a classic “guess the flavor” product that has a pleasant enough taste, if you like Twizzlers.
I have a few guesses as to the flavor, and you can find them below… but I think the flavor matters less than the friends we made along the way. Seriously, the first time I went to a friend’s house post-quarantine I found myself eating these. How sad is that?
Who is this for?
Mystery food junkies
If you like Twizzlers, they taste pretty good
There’s nothing complex here. You eat them… and then speculate blindly as to what they are.
I recommend having the Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists side-by-side with classic Twizzlers for maximum flavor confusion. I mean seriously… I know that I’ve already said this in a few different ways, but are classic Twizzlers twigs that wished upon a star to be real strawberries?
➕ Mystery Flavor Twizzlers Twists taste good enough. I prefer the originals, but in the Mystery Flavor Game, any product that I can eat more than one of without questioning the life choices that lead to me eating this food is a big win. This more than comfortably cleared that bar.
➖ I have no clue what I ate… and it’s sort of difficult to make a game out of something that seems so far away from actual flavors that occur in nature. That said, here are a few guesses:
Spoiler: What did it taste like?
Maybe grape, raspberry, or blackberry??? Honestly, I have no idea. The scent was strongly grape. The coloration made my brain lean towards blackberry (color is usually a lie in the Mystery Flavor Game), and the taste was… aspiring towards fruit. I don’t know. You’re not here for real answers… you’re here for snarky entertainment.
➕/➖ The packaging looked good, if a little cliché. It was decidedly Twizzlers, with a mystery flair. You know there’s a mystery afoot because there are lots of question marks and a magnifying glass.
➕ I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I’m glad there wasn’t some insane contest where the lawyer who drafted the terms and conditions made more money than the winner of the prize payout. Simplicity of execution is my preference.
❓ 16 ounces of Twizzlers is a lot. I mean… maybe when I was younger I’d have felt differently, but at this point in my life, polishing off a full bag of Twizzlers feels about as doable as climbing K2.
Ticketing: Public… but if you book as a group of 8 you’ll have a mostly private experience
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
New York City’s Society of Conjurers And Magicians (SCAM), blends magic, comedy, and puzzles (more or less in that order).
SCAM is set in a nifty karaoke bar where each room has a unique design. The audience is split between these rooms, and magicians circulate from room to room performing their acts to the small groups. In between the acts, each group has the opportunity to solve a series of puzzles.
The performers are a rotating cast of quality New York City magicians. Some left us dumbfounded, others performed classics with elegance, and they all made us laugh.
SCAM was co-created by comedian & magician Harrison Greenbaum (the emcee for our convention RECON). I tell you this both to disclose that relationship, and to give you a sense of SCAM’s style. He is talented, funny, and vulgar. (He tones this last part down a lot for RECON.) To varying degrees, the other performers are cut from the same cloth.
If you aren’t sure whether you’ll enjoy the humor of SCAM New York, I recommend taking a good look at their secret society logo. Study the details, identify the layers… really take it in… because this shit is hilarious…
If instead you are bothered by it… perhaps Disney’s The Lion King is more your speed and it’s only a few blocks away from SCAM. No judgement from me; I want everyone to have a good time.
SCAM New York was the first show or game that Lisa and I had experienced post-quarantine. I cannot think of a better show for the era. Meeting up with a small group of friends and spending most of the show in a room with them while entertainment came to us was exactly the speed that we were looking for. If you enjoy magic, comedy, or puzzles, there’s something for you at SCAM.
Who is this for?
People looking for an unusual night out
Any experience level
The puzzles do a good job of filling in gaps between acts
We were invited to an initiation into a magical secret society.
REA Hivemind Reviewer Joel Smileypeacefun created this video, ESCAPE ROOMS: 10 Common Mistakes And Misconceptions. In it he explores and acts out 10 different ways that newbies tend to misunderstand the escape room medium.