Missing is a puzzle book created by Nomis Piy in Singapore.
Style of Play:
Who is it For?
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
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.
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
Page count: 240 pages of written material; about 80 pages of puzzles and solutions
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.
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!
Price: about $29 ($14.99 each for Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story)
In this third (nameless?) game, unlocked by solving bothTime Drifters: Kira’s Story and Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, we collaborated across a video call to reunite our two heroines. The premise was adorable, and perfect for a pandemic era of virtual, distanced play. The puzzles relied primarily on communication, and this worked well.
The game excelled at reusing game components from Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story in entirely new ways. Furthermore, knowledge we’d gained solving these previous stories was relevant in the third game. The flow of information went in the right direction, with each story informing the combined experience, but the combined game never impeding the individual games.
The biggest let down during our play was Mattel’s website. The solution was not able to be internally confirmed in any way, and the website where we would confirm it (and see hints) was down for at least a number of days.
I wish that Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story were sold together, with the option to supply to separate mailing addresses. It would be a letdown to only purchase one, and not enjoy this sequence of collaborative communication puzzles, which was revealed upon completion of either game. The product felt like 3 games in 2 boxes.
Tips For Players
To play this “third game,” you need to have solved either Time Drifters: Kira’s Story or Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story. Set up a video call with friends who have solved the other game and combine your knowledge and materials to solve this game.
Space Requirements: a small table
Required Gear: pen and paper
Buy your copy of Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Kira’s Story and Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story was able to deliver a surprising level of complexity and variable gameplay, considering how few objects were seemingly contained in the box. Every item, both in and on the box, was cleverly used in multiple, varied ways, keeping us on our toes. The items were tangible and fun to play with, and worked well as puzzle-solving tools and mechanisms.
Many tabletop games lean towards word puzzles presented on paper, yet Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story went hard in the logic puzzle category. This was a welcome change for our team of logic-obsessed puzzlers, but may not be for everyone. While not too challenging for experienced players, this would be a great way to engage puzzle-curious friends and family members. The game contained a subtle yet effective way to lead players from puzzle to puzzle without being overbearing.
While the puzzles included were fun, and the flow of the game worked, the experience felt short. We were left longing for another handful of puzzles after the first portion of the game.
Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story felt incomplete without Time Drifters: Kira’s Story, as the gameplay came to an abrupt halt after solving the final “solo” puzzle. At this juncture, we were presented with multiple additional puzzles with only half of the information.
I absolutely love that this game came out during these crazy unprecedented times, with the option to go on Amazon or stop by your local Target to pick up half, while someone 3 time zones away could pick up the other half. Although the box notes you can have a friend purchase the other half, this should be more strongly portrayed as only a partial game without both copies. The game can also be easily reset and passed onto another group, with the option to print paper components you may have written on.
Time Drifters as a whole is a great option for distance puzzling with friends and loved ones you can’t typically puzzle with in person.
Tips For Players
Space Requirements: a small table
Required Gear: pen and paper
Buy your copy of Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.