Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Cabin [Review]

Murder on a film set of a murder. 

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 11, 2018

Team size: 1-¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $22.50 per month

REA Reaction

From the installment that we’ve played from Deadbolt Mystery Society, it seems they are delivering on the subscription model better than most. It’s tough to crank out subscription puzzle games. It takes a lot of thought and effort to pull together gameplay, narrative, and production on a rapid and constantly looping deadline. 

That doesn’t mean that The Cabin was refined. The Cabin had a sprawling story with a ton of forgettable characters and no gating. It was a bit of a free-for-all at the onset. After we got over the initial surprise, we settled in and honestly enjoyed the puzzles.

I can’t speak to Deadbolt Mystery Society’s larger subscription program at this point, but this was a solid episode from a subscription. If you’re a puzzle-focused player who wants regular tabletop puzzle play, this one might be worth a try. 

In-game: The open box, an assortment of puzzle documents and a pin.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  •  Solid puzzles
  • Regular publication

Story

Decades ago a series of gruesome murders had been committed at Camp Echo. Now a horror movie was being shot at the site of the killings. During filming, the murders started happening again. 

Had the murderer returned? Or was this a copycat? We needed to examine the evidence and solve the mystery before more people died.

The box of The Cabin.

Setup

We cracked open the box that we had received in the mail and found a great many documents pertaining to the past and more recent murders at Camp Echo. We needed to parse through all of the papers, match up the items that belonged together, and then puzzle through their meanings. 

There wasn’t any gating within this game. We started with access to everything that we would have at the conclusion of the game. 

In-game: an assortment of puzzle papers.

Gameplay

Deadbolt Mystery Society’s The Cabin was an atypical subscription-based play-at-home escape game with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around reading, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The Cabin contained a lot of great puzzle content.

➖ The puzzles were buried within tons of papers, all of which were immediately accessible. Without gating, The Cabin felt initially overwhelming with no clear starting place or direction. We played The Cabin on a pretty large table, but constantly left like we were drowning in papers.

➕ Once we got past the initial volume of content, Deadbolt Mystery Society clued which in-play elements needed to go together. This worked well and gave us a way to approach the mystery.

➖ There was a lot of reading material. It felt like a chore rather than a way to connect with the characters and their stories. With so many characters, it was hard to keep them straight and impossible to be invested in their situation. We wanted to solve the mystery because it was a puzzle, but we didn’t care who lived or died.

➕/➖  Deadbolt Mystery Society had an excellent concept. Although The Cabin needed gating and focus, with a bit more direction, it could definitely have created meaningful character/ mystery connections for the players.

❓ The price is a value judgment. The product isn’t refined or fancy. You’re paying for the rapid production and fulfillment. I can’t say whether that’s a good or a bad thing; it’s individual choice. 

❓ Subscription games are tough to fulfill. We commend Deadbolt Mystery Society for delivering a monthly subscription with quality puzzles and interesting concepts. Because of the pace of production, subscription games easily devolve into mounds of paper and Deadbolt Mystery Society had a bit of that going on too. From what we’ve seen thus far, it’s the nature of the beast.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: We recommend a larger table or floor space.
  • Required Gear: Fixion pens, Boogie Boards, or more generic writing supplies.

Subscribe to Deadbolt Mystery Society, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Note that Deadbolt Mystery Society’s The Cabin was a previous month’s episode and it is now sold out. Your purchased subscription will start with the current month’s game.

Full disclosure: Deadbolt Mystery Society provided us a free reviewer’s copy of The Cabin.

(If you purchase via our Cratejoy links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Master Lock 410 LOTO Padlock [Review]

The “Do Not Touch Sticker” of padlocks. 

Lock Type: Keyed Padlock

Dimensions: Body, 1.75 inch (4.5cm) wide 1.5 inch (4 cm), shackle height 1.5 inch (3.9cm), shackle width 0.25 inch (0.6 cm)

Price: $10-25 (depending on the color)

Manufacturer:  Master Lock

REA Reaction

What the Master Lock 410 lacks in durability it makes up for in aesthetics… at least for escape room design purposes. 

For the right escape room theme, this is a clever lock to use in place of “do not touch” stickers. It could also work well just as an eye-catching lock. 

Red Master Lock 410 beside its brass key and a quarter for size reference.

Operation

From a user standpoint, this is a keyed padlock. There is nothing unique about its operation. 

The back of a Red Master Lock 410.
Master Lock 410 without a “Danger” sticker.

Construction

From a construction standpoint, the Master Lock 410 is an utterly bizarre lock. Its body is made of plastic and its shackle is not hardened… but it has the most pick-resistant core that Master Lock produces. 

The Lockpicking Lawyer did a humorous analysis of the paradox that is the Master Lock 410: 

Use in Escape Rooms

There are two clear uses for the Master Lock 410 within escape rooms. 

Do Not Touch Indicator

The Master Lock 410’s aesthetic makes it jump out as a natural “do not touch” indicator. 

Its unique look and feel – compared to other locks – makes it obvious and memorable.

Additionally, the plastic body means that while its durability may be questionable, it is unlikely to damage anything on your set if it swings against props. 

Depending upon the game environment, the Master Lock 410 could look like a natural part of the set while still standing out. The same cannot be said for most “do not touch” stickers.

Standard Padlock

The Master Lock 410’s interesting aesthetic means that it could play a unique role as an active padlock within an escape room. 

My big concern for this padlock as an active prop is durability. 

Background

The unusual Master Lock 410 is a Lockout/ Tagout lock (LOTO). 

Lockout/ Tagout is an industrial safety precaution whereby all of the workers involved with a dangerous piece of machinery place a lock on the device that prevents it from working until all of them remove their locks. 

This ensures that no one is stuck in a dangerous position when the machinery is activated. These locks come in multiple colors and have labels so that individual workers can identify their own locks. 

A lockout tagout hasp next to a red Master Lock 410.
LOTO Hasp

Incidentally, the Master Lock Hasp that occasionally shows up in escape rooms is a different LOTO device… but that contraption is a story for another day. 

You can read about LOTO in brutal bureaucratic detail on the OSHA website if that’s your thing, or if you’re struggling to get some sleep.

Analysis

➕ Master Lock 410’s plastic body means that this lock will not damage anything that it is hanging on or near. 

➕ The soft shackle of the Master Lock 410 means that an escape room operator could easily cut this lock open with bolt cutters in an emergency. 

➕ The unique aesthetic of the Master Lock 410 could make this lock look at home in certain escape room environments. 

➕ There are many color options for the Master Lock 410 including red, black, green, orange, purple, yellow, and blue. Prices may vary for different colors.

➖ The plastic body calls the durability of this padlock into question. Its body is far more likely to suffer serious damage than most other padlocks. 

➖ From a security standpoint, the Master Lock 410 is utterly insufficient as it has no hardening to physical attack. This is a product that makes more sense in an escape room than in most real life situations. 

➕ The shockingly robust core of the Master Lock 410 makes it an ideal practice lock for pickers. It’s a really tough pick compared to just about everything else that Master Lock sells. 

Tips For Using

  • You may want to apply some lacquer or resin on top of the sticker to prevent it from peeling off. 

Buy your copy of Master Lock’s 410, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game [Review]

Arguably the finest mullet that the 80s had to offer.

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 2018

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

Duration: five 60-minute chapters

Price: $30

Publisher: Pressman

REA Reaction

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game was created by the folks behind the ThinkFun games Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor and Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat. As fans of those games (particularly Stargazer’s), we were psyched to see a 5-part, licensed MacGyver escape game from the same creative team. MacGyver was a natural and an exciting character to adapt into an escape room game.

In MacGyver: The Escape Room Game, we found an uneven jumble of great ideas and missed opportunities. In this puzzle-focused game,  we uncovered some wonderful puzzles and other obtuse ones that relied on unusual quirks. 

MacGyver The Escape Room Game box, featuring a photo of MacGyver.

There were fixable bugs in the software that prevented us from playing as we had intended. (Out of the gate, this diminished our trust in the game.) 

There was a lot to enjoy, but a little more polish and a greater emphasis on the MacGyvering over purely puzzling would have made this into a must-buy.

In its current state, it’s worth playing for tabletop escape game fans, but I can’t recommend that MacGyver fans pick this up as their first exposure to escape games (tabletop or real life). I really wanted to love this one. 

The chapter 2 Airplane's case, features a cockpit and a depressurizing plane with panicking passengers.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Value – There are 5 hour-long games in this box
  • Some really creative and fun puzzles

Story

Each chapter took MacGyver, the secret agent who is opposed to violence, on a unique mission. We had to use our problem-solving skills to hack our way through the following places:

  1. Underground Lab
  2. The Airplane
  3. The Factory 
  4. Missile Silo
  5. The Grand Finale

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game  featured the original 1985 Richard Dean Anderson version of MacGyver. 

All 5 chapter envelopes along with the utility bag.

Setup

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game’s 5 chapters were standalone missions that required us to play them in sequential order. In each game we acquired items to store in our “utility bag” until we needed them for a future mission.

Each chapter followed a similar structure: 

The assorted contents of the chapter 1, Underground Lab includes: 4 smaller colored envelopes, a mirror, and a sticker sealed mission.
  • We went to the [URL] and started the chapter. 
  • We received a mission file sealed with red and green stickers along with multiple sealed envelopes. 
  • We read the materials presented to us, solved the puzzle, and entered the solution into the website (or used the website to take a hint before solving).
  • The website told tell us which sticker or envelope to unseal next. 
  • Repeated until finished.
  • At the end of the chapter, we stored whatever item the game suggested we might need in the future in our utility bag. 
In-game: MacGyver's utility bag.

Gameplay

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game was a typical tabletop escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, interpreting the intention behind the puzzle, and figuring out how to input the solution into the website. 

Chapter 2, The Airplane's assorted contents.

Analysis

➕ MacGyver was a great hook. The box art was direct and eye-catching. The concept of a MacGyver escape game was natural and rational. This is the kind of intellectual property that should be adapted into escape games; it serves all involved.

➕/➖ The materials and print quality were solid. The product generally looked good… except for some hokey imagery. 

In-game: Close-up image of MacGyver looking at a computer.

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game was gated fantastically. At each stage of the game, we focused our attention on a limited number of elements. Even if we couldn’t solve the puzzle, we were always confident that we were looking in the correct place.

➕/➖ The puzzles were a mixed bag. A lot of them felt great to solve and advanced the game’s narrative. Some felt too opaque, as if some of the clues that should have been discoverable in the puzzles themselves were tucked away within the hint system.

➖ As we played through all 5 missions, we encountered a lot of puzzle constructions that mirrored each other.

➖ Too often, MacGyver: The Escape Room Game opened without a proper on-ramp. Many chapters’ initial puzzles frustrated us and prevented us from building momentum and confidence in the game’s systems before cranking up the difficulty. More often than not, we struggled to get started, but had an easier time beyond that point.

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game took many typographic liberties that made it difficult to get the answer, even when we had the correct solution. Our feelings on this varied – by player, typographical choice, and puzzle.

➕Each chapter presented one more involved layered or logic puzzle. This helped balance the missions.

➖ We encountered many bugs in the digital hint system. The hints that were taller than one monitor length would not scroll on our Macs (it worked fine on iOS). This was an unacceptable bug… but it is solvable. 

The chapter one envelope has a green fluid and erlenmeyer flask.

➖ Our least favorite installment was the second chapter. We almost quit after this one because of the demoralizing confluence of an early aggressive aha puzzle, janky mechanics, and software bugs. I am glad that we didn’t quit because later missions improved greatly.

➕ We enjoyed the fifth and final mission most. Some of this may have been because it put a greater emphasis on the puzzles and because by then we had a strong sense of how this game wanted to be played. That said, even the final mission had one late-game quirk that frustrated us. It ultimately justified itself (but only after I looked up a MacGyver character).

➕ I liked the continuity of the Utility Bag. It allowed the game to build on itself a little, without forcing us to backtrack through a ton of materials. 

In-game: Image of MacGyver looking at a a candy vending machine.

❓ I’ve seen a few episodes of MacGyver, but I’m not well versed on the show. We played a few missions with true fans and they all had the same impression: with rare exceptions, it didn’t feel like we were MacGyvering our way through the game. It felt like we were puzzling through a tabletop escape game. This is fine if you’re looking for a tabletop escape game. I’m not certain that it will scratch the itch that MacGyver fans are looking for. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Space Requirements: a small table or floor space
  • Required Gear: An internet-connected device, preferably a phone or tablet. We ran into bugs on our laptop. 

Buy your copy of Pressman’s MacGyver: The Escape Room Game, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Pressman provided a sample for review. 

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

The Escape Book: Can you escape this book? [Review]

“Like a toboggan-ride of pain” (page 126)

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 2018

Team size: 1-¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 1

Duration: It depends (see below)

Price: $10

Publisher: Ivan Tapia

REA Reaction

On its surface, The Escape Book: Can you escape this book? was a good product. It had well-tested puzzles, quality printing, a strong hint system, and a well-defined aesthetic. Unfortunately, these were overshadowed by the problems.

The Escape Book's black, white, and yellow cover of a door opening. It asks, "Can you escape this book?"

The Escape Book contained 18 puzzles in its 176 pages. Most of the book’s content was long, rambling, repetitive, droning, and repetitive drivel. The story constantly shifted between uncomfortable, laughable, and boring. 

Play through The Escape Book to breeze through its puzzles. They weren’t special, but they worked well. While this may appeal to some newbies, we suggest taking a pass on this one. If you choose to play, skip most, if not all of the story. 

Who is this for?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Why play?

  • The puzzles solve cleanly.
  • A well-designed and generous structured hint system

Story

Candela Fuertes, a brilliant 28-year-old investigative journalist/ hacker, had been writing a story on the currency-manipulating Castian Warnes and his Wanstein Club.

Warnes, the evil multibillionaire, had publicly claimed to have created The Daedalus, a death trap labyrinth that housed his secrets. Anyone could enter it freely, but they would perish if they failed to complete his puzzles within 60 minutes.

In-book, page reads, "The Beginning, Candela has 56 minutes left to live."

Candela decided to enter this escape room/ death trap in an attempt to uncover Warnes’ misdeeds. For reasons that never made sense, she did this without telling her editor or loved ones. 

We played as Candela, navigating her through the puzzles.

Setup

The Escape Book followed a simple structure. In each chapter we read a few pages of prose, which told a bit of the story, and concluded with a puzzle.

In-book, page shows the first puzzle: a grid of circles that look like flat-head screwheads, some oriented vertically, others, horizontally.

The puzzle solved to a number. We then turned to that page number to continue the story. 

In-book, page, shows the answer input.

If we struggled with a puzzle, the book provided a page that we could turn to for hints. Each puzzle (except for the final one) had 5 hints that increasingly simplified the puzzle.

In-book, page,shows portions of the first puzzle's hints.

Finally, we could turn the page in the hint section to reveal the solution.

In-book, page shows that the puzzle's solution is on the next page.

Gameplay

The Escape Book was a simple puzzle book with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and basic puzzle solving.

Story overshadowed gameplay.

Analysis

➕ We liked the appearance of the book. The black, white, and yellow aesthetic looked sharp. The Escape Book was printed well.

➕ Most of the puzzles were clued well and solved cleanly. 

➖ One late-game puzzle felt poorly clued. It seemed instead to clue a future puzzle, which deviated from the patterns set by the book.

❓ The puzzles were easy. Most of them took us less than 30 seconds to solve. Those that took a little longer required some process work. This wasn’t inherently good or bad; it comes down to how much you want to have to work at solving a puzzle. 

In-book, page reads, "Clue Zone" with an unlocked padlock.

➕ It was easy to use the thorough hint system. We appreciate any play-at-home game that allows puzzlers of any experience level to play on their own terms. 

➕ We liked the concept of an interactive novel with puzzles. We’ve seen this before with the Winston Breen series, which we really enjoyed.

➖ Far too much of The Escape Book was rooted in its narrative. We spent most of the time reading prose… which might have been great, if it had been an entertaining story. 

➖ The writing was uncomfortably bad. The story amounted to a dull, repetitive tale of currency manipulation with a couple of rants about George Soros thrown in for flavor.

➖ When we weren’t reading droning passages about shorting currency futures, we were treated to descriptions of a nonsensical villain who was supposed to seem scary, but came across as silly.

“The Daedalus, the security system created by a man incapable of remembering names or passwords, is about to finish Candela off” (page 80).

➖ Our heroine’s actions were laughably shortsighted, which uncomfortably juxtaposed against how badass she was supposed to appear. All of this was further undermined by excessive descriptions of her body. How many times did we need to read about the rising and falling of her chest? It went “up… down… up…” 

In-book, first story page shows the description of the main character.
This is the first page. ⬆️⬇️⬆️

My favorite utterly unnecessary passage: 

“In her final year at university, Candela had shared a flat with Mark, a computer addict. They were friends with benefits. Over the course of living with him, Candela had learnt a bit about sex and a lot about the stock exchange” (page 39). 🔥Hot 🔥

The Escape Book was originally written in Spanish. It’s possible that something about the writing was lost in translation… but there came a point where that didn’t matter.

❓ We could have solved most of the puzzles without reading the story, or by only reading the last couple of paragraphs of a section. I think that this would have been the optimal way to play. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Space Requirements: None. We solved most of the book while sitting in a diner. 
  • Required Gear: Pen (we recommend Frixion pens) or pencil. An internet-connected device is required to complete the book. 
  • Optional gear: A knife or scissors.

Buy your copy of The Escape Book: Can You Escape This Book?, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Boogie Boards in Escape Rooms [Review]

Boogie Boards

Boogie Boards are popular writing surfaces for escape rooms across the United States. We’ve discussed writing in escape rooms generally; now we’ll look at what Boogie Boards offer.

As LCD writing tablets, they provide a simple, reusable, rapidly erasable surface for note-taking and and puzzle-solving.

Boogie Board offers different models. After exploring their offerings, I believe that there is a correct model for use in escape rooms… and it’s not the one we usually see.

A small boogie board that reads, "Erase me!" and points at the erase button.
Jot Series

Boogie Board Jot Series

The Jot Series is the traditional Boogie Board. I’ve seen this model almost every time I come across a Boogie Board in escape room. They come in a number of different sizes and forms, but they all work the same way:

Write on the surface with the stylus. Press the round button to erase the slate.

They are easy to explain to players and simple to use.

A small translucent boogie board with card under it that reads "Thank You," with tarot art. Atop, the boogie board reads, "I'm translucent."
Also available in a translucent model.

There are two main drawbacks: 

If you want to erase something, you have to erase everything. 

It’s almost too easy to erase them. I’ve seen players accidentally erase something that someone else was working on. This is the most common gripe that I hear from other players about Boogie Boards.

A large boogie board blackboard, pointing out the eraser button, the erase button, and the lock switch.
Blackboard

Boogie Board Blackboard

On the other extreme, there is the top-of-the-line Boogie Board, the new Blackboard model.

This thing is pretty damn awesome. It’s large and translucent (so it can draw over other things). With one button, it switches to an eraser mode where the stylus works as a focused eraser, like the end of a pencil would. You don’t have to blank out the entire slate to erase, but that is an option too. There’s a mobile app to store your work. 

Closeup of the boogie board blackboard's pointing out the eraser button, the erase button, and the lock switch.

I love using one of these at home. I highly recommend the Blackboard for at-home puzzle-solving and other creative work. It’s awesome.

I do not recommend it for use in escape rooms. It has too many options and requires too much explanation. It’s a little too big. Also, considering that it’s liable to get dropped, I think it’s a little pricey for this use case.

The Boogie Board Dashboard.
Dashboard

Boogie Board Dashboard

If the Jot is too simple and the Blackboard is too complex… the Boogie Board Dashboard is just right.

Dashboard is essentially a Jot with a safety switch that disables the erase button. This adds almost no additional explanation, but provides a significant benefit to the players.

The Boogie Board Dashboard locked.
Erase Lock: On
The Boogie Board Dashboard unlocked.
Erase Lock: Off

I’ve only ever seen these at Locked Murfreesboro in Franklin, Tennessee. The folks from Locked also made a small but significant modification to their Boogie Board Dashboards. They drilled a small hole and wired the stylus to the board ensuring that they travel together.

The Boogie Board Dashboard with the stylus attached to the body.

In my opinion Locked Murfreesboro’s approach is currently the best way to use Boogie Boards in escape rooms.

The two components that they use to wire the stylus board are: 

Boogie Boards certainly aren’t without drawbacks. They can be especially challenging in low lighting and they are pretty small. That said, they are a writing surface, not a tool to fix gameplay. If the lighting is too dim for a Boogie Board or the puzzle requires a ton of writing to solve, that’s a problem with the game’s design, not the writing surface.

We haven’t yet seen Boogie Boards integrated into the set and narrative of an escape room. That’s the next step.

Disclosure: Boogie Board provided Jot and Blackboard models for review. 

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Room Escape Lover’s 2018 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

Commence the commerce!

Room Escape Artist Holiday Buyer's Guide 2018 masthead, features the REA logo with a Santa hat.

It’s that time of year where we express to one another how much we care by buying creative gifts. 

If you have a puzzler in your life (or you’re looking to treat yourself), we’ve done the creativity for you. 

In each category we’ve included gifts spanning a range of prices. We even included a couple of aspirationally priced items. This year’s holiday buyer’s guide is unique from the previous guides we published in 2017 & 2016. 

Tabletop Escape Games

In-game: a beautiful, intricate laser engraved/ laser cut wooden puzzle box.

Tale of Ord

$165 (ships internationally)

If you’re looking for a big puzzle game that requires commitment, Tale of Ord is one of our favorite tabletop puzzle games. The puzzles are challenging and numerous. The writing is about as good as we’ve seen from the play-at-home puzzle game genre. (Full Review)

The back of one of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post envelopes. Sealed and with the illustration of a letter emerging from an envelope.

Cryptogram Puzzle Post

£7.50 per single issue, £20.00 per seasonal (three issues) subscription, £70.00 per annual (twelve issues) subscription (ships internationally)

These monthly puzzle mailings are loaded with gorgeous art and unusual puzzles. Buy them for the challenges. Keep them because they are freaking beautiful. (Full Review)

Unlock! The Adventures of Oz box art features Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow waling the Yellow Brick Road.

Unlock! – The Adventures of Oz

$14 (22 CAD) (£25)

Over the course of many installments, Unlock! has shifted from a card-based re-creation of escape rooms to a narrative-driven puzzle adventure series. In our opinion, The Adventures of Oz is the pinnacle of this series. This shouldn’t be your first Unlock! game (that honor should go to Squeek & Sausage), but if you’re comfortable with the series and its mechanics, you should head off to see the wizard. (Full Review)

Sunken Treasure's box art features a sunken tall ship.

Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure

$10 (19.50 CAD) (£13)

We’ve played a whole bunch of new installments in the Exit: The Game series of destructible tabletop escape games. Of the batch, The Sunken Treasure has been one of our favorites. It’s by far the best installment for players new to the series. (Full Review)

Deckscape The Test Time Laboratory card, and an introduction from the Doctor.

Deckscape – Test Time

$14 (26 CAD) (£11)

We’re fans of Deckscape’s card-based play-at-home escape games. Test Time was our favorite. (Full Review)

Home

Umbra Magnetic Key Holder with keys and mail in it.

Umbra – Magnetic Key/ Mail Organizer

$15 (19 CAD) (£15)

This magnetic key and mail organizer has been a fantastic addition to our home. It looks great and it’s highly functional. 

Indiana Jones Holy Grail

$25

If you give this re-creation of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Holy Grail to someone and they respond with anything other than “You chose wisely,” then you should just end that relationship. 

A beautiful glass hourglass with copper ballbearings inside as sand.

The Marc Newson Hourglass For HODINKEE

$12,000

This handblown hourglass is filled with 1,249,996 tiny ball bearings and measures 10 minutes. It’s beautiful and expensive. We can’t afford it, but if you buy it, we’d love to see it in person. 

Tabletop Games

Forbidden Island's box with an assortment of cards, location tiles, and pieces.

Forbidden Island

$18 (20 CAD) (£17)

This is a collaborative treasure hunt where 2 to 4 players with unique abilities attempt to obtain 4 sacred items from a sinking item. Each game takes about 30 minutes to play and it feels like a constantly shifting group puzzle. It’s easy to learn and easy to teach. I’ve been playing it fairly regularly for over 5 years.

The futuristic box for Gizmos.

Gizmos

$30 (46 CAD)

This is a recent find for us and we’re pretty obsessed with it. 

Gizmos is a competitive game for 2 to 4 players, where everyone is trying to build more effective chain reaction machines that earn points and resources. It’s competitive, but not in-your-face competitive. Plus, it has a super fun marble dispenser.

Haunted House box for Betrayal.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

$33 (60 CAD) (£32)

This hour-long game for 3 to 6 players starts out collaborative until someone triggers the haunting… and then a defector is revealed and the game changes profoundly.

With more than 50 different defector scenarios and a procedurally generated game map, there is a ton of replay crammed into this box. 

While it pulls from horror tropes, it’s not a scary game. If you’d prefer a different theme, however, you can play the equally great Dungeons & Dragons-themed Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Finally… if you already know and love this game, Betrayal Legacy looks amazing. 

The D&D-esque box of Gloomhaven, depicting a scene with fantasy knights and rogues.

Gloomhaven

$140 (275 CAD) (£158)

Gloomhaven is a collaborative tactical combat adventuring game in a persistent world with more than 100 missions for 1 to 4 players. Each mission takes 60 to 120 minutes to complete. The game is loaded with hidden content. It’s like Dungeons & Dragons, but more boardgamey. This is a big game for people who like tabletop gaming.

If you’re springing for Gloomhaven, you may also want to consider the Broken Token organizers. I’m not really into custom box organization, but this is one of the few games that warrants it.

A beautiful wooden chess set with the 2019 CES Innovation Award badge.

Square Off Automated Chess Board

$369

This elegant-looking chess board moves your opponent’s pieces using magic (or a computer-controlled electromagnet). It’s crazy how smooth it is. You can play against the game’s AI or against any other Square Off owner in the world. 

Use the code ARTIST20 to receive 20% off.

Tools

A stubby small screw driver.

Klein – 6 in 1 Mini Screwdriver

$11

I keep this little tool in easy reach. This has been another great upgrade to our home. More often than not, if I need a screwdriver for a casual repair, this thing can handle the job. It can also fit into tight spaces. 

A dremel 3000, its box, and a few attachments.

Dremel 3000 Rotary Tool

$59 (111 CAD) (£70)

My Dremel is one of my go-to tools. I use it for everything. If you like to make things, you can almost certainly find an attachment that will improve your process. 

A glowforge 3d laser printer.

Glowforge

$3,995

There is no tool that I would love to own more than a good laser cutter. The Glowforge is the one that I’d buy if we had the space, ventilation, and money.

DIY Crafty Puzzles

A geometric papercraft tyrannosaurus rex bust.

PAPERRAZ Dinosaur Trophy Head Papercraft Puzzle

$38 (71 CAD)

These things are just nifty looking. There’s something about the geometry of them that has stuck with me from the first time I encountered one over a year ago. Plus… dinosaur!

Front of the completed Treasure Box bears the UGears logo.

U Gears – Treasure Box

$45 (75 CAD) (£42)

U Gears models combine puzzle, art, and engineering in one project. We built the Treasure Box, but they have a ton of amazing products. Read our review first to make sure that you have the right tools on-hand. (You don’t need many, but you really need them.)  (Full Review)

Puzzles

The Dog Pile & Cat Stax boxes.

Brainwright – Cat Stax & Dog Pile

$10-13 (18 CAD Cats & 19 CAD Dogs) (£15 Cats & £15 Dogs)

These cat and dog packing puzzles are adorable. They start you off easy, slowly ramping up the difficulty. Whether you’re looking to learn packing puzzles, already enjoy them… or just want the cute dog and cat figures, these are a good buy. (Full Review)

4 different nut and bolt puzzles.

Trick Bolts

$20

Purchased as a pair, each well-crafted bolt hides a different trick. The goal is to remove the nut, but you’ll find it isn’t trivial. Small, sturdy, and easy to carry around, you’ll always have a puzzle handy.

2 Rubik's cubs with funny looking headset power chargers on them.

Smart Rubik’s Cube

$42 (£39)

This looks like a normal Rubik’s Cube with cute headphones, right? The “headphones” are actually a removable charging connector. Why do you need to charge a Rubik’s Cube? This one can transmit the entire state of the cube via Bluetooth to your phone, allowing it to show you how to solve it, or play several different cube-based games. It also has a pleasant clicky-but-smooth feel.

Two hands holding a heart shaped wooden box.

Heart CaseSold out 💔

$104

Pluredo makes some terrific hand-crafted wooden puzzles. This one, a “sequential discovery” puzzle, reveals tools as you progress. You’ll need to use the tools to open the final compartment. It’s not too difficult, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.

3 bolts protruding from an elegant block of wood labeled, "Mr Puzzle Australia"

3 Wise Bolts

$138

This is another sequential discovery puzzle, where each bolt reveals new tools that you can use to get further into the puzzle. It’s a little more expensive and a lot harder. Don’t expect to solve this in a single sitting.

Jigsaw Puzzles

A 1000 piece Harry Potter flying keys puzzle, depicts the book's hero's riding broomsticks and trying to catch flying keys.

New York Puzzle Company Harry Potter Puzzles

~$20 (~30 CAD) (~£20)

The New York Puzzle Company makes beautiful traditional cardboard jigsaw puzzles. Their pieces have unusual shapes and their print quality is great. Their Harry Potter puzzle line is a perfect choice for the puzzling Potterhead in your life. Our favorite is the 1,000 piece Flying Keys puzzle… naturally. 

Geode puzzle mostly assembled.

Nervous System – Geode Puzzle

$60

Small but mighty. This intricate little laser-cut wooden puzzle was far more complex and interesting than its piece count suggested. (Full Review)

Video Games

In-game: a beautiful multicolored series of circular repeating patterns surrounding an eye.

Gorogoa

$5 on iOS, $15 on Windows & Nintendo Switch

Gorogoa is a novel, gorgeous, and innovative puzzle game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It may be a short game, but it’s mighty. (Full Review)

In-game, and array of basic puzzles that build in complexity.
A series of starter puzzles.

The Witness 

$9.99 on iOS, $13.60 on Android, $39.99 on Xbox & Steam

The Witness is one of the great puzzle games of our time. It’s a deep exploration of one puzzle type that sublimely guides you from novice to master with a difficulty curve that teaches you, while still making you be smart. (Full Review)

Books

Multi-colored cover of the atlas obscura explorer's guide for the world's most adventurous kid.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

$13 (24 CAD) (£12)

We’re big fans of Atlas Obscura. Whenever we travel, we try to sneak in some strange sites. This book is made to help kids feel more connected to the world and more comfortable traveling. It’s fun and quirky. 

Cover for Y the last man volume 1, features Yorick and Ampersand.

Y The Last Man Volume 1

$19 (34 CAD) (£16)

This 5-volume graphic novel series from 2002 by Brian K. Vaughan is still one of my favorite stories. It explores a world where only two animals with a Y chromosome survive a sudden calamity. It’s the kind of setup that could have turned gross or terrible quickly, but is heartfelt and intriguing. It’s also one of those rare series that stuck the landing. That last issue was haunting. 

The Art of Game Design book.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition

$59 (72 CAD) (£47)

Whether you’re an escape room designer already or you’re aspiring to be one, if you are designing games, this is a must-read.

Stocking Stuffers

An assortment of 10 different color FriXion pens in the package.

Pilot – FriXion Ball Erasable Gel Ink Pens

$11 (25 CAD) (£8)

These heat-activated erasable pens are amazing! We use them whenever we’re puzzling. They erase well and don’t leave any eraser dust behind. (Full Review)

A metal and plastic toy that looks like a lollipop, it fans out into different shapes controlled by magnets.

Lollipopter

$25 (40 CAD) (£25)

All hail the king of the fidget toys. This thing is just cool. It has no practical purpose or challenge to it. It’s just immensely satisfying to fiddle with. 

A candle made to look like the bust of Toht, the vile Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Melting Toht Candle

$35 (52 CAD) (£25)

Set fire to a Nazi to relive one of the more satisfying villain deaths in cinematic history from the comfort of your own home.

Escape Rooms

Post game green screen photo the team on the bridge of the boat being rescued.

Here’s your annual reminder to purchase a gift certificate from a local escape room company. It’s the perfect gift. 

Apparel 

Legends of the Hidden Temple T-shirts

$13 (17 CAD) (£19)

You either grew up with this and think these shirts are awesome… or you have no idea what I’m talking about. (More Details)

A black shirt with the white outline of a black cube.

Rusty Lake Apparel

$17.50

I love this creepy mobile escape room-style video game series. It has long deserved a post… stay tuned. If you or your loved ones are Rusties… may I suggest the Cube shirt? You know what to do. 

For Kids

A scratch programming demo featuring an animated cat.

Scratch

Free!

Coding is fun and a critical literacy now and in the future. 

Scratch is a free programming language for children to create stories, animations, and games. It’s a straightforward, unintimidating way to learn how to create with code. To kickstart your kid, check out the book, Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games.

Puzzle your kids logo

Puzzle Your Kids

Free/$3 per month

This is an email subscription from Eric Berlin, the creator of the wonderful Winston Breen book series. He delivers a weekly paper puzzle (in PDF format) designed for younger puzzlers (but often still interesting for adults). It has both free and paid tiers. 

A clear sphere filled with colorful ramps and mazes.

Perplexus 

$17 (25 CAD) (£23)

Perplexus is a dexterity puzzle where a player attempts to navigate a silver ball through 100+ obstacles. It’s fun and challenging. 

I’ve seen these things in quite a few escape room lobbies, but it turns out that they are huge with kids. 

Perplexus comes in a number of different flavors including the Epic and Star Wars: Death Star editions. 

Playmobile Haunted House includes dracula in a coffin, dr frankenstein, and frankenstein's monster.

Playmobil

Starting at ~$20 (~29 CAD) (~£43)

Lisa grew up with Playmobil. She had an entire town of people. They provided her with an endless outlet for creativity in play (and inadvertently, a career). Today, Playmobil offers Explorers of the Hidden Temple and Haunted House play sets, among many others. They are so escape room-y, it’s not even funny. Get your kids hooked on adventure while they’re young. 

Two kids reaching under the Klask table to play it.

Klask: The Magnetic Game of Skill

$38 (68 CAD) (£40)

It’s like air hockey, but with magnets and a few added obstacles. Plus, it doesn’t take up an entire room. 

The orange Curiosity Box featuring an adorable octopus logo.

The Curiosity Box

From $49.90 per quarter for a quarterly plan to $45.90 per quarter for an annual plan

This box is delivered quarterly with 9 science toys, puzzles, books, and games designed to entertain and educate a knowledge-hungry kid. 

Charity

Direct Relief's orange logo.

Direct Relief

“Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”

Direct Relief on Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator: Your Guide To Intelligent Giving's compass logo.

Give & Give Smart

Regardless of the organization you plan to donate to, please take a few minutes to research the way that the non-profit operates. Charity Navigator evaluates non-profits based on their financial responsibility and transparency. 

I’m not going to name names, but I can guarantee that Charity Navigator will change the way you look at some of the best known non-profits.

Past Buyers Guides

Our past guides still have great stuff in them…

2017

2016

Thank You

Thank you to our friends Brett, Max, Paula, and John for their wonderful suggestions for this holiday buyer’s guide.

If you purchase via our Amazon links or use our discount codes, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.

Exit The Game – The Sunken Treasure [Review]

SCUBA puzzle adventure!

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 11, 2018

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $10

Publisher: KOSMOS

REA Reaction

One small change can greatly impact how a game feels. The Sunken Treasure had entirely linear gameplay. This departure from Exit The Game’s semi-linear approach to tabletop escape game design created a smooth and calm puzzling experience. I found it pleasurable. 

We never wondered whether we were working on the right puzzle, or one where we had all of the components. We knocked out the challenges as The Sunken Treasure served them up. This enabled us to focus on the story and play with confidence.

While linearity worked well here, this isn’t an endorsement of linear play-at-home gameplay across the board. As with most design decisions, it’s situational.

The Sunken Treasure is one of the easiest Exit The Game installments that we’ve encountered. This didn’t bother us at all; we rather enjoyed the calmer seas. 

If you’re a fan of Exit The Game, this is one of the must-play chapters. If you’ve never played before, this should be your first. 

Sunken Treasure's box art features a sunken tall ship.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Smooth linear gameplay
  • Tangible puzzles
  • An approachable difficulty curve

Story

We set off in search of the legendary treasure of the Santa Maria. You’ll be shocked to learn that we did, in fact, find it .

The sunken treasure journal, decoder wheel, and an assortment of small components.

Setup

The Sunken Treasure followed the same destructible paper-puzzle structure that I explained in our first batch of Exit The Game reviews, but with one significant difference. For the sake of brevity, you can read about the structure in our original review: 

Unlike in the others, however, the gameplay in The Sunken Treasure was entirely linear. It presented the puzzles one at a time. Solving each one advanced the story and provided us another complete puzzle. This small change significantly – and in my opinion, positively – impacted the play. 

An old gold coin and 6 gems of different colors.

Gameplay

Exit The Game’s The Sunken Treasure was a linear play-at-home escape game with an approachable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.

Stacks of riddle, answer, and help cards.

Analysis

➕ The linear gameplay removed ambiguity. This was the first Exit The Game that we’ve played where we never found ourselves attempting to solve a puzzle before we had all its components. We never once missed that added challenge. 

➕ As the story progressed, the puzzles ramped up along a comfortable difficulty curve. 

➕ With one exception the puzzles felt fair and solved cleanly. 

➖ One puzzle had us in the weeds trying to figure out what we were supposed to see. In the end we got the correct answer for the wrong reason. We never would have even noticed if I didn’t make a habit of checking the hint cards at the end of each puzzle to verify that we had approached it properly. 

An assortment of help cards.

➖ While we didn’t really need it, the hinting wasn’t granular enough. Should you need a hint on one of the more complex puzzles, you’re likely going to get more of a push than you’ll want or need. Exit the Game could smooth this over by adding a few extra hint cards to the more complex puzzles. 

➕ We adored the tangible interactions in The Sunken Treasure. They exceeded my expectations, based on my experience with previous Exit The Game tangible puzzles. 👍

❓ This felt like the easiest Exit The Game that we’ve played to date. I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I liked it. Your feelings may differ on this subject. 

Tips For Playing

  • Space Requirements: minimal, a small table or floorspace will suffice
  • Required Gear: paper, pencil, and scissors.

Buy your copy of Exit The Game’s Sunken Treasure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: KOSMOS provided a sample for review. 

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

YULU – Fire Quest [Review]

🔥

Location: at home

Date Played: June 8, 2018

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 15 minutes*

Price: $??.??

REA Reaction

Fire Quest torched our expectations. We set this DIY obstacle course up for my 11 year-old cousin at my brother’s 30th birthday party. Within a few minutes, 10 people spanning 3 generations were running around our makeshift challenge course competing for the best time.

Fire Quest can play well for young children or older kids with good motor skills. The players define the course, making it as easy or hard as they desire. With a bit of creativity, it works remarkably well for adults. Additionally, this could make for an epic drinking game.

While there’s room for improved variety in Fire Quest’s built-in components, consider this a strong recommendation for families, children, and adults who haven’t forgotten how to enjoy themselves.

In-game: The torch glowing blue on its cradle and the Fire Quest box.

Sadly Fire Quest was a limited release by YULU. It will not be distributed through their regular channels. This is too bad because it’s a fabulous game. At the end of the review, you’ll find links to a few marketplaces with limited quantities of Fire Quest available for purchase. Buy it now if you want it. This might be your only chance. We hope it gets a wider release some day.

Who is this for?

  • Anyone with a willingness to play
  • People with a bit of mobility
  • Fire Quest was designed for children

Why play?

  • It has appeal for players of all ages
  • The torch balances well but not effortlessly
  • It’s easy to set up, learn, and administer
  • Endlessly adaptable

Story

We entered a temple filled with obstacles and treasure. We had to carry our torch through the challenges in order to earn our prize.

Setup

Fire Quest was fantastically straightforward. We had a torch that cradled a fireball.

To start the game, one player picked up the torch from its base, starting the timer. Upon lifting, the torch randomly started glowing one of five colors. The colors corresponded to a challenge that we had setup around us. Whatever color the torch glowed was the challenge that required completion. That player cycled through all five challenges in the order the torch demanded, returned the torch to its cradle, and checked their time.

In-game: Lisa passing the red torch through a red ring.

Red – Hoop Challenge

We had hung three hoops with big clips on a book shelf. The player had to pass the torch through those hoops.

Yellow – Balance Challenge

Four paper disks each depicted a different task (step on the disk and touch it with your hand, pivot 360 degrees on the disk, etc). The player had to navigate a path of these disks following the instructions while traversing them and acting like the surrounding floor was lava.

In-game: the set of green cards and the green pad.

Green – Action Challenge

The player drew one of five cards. Each card depicted a trick that had to be done with the torch (pass the torch behind your back, between your legs, etc).

Blue – Rope Challenge

The player clipped the torch to a blue rope and had to lead the torch along the rope’s path.

In-game: Lisa placing the purple torch onto the purple pad.

Purple – Obstacle Challenge

This was my personal favorite challenge. Fire Quest asked us to create our own obstacle (climb over/ crawl under a thing, jump over something, etc).

Gameplay

YULU’s Fire Quest was a DIY obstacle course with a customizable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay – as defined by the instructions – revolved around balance, coordination, and dexterity… but you could use this torch to facilitate a wide variety of challenges.

Analysis

+ The torch and fireball were the core of Fire Quest. YULU nailed this. Balancing the fireball isn’t brutally challenging, but if you do something too difficult or stop paying attention, gravity will do its thing. They balanced the… balance. When the fireball dropped the player always knew it was their own fault.

+ The LED lighting of the fireball mixed with the sound effects and timer felt satisfying and drew in new people.

– There was one small problem with the torch: accidentally double-tapping on the slam pads. Less careful players could easily double press the button, effectively bypassing a challenge from the torch’s perspective. This could have been avoided by YULU disabling the button for a few seconds after it has depressed.

+ The baked-in timer made the game really easy to self administer.

+ The hoops fit together snugly but had built in break points. If impacted, they could separate without actually breaking.

– We found ourselves wishing that YULU had done a little more with the paper components like the yellow stepping stones and the green challenge cards. A few more of these items would have added a lot of depth to the challenges at minimal expense.

– The yellow stepping stones would be better laminated or made of a more durable material. They do get stepped on, after all.

Fire Quest brought together three generations for a little while to do something new.

+ By having the timer count up instead of down, it allowed everyone to play at their own pace and ability. It also allowed us to make increasingly lengthy and complex challenges without slamming into a limited timer.

Fire Quest was a game that begged for creativity. I think that YULU did this knowingly. The purple challenge was designed as a “create your own challenge,” which ensured that every player knew that creating challenges was an option. Fire Quest wasn’t rigid. It suggested how to play and then invited customization, silliness, and adaptation… It wanted us to play.

Tips for Playing

  • Batteries not included. Fire Quest requires 3 AAA’s.
  • Some of the torch colors don’t illuminate clearly in sunlight. Yellow was particularly difficult to see in the sun.
  • Use your imagination and feel free to reinvent the challenges as you see fit.
  • If you turn this into a drinking game, please do so responsibly.
  • For playground play or other simplified purposes, Fire Quest could be reduced to the torch and the cradle.

Buy your copy of YULU’s Fire Quest, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Fire Quest is available in limited quantities from Zulily and Ebay and Christianbook.com and Walmart.

Disclosure: YULU gave us a complementary reviewer’s copy of this game.

Trip 1907 [Review]

We finished with 86 sanity… which seems accurate.

Location: at home

Date Played: May – June 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 1-2

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $17

REA Reaction

Damn I wish I could draw like this. The incredible art in Trip 1907 made me want to study every page of the book. In addition to beautiful illustrations, Trip 1907 presented 44 puzzles, most of which solved cleanly. It wrapped the puzzles in a Lovecraftian mystery through ancient artifacts, monsters, cultists, and rituals. The thematic hint system forced us to sacrifice our sanity for assistance.

An intricate sketch of a long-necked dragon-like sea monster.

I wish I could end this review here and wholeheartedly recommend this book. It got a lot right… but I can’t.

A minority of puzzles felt imprecise or nonsensical. The thematic hint system was blind; it vacillated between helpful, cruel, and silly. This combined to beat down our confidence in the game. When we got stuck, we couldn’t be sure if we weren’t puzzling well… or if we would later learn that the puzzle was rubbish. This lack of trust sucked a lot of fun out of working through challenging puzzles.

The entirely linear nature of the book exacerbated these frustrations. When we got stuck, we couldn’t move on to anything else until we finished the puzzle.

There was a lot to love in Trip 1907; it got a lot right. However, the stuff that didn’t work well tainted the fantastic. When we finished the final puzzle we were happy, not because we felt accomplished, but because we were done.

If you’re a puzzler who’s willing to embrace all of the wonderful aspects of Trip 1907 and let its flaws be, then there’s good content and value within its pages.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Some great puzzles
  • Beautiful illustrations
  • An interesting and cohesive story

Story

Trip 1907 told the Lovecraftian tale of a boathand on a freighter ship carrying a mysterious and nefarious cargo.

As the mystery expanded, so did the main character’s madness.

The faux leather cover of Trip 1907: Interactive Escape The Book Game features a gold compass rose with tentacles emerging from North.

Setup

Trip 1907 was played with a book and an internet-connected device. (We used an iPhone exclusively.)

Similarly to Journal 29, each 2-page spread offered a puzzle/ illustration. We submitted our answer through a website.

The website also provided a fairly substantial amount of prose – not included in the book – to convey the story.

Trip 1907 had a structured hint system whereby we could trade sanity for a hint. The website kept track of our sanity. We started with 100 sanity points and could trade 4 points for a mild hint and 6 points for a heavy hint. Solving puzzles restored some sanity.

A long hand-written prose journal entry dated September 15 1907.

Gameplay

Trip 1907 was a puzzle-based book with a detailed narrative and a heavily variable level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, building connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

+ Many of the puzzles in Trip 1907 solved elegantly. If we struggled, we took a break and returned later to find a workable solution.

– Early on, the web app seemed to have intentionally hidden hyperlinks that were critical to puzzling. This may have been easier to find on desktop, but the lack of hover-states on mobile made them almost impossible to find. This made a fairly straightforward puzzle infuriating.

– Some puzzles didn’t fit together cleanly. Some of these weaker puzzles were a little obtuse; others seemed deliberately misleading.

In-game: Illustration of a hooded cultist saying, "What?"

– Midway through Trip 1907, a puzzle completely changed the rules of the book without any warning or sufficient cluing. Once the shift happened, we knew what to look for, but the change was needlessly brutal.

+ The illustrations were beautiful, even if they weren’t all that relevant to the puzzles.

+/- The story was entertaining and generally well written and compelling. The online content, however, struggled with readability. The center justification and font choice made the act of reading the story uncomfortable. It also could have been edited down by, say, 20%.

+ If we’d wanted to completely ignore the story and focus entirely on the puzzles we could have.

+ The hint system was baked into the web app, always accessible, and tied to a Lovecraftian sanity point system. Solving puzzles earned sanity; using hints burned sanity.

– When we really needed a hint, the hint system rarely provided anything helpful. We were typically caught up on some small late-puzzle detail. The hints usually pointed to concepts that we had already figured out. Additionally, because the hints were blind, and we were penalized sanity points for taking them, it was extra irritating to receive information we already knew.

– Trip 1907 required us to solve it linearly. This meant that if we got stuck on a puzzle, we couldn’t advance at all until we’d solved it. As a result, we put the book down for weeks at a time.

– Two late-game puzzles utterly shattered the mythology of the book. I might have forgiven this if the puzzles were any good, but I think they were also the two weakest puzzles in the entire book.

Tips for Playing

  • Playing Trip 1907 requires a copy of the book, an internet connected device, pencil (or Frixion pens), and scissors.
  • Headphones are optional.

Order your copy of Trip 1907, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.