Scavenger Box [Review]

Forget the chocolates, give me a puzzle!

Location: At home

Date Played: June 29, 2022

Team size: 2

Duration: 60+ minutes setup time, 45+ minutes for scavenger hunt as described with no customizations

Price: about $69.99

REA Reaction

When I first heard about Scavenger Box, a do-it-yourself romantic scavenger hunt kit, I was intrigued. Our anniversary trip was a few weeks away, and it seemed like the perfect occasion for a fun, unique gift-giving experience. The kit arrived in a plain black box; I told my husband it was another Kickstarter escape game and I was going to add it to the pile. Instead, I put it aside to pack in my suitcase…

Black treasure box with a heart combination lock, on a bed surrounded by electronic candles, rose petals, an a red envelope with a gold seal.

I took a quick peek; the presentation of items in the box was beautiful, and the quality was impressive, especially the satin-lined treasure box and the heart-shaped lock. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into each and every item. In fact, there were so many props, I admit I was a little overwhelmed. Could I really pull this off? But the step-by-step guide made setup so easy! It detailed exactly what clues to write, what items to use and where to hide them around the room. Additionally, there were suggestions for customizations to make the whole experience as unique and personalized as you wish. 

Our big day arrived and I sent my husband to the beach while I got to work. Setup took a while, around 90 minutes. There were quite a few steps and I had to make some adjustments due to the hotel room layout. I also created some of my own clues and added a few wrapped gifts here and there. I made one minor mistake with the clue that used disappearing ink, but it was easily fixed. Once everything was setup, the room looked amazing…my husband returned to find flickering candles and rose petals and Clue #1. 

Everything flowed perfectly from one clue to the next…until the jigsaw puzzle. Not only did it interrupt the momentum of the experience, but it was also a bit awkward to simply sit and watch him put a puzzle together. One other clue could have used more specific instructions, and I imagine would have been difficult to solve if the scavenger hunt had been outdoors. 

Overall, we both absolutely loved Scavenger Box, as it brought a fun, playful and creative element to our anniversary celebration. For a special occasion – a romantic birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day or even a marriage proposal – I would not hesitate to recommend Scavenger Box. Maybe next year it will be my turn to receive one?

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Finders Seekers – Chicago Mystery [Review]

The next best thing to a deep-dish hot-dog pizza…

Location:  at home

Date Played: April 15, 2022

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 1-4

Duration: no time limit, but likely less than an hour

Price: $30

REA Reaction

The Chicago Mystery from Finders Keepers was a solid representation of what the series has to offer: rich details of a famous location (Chicago!), simple and contained puzzling, and a quality, reusable object from the focal locale (here, a Cubs foam finger).

Finders Seekers box beside an assortment of paper components and a large, blue, foam hand that reads, "Go Cubs!"

As in other Finders Seekers episodes, this game’s priority was presenting historical and geographical details of a particular place within the context of a light puzzle-hunt. Here, using evidence to solve a decades-old mystery proved to be an effective framework for structuring these details. The educational information was superfluous to the tasks at hand, but its bite-sized delivery made it more available to a broader audience.

Concerning gameplay, each puzzle was approachable and straightforward, relying on making the appropriate connection between 1-2 game materials. Most puzzles were simple presentations of common structures, but they were all fair and thematic. Newer players might find challenge here; experienced players will not.

As with the rest of the Finders Seekers series, I wouldn’t recommend this game to enthusiasts whose primary focus is puzzling. The puzzles were neither novel nor challenging enough for that use case. However, anyone who thrives on accumulating facts and images of the world may enjoy this game and/or series. Those details are what set Finders Seekers apart from other puzzling games.

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Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery [Review]

A doggone delight.

Location: at home

Date Played: May 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 6-10 hours, broken into four acts

Price: back on Kickstarter at $69 to receive a copy of the game

REA Reaction

With its clever construction and whimsical design, Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery stands out from the pack of play-at-home puzzle games. Trapped Puzzle Rooms has a reputation for devising uniquely charming, joyful experiences, and Ruff Bluff has built on that past expertise to create a more complex, premium addition to its Trapped Takeout product line. As of June 21, 2022, it’s available to back on Kickstarter for projected release in November 2022.

Box with the text "Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery" and an illustration of seven dogs playing poker

The real meat of Ruff Bluff is its puzzles. The volume of gameplay in each small box or envelope surprised us every time. We marveled at the elaborate game structure as the acts unfolded. Certain puzzles proved quite challenging, but Trapped provided an excellent online hint system to give the right level of guidance and prevent players from getting stuck.

Rather than leaning on printed materials, Trapped included game components that were varied, tactile, and fun to interact with. A couple of the more memorable items would be fun to keep on hand and revisit even after the game is over. We played a mostly finished prototype version; some components will be changed before the official release, but it seems fair to expect the final product will be even more polished.

Ruff Bluff is equally sophisticated and fun-filled, with a thoughtfully refined game flow framed by a wholesome whodunit set in an amusing dog-filled world. When it arrives later this year, it will be a worthy addition to any puzzle lover’s collection.

And if you like dog puns, all the better.

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Nomis Piy – Missing [Hivemind Review]

Missing is a puzzle book created by Nomis Piy in Singapore.

Nomis Piy Missing Escape puzzle book cover and demo interior pages printed in a colorful, cartoonish style.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Puzzle book

Who is it For?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

You need an internet connection to check your answers. A pen is necessary to record your answers on the answer sheet. Paper is helpful for notes, but not necessary.

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: There’s no clock. Expect 4-6 hours of play, perhaps more.

Price: S$25 (roughly 18.41 USD) plus shipping from Singapore

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is a puzzle book with a light story and lots of puzzles. As you solve each puzzle, you input the answer online. If correct, you get instructions to fill in the answer sheet in the front of the book. Sometimes you get information you will need for a subsequent puzzle. If incorrect, nothing happens. You need to use different parts of the book in unique ways to solve the puzzles. One section is sealed and only available when you’ve reached that section.

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The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs [Book Review]

If you enjoy The Puzzler, we hope you’ll check out our interview with author A.J. Jacobs on The Reality Escape Pod.

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Author:  A.J. Jacobs

Year:  2022

Page count:  240 pages of written material; about 80 pages of puzzles and solutions

Price:  $28.00

Publisher:  Crown

REA Reaction

It’s easy to understand why author A.J. Jacobs has been on the New York Times bestseller list 4 times. His writing throughout The Puzzler is engaging and very easy to binge. I needed to make myself put the book down multiple times in order to reflect on what he had written rather than just turning to the next chapter.

Packed full of humor, anecdotes, and insight, The Puzzler was a delight to read. Jacobs does a wonderful job of making this book feel personal. He shares his triumphs and secret (well, not so secret anymore) puzzle shames, we meet his family, and we follow him around the world. We also meet some of his political leanings through some offhand commentary, which I didn’t feel was necessary in a book about puzzling.

He immersed himself in puzzles for years to write this book and provides meaningful conversation on a broad spectrum of puzzles. With nearly 20 puzzle types covered, readers will read about one they really love but likely also one that they don’t care for. My litmus test was chess puzzles; I’ve just never been interested in them. And while I still don’t feel compelled to delve into them the way Jacobs did (sitting down with Garry Kasparov himself), I still enjoyed the chapter and left with a greater appreciation of the style.

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