Sleuth Kings – Case 020: Blood P.I. [Review]

Bloody actors

Location:  at home

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 1-3 hours

Price: $29.95 per month ($83.85 for 3 months, $159.60 for 6 months)

REA Reaction

Sleuth Kings has come a long way since we played Case 001: The Guilty a year and a half ago.

19 cases later, it’s still a fun and solid puzzle game. The gameplay flowed well and the solves were satisfying.

Sleuth Kings has cleaned up the response time issues and minimized the emailing by adding an alternative hint system.

In-game: a Sleuth Kings file folder filled with clues.

Sleuth Kings’ cases are more challenging than escape rooms, but still quite approachable. If you’re looking to expand your puzzle solving skills outside of escape rooms, this is a good choice. Its consistent puzzle content delivered to you in a well-organized format with as much hand-holding as you want. For more experienced puzzlers, it won’t offer anything novel, but it will give you a monthly puzzle fix.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Any experience level
  • Players who want a monthly subscription

Why play?

  • Solid puzzles
  • Interactive gameplay
  • There’s a new one every month!

Story

In Case 020: Blood P.I., we had to identify who’d been stalking Rosalyn Neal, the actress who played Rebecca Blood, the lead character in a popular vampire detective show. She’d just been shot, and while she would recover, we were under the impression that this stalker was behind the incident.

The illustrated game box, a charcoal image of a woman in a detective's office.

SETUP

Sleuth Kings sent a slick cardboard box containing a case file with various printed materials. These included an investigation report and various clues to the case. Everything was clearly labeled for orderly solving.

We emailed Detective Sullivan King to begin our investigation.

In-game: Sleuth Kings Case 020 envelope.

Gameplay

Sleuth Kings’ Case 020: Blood P.I. was a play-at-home detective game with a moderate level of difficulty.

The puzzles were more challenging than typical escape room puzzles, but quite approachable. They were substantially easier than you’d find in a typical puzzle hunt.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, decoding, puzzling, and emailing the detective.

In-game: An assortment of photos of eyes, one natural blue, one an unnatural red.

Analysis

➕ Case 020: Blood P.I. delivered varied and interesting puzzles. Some resolved with aha moments. Others took a bit more process to complete. Overall, it was a satisfying collection of solves.

➖ Although the puzzles were solid, they weren’t revolutionary or particularly memorable.

➕ The story made sense. It was a bit hokey, ridiculous even, but I don’t think it needed to be believable. The gameplay worked within the story.

➖ There was a lot of reading involved in solving this case. The story was told through text rather than through the puzzles themselves. Additionally, in a couple of instances, the font choice was a tad arduous.

➕/➖ Case 020: Blood P.I. contained generally high quality printed materials. That said, it still felt a bit homemade, some pieces more than others.

➕ The mailing was well organized and clearly labeled. It was easy to get started. While there were a lot of materials, they never felt overwhelming. The gameplay flowed smoothly.

➕ There was a nuanced hint system. A Clue Analysis was included with the Investigation Report in the mailing. Players who need a nudge can take a peak. The detective’s assistant, Celest, had a website where we could find additional hints. We could always email the detective. He replied pretty quickly, but if there was lag time, we had this other tool at our disposal.

❓ Although I liked the organization, and always knowing where to focus my attention, this may come across as too much hand-holding for some, especially when coupled with some of the additional hint-y materials available in the package.

➕ While there was still lag time in the detective’s responses, it was no longer momentum-killing, as it was when we first played. Sleuth Kings has minimized the emailing; we had a quarter as many email threads this time around. In this playthrough, the emails made the game more interactive, in a positive way.

➕ Sleuth Kings has managed to churn out one case a month. Although we haven’t played the others, we hear the puzzle quality is consistent and the meta mystery through the series is interesting.

Tips For Player

  • Required Gear: You need an internet-connected device (we recommend a computer), and pen and paper for taking notes.

Subscribe to Sleuth Kings, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you to Darren and Melissa for sharing their copy of this game with us.

Note that your purchased subscription will start with the current month’s game. Case 020: Blood P.I. as other past cases can be purchased here.

NEScape! on the Nintendo Entertainment System [Review]

Going Retro

Location:  Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Date Played: June 9, 2019

Team size: we recommend 1-2

Duration: 60 minute time loops

Price: $10 (ROM), $60 (cartridge & ROM)

Publisher: KHAN Games

REA Reaction

NEScape! is a new escape room video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (or downloadable ROM).

This game captured old-school escape room gameplay on old-school video game hardware… and did a generally good job.

Translucent blue NEScape! cartridge.

There are 4 days left to back this Kickstarter and it is fully funded. The decision to back should be simple:

  • Do you like the idea of old-school, puzzle-forward gameplay?
  • Does playing an escape game on NES hardware sound fun?
  • Do you have access to a NES?

If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then give them your money.

Lisa's hands on an NES controller.

NEScape! isn’t flawless. There are more than a few things that I think could improve it.

NEScape! isn’t revolutionary. It can’t be. It runs on 8-bit hardware in 2019.

For me, that was fine. Now that I’ve completed playing it, just looking at the cartridge makes me smile.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Retro gamers
  • Point & click fans
  • People who really just want to own the game cartridge
  • Players with at least some puzzle experience

Why play?

  • Classic escape room puzzle play on the NES
  • It’s different

Story

We were in an escape room and needed to puzzle our way out. Like I said, old school.

Setup

We received NEScape! in cartridge form. That meant that the first puzzle was finding a working Nintendo Entertainment System or a high quality NES clone like the RetroUSB AVS. The Retron5 and RetroDuo (which I love) unfortunately didn’t do the job.

So… we went out to a local retro video game arcade called Yestercades to play with their toys.

NEScape! in a NES.

Puzzle two was mounting the cartridge so that it, ya know, worked. It was as tough as I remembered. A friendly reminder: Blowing on Nintendo cartridges doesn’t help and can cause corrosion.

Once we were up and running, NEScape! was a point & click puzzle game on an 8-bit platform. The controls were simple. We had to find objects and use them to solve the puzzles that lined the game world’s 4 walls.

Gameplay

KHAN Game’s NEScape! was a point & click escape game with puzzles of varying levels of difficulty and a non-negotiable 60-minute game clock that terminated the run at 0.

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

In-game animation: a cursor selecting books with zodiac symbols on them.
Via KHAN Games

Analysis

➕ Opening the mail and finding a translucent blue NES cartridge was utterly delightful.

➕ The colors were vibrant and made good use of the limited graphics capacity of the NES.

➕ The controls were easy. Lisa was never a console gamer and had no problems picking them up quickly. There wasn’t any action, so my decades of muscle memory weren’t particularly useful.

➕ The opening sequence was an unusual intro that taught the basics, provided a puzzle and allowed us to bypass it.

➕ There was solid point & click escape game-style play that captured the feeling of escape room puzzles from 4-5 years ago.

➕ There was a structured, self-service online hint system, should you get stuck (or, like us, be playing in a loud space, which inhibited us from solving auditory puzzles).

❓ There were a number of auditory puzzles that we had to bypass with hints. The clanging of pinball, the beeping of arcade cabinets, and the crashing of Skee-Ball at Yestercades meant that we couldn’t hear audio puzzles. It seemed like NEScape! was doing some interesting things with sound, but I genuinely have no idea how anything sounded. When I eventually replay in a quiet location, I’ll update this.

➖ At the start of each chapter, we began with the “lights off” and had to find the switch. This was hard the first time and easy, but annoying, in subsequent chapters.

❓/➕ We aren’t good at slide puzzles. We’d like to get better at them when we have a little time. We ended up sinking a little more than half of our time in our first play loop into a slide puzzle. In our second hour, we just used the hint system to power through the slide pattern. (We so appreciated that the hints included the solution pattern.)

➖ There were times where puzzle solves had no visual indication of completion. There may have been auditory feedback, but we don’t know. It made certain aspects of the game feel clunky. Sure we were playing under sub-optimal circumstances, but visual feedback of success would have been a significant improvement, even if it was just for accessibility purposes.

➖ The ball maze puzzle was visually jittery and difficult to look at.

In-game animation: A ball navigating through a maze.
Via KHAN Games

➕ There were some really great destructible puzzles… the kind that you wouldn’t typically see in a real life escape room.

NEScape! would have benefited from more puzzles that could only work in a digital environment. There were a few too many puzzles that were straight translations from the real world.

❓ We felt pretty conflicted on the rigid timer that terminated the game at 0 forcing us to start over:

  • On one hand, it was annoying. It felt like there was an opportunity to do something more creative at 0 or offer more outcome options.
  • On the other hand, unforgiving fail-states is pretty much tradition on the NES. It wasn’t a big deal because we were able to navigate through the game pretty quickly on our second playthrough to pick up where we’d left off.

➕ It’s a Kickstarter… but the full product exists. For those of us who have been burned before, knowing that a crowdfunding project is more than notional ain’t nothing.

Tips For Playing

  • Time Requirements: I would plan on playing at least 2 or 3 hours (unless you’re good at slide puzzles or plan to bypass it with the hint system).
  • Required Gear: You’ll need a Nintendo Entertainment System or a high-quality clone. We also used pen and paper to track our solutions. This was especially helpful on our second play-though.

Back KHAN Game’s NEScape! on Kickstarter, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

There are only 4 days left to back this.

Disclosure: KHAN Games 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.)

Physically Mapping Escape Room Travels

David’s parents gave us a nifty gift! A set of Wanderlust Scratch Off Maps.

The package contained both a map of the USA and one of the World.

Out partially scratched off USA map.
This map is about 12 inches by 18 inches.

Scratch-Off Map

Thus far we’ve played escape rooms in a dozen countries and 26 states (and DC). It turned out… that was a lot of scratching.

It appears our escape room habit has a coastal bias in the US. We’ll need to change that. Our travels abroad have been disproportionately to Europe. We hope to get back to Asia soon!

If you’re a traveling escape room player, you might be interested in one of these scratch-off maps. You can see your escape travel trends in vivid color.

Out partially scratched off world map.
This map is about 18 inches by 24 inches.

Tips for Scratching

Thankfully the maps came with a guitar pick that was considerably more effective than a coin.

It’s deceptively challenging to color in the lines. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

The scratching produces quite a lot of shavings. If you try to suck them off the map with a Dustbuster, you might inadvertently make a scratch with the Dustbuster. Sorry, Montana. We’ll just have to visit!

Finally, the maps emerge from the box curled up in a roll. The hardcover Harry Potter series is fantastic for flattening them.

You could use these maps to keep track of all sorts of travels. We know a couple who is trying to win an escape room in every state. Could be a fun way to keep track.

Wanderlust Scratch Off Maps

Airmail Adventures – The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn [Review]

Letters from the League of Treasure Hunters

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 19, 2019

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $51

Publisher: Airmail Adventures

REA Reaction

We played a late beta of Airmail Adventures’ first game, The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn months before its Kickstarter launch. (So, yes, it’s on Kickstarter, but there actually is a game. It exists.)

Airmail Adventures did a beautiful job of building their 6-episode, kid-focused, tabletop puzzle game around the player. They created a fictional world. Each subsequent package added to the feeling that the player was impacting the game’s world.

A letter, sheet music, a map, and compass.

The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a more challenging game than we were anticipating given its intended audience. It was absolutely solvable. While the puzzles varied in difficulty, I suspect that most of the kids who complete it will feel like they earned their victory.

The puzzles felt incredibly uneven. Some were great; some left something to be desired. Additionally, we persistently felt bogged down by the volume of reading. There was a lot to take in and the font choice didn’t make it easier on the eyes.

Additionally, we can’t really comment on the quality of the hint system as it wasn’t completed when we played. Our guess is that if Airmail Adventures built a quality hint system it would mitigate some of the more frustrating puzzles.

All in all, this was an interesting game for late elementary school and early middle school aged-kids who like to read, puzzle, and think for fun.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Children and families
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A child-friendly play-at-home puzzle adventure
  • A feeling of impact: solving puzzles created the illusion of changing the game world
  • Some brilliant puzzles

Story

We had been recruited to help the virtuous League of Treasure Hunters discover lost relics and share them with the world.

As members of the League, we were privy to information about their expeditions and able to help from afar by deciphering the clues, riddles, and ciphers to identify the location of the treasure… and suss out villains who would attempt to steal and sell the treasure.

An introductory letter.

Setup

Divided into 6 different mailings, The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a serialized puzzle game made of mostly paper-based components: letters, maps, journals, and the like.

Each mailing was part of a sequential story and built on what came before it.

A leather bound journal and a letter.

Gameplay

Airmail Adventures’ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a play-at-home escape game designed for children, with a high level of difficulty for the intended audience.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and deducing.

Analysis

The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn placed the child player as a character in the game. The design was subtle, but brilliantly executed. We could see how children playing detectives would feel as if they had a role in deducing this mystery and affecting the game world.

➕ Airmail Adventures crafted beautiful letters and other mostly paper-based items for this play-at-home adventure. We could tell that a lot of love and care went into the design and creation of the props. The materials felt good to hold, sift through, ponder over, and fiddle with.

➖ We inadvertently destroyed some of the game materials… with an object sent to us as part of the game. It was the very thing that made the object interesting that we used to wipe out some of the game’s content.

➕ The different items that carried the gameplay made sense in the world. They served different purposes, narratively and puzzle-y. This structure of items worked well.

➖ There was a lot of reading in The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn. We felt bogged down by this. At times, choice of font added to our frustration. Mostly, however, it was an issue of volume.

➕ We enjoyed many of the puzzles in The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn. Although some felt repetitive to us as adults, we can see how children would build mastery through play and gain satisfaction out of solving new puzzles with the same mechanics. This design worked for the intended audience.

The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn required substantial deciphering. Airmail Adventures should provide definitive cipher keys as at least one of the ciphers used has common variants.

➕/➖ The puzzles varied enormously in cluing. They weren’t necessarily challenging, but at times they required significant logic leaps. In our favorite puzzle in the game, for example, the tolerances needed to be tighter to properly orient the player. This was quite a bummer because the puzzle was brilliant.

❓ We played a copy that wasn’t fully ready for testing. We were unable to assess the hint system and we cannot comment on how it will work in its final state. At the time we played, Airmail Adventures had an unfinished website that was difficult to use.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Gear Requirements: pencil, paper, and an internet-connected device
  • The purchaser will receive all the game components and will be responsible for distributing them to the people playing the game.

Back Airmail Adventures’ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn on Kickstarter and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Airmail Adventures provided a sample for review.

Our Custom Morse Code Doormat

Back in February we bought our first house… which was a bit of an adventure… and continues to be one. Some chaos notwithstanding, our new house and neighborhood are lovely.

We wanted people to understand our values before entering… so we designed a doormat to convey the message.

Doormat

I commissioned Etsy store DamnGoodDoormats to produce this:

Morse code welcome mat reads, -.- -. --- -.-. -.-, -.- -. --- -.-. -.-.

I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I also asked DamnGoodDoormats to put the Morse Code Mat up on their store so that anyone can buy one.

We don’t get anything for the sale of these doormats… because Etsy’s affiliate program is garbage. We just wanted to share this with our readers.

Ravensburger – Submarine Escape Puzzle [Review]

Puzzle shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

With a vibrant look, Submarine stood out aesthetically among the first wave of Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.

From a puzzle solving standpoint, this installment pretty much nailed it… except for one noteworthy issue: a puzzle that didn’t quite resolve correctly. While this didn’t break the game, if this were your first attempt at an Escape Puzzle, it would be a harsh and confounding ending.

If you’ve already enjoyed an Escape Puzzles or 2, Submarine would be fantastic. Just watch out for a bit of confusion near the conclusion and you’ll have a good time.

An assortment of unconnected jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Story

While wandering the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we’d happened upon an old man and his submarine. He’d previously used the boat to explore wrecks, but he’d grown too old for sea adventures and had offered the sub to us. We’d accepted and he explained its inner workings to us… but we’d been bored by this.

As soon as we’d pulled away from the dock, something broke and we sank to the bottom of the sea. We had to figure out what to do to survive.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a shark, and fish swimming around a wreck.
Submarine

Analysis

➕ The jigsaw puzzle was vibrant. It featured great art.

➕ It was a moderately challenging, but fair assembly. There was a lot of blue, but there were also lots of fish and details to help pull everything together.

Ravensburger's Submarine Escape Puzzle box art. depicts the 759 piece count and an undersea view filled with fish and a shark.

❓ We found most of the “escape room” puzzles to be a touch easier than those in the other Escape Puzzles released in Ravensburger’s first wave.

➖ The story in the instructions featured a choppy English translation.

➖ One of the puzzle solutions was at best lacking a significant clue… but it was probably just an incorrect inversion of the numbers. This was disappointing, but it wasn’t game-breaking… especially if you’ve played other Escape Puzzles and have a sense of how they work.

Closeup of a puzzle element depicting three different types of fish.
If you’re struggling on this puzzle… you’re probably right and the game is wrong.
Broken Puzzle:

The actually correct answer to the above fish puzzle is 846.

For unclear reasons, the game reports the correct solution as 462. We stared at this thing with a few really experienced puzzlers (including 2009 US Sudoku National Champion, Tammy McLeod) and we couldn’t imagine a way to get 462. I have to believe that this was a typo.

[collapse]

➕ The concluding meta-puzzle was another clever solution. Ravensburger pushed this game mechanic considerably farther than we’d expected.

BUY IT NOW

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Submarine Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger 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.)

Ravensburger – Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle [Review]

Cat and a hat.

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle was playful and colorful. It offered solid puzzle play throughout all phases of the game.

While we think that this puzzle would have benefited from a just a touch more vibrancy in its coloration, this was without a doubt our puzzle group’s favorite Escape Puzzle.

If you’re thinking about attempting a Ravensburger Escape Puzzle, Witch’s Kitchen would be an enchanting place to start.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a kettle over a fire surrounded by magical ingredients and books.
Witch’s Kitchen

Story

While wandering through the woods, we’d decided to sample some of the local mushrooms, as one does. The wild mushrooms had had unexpected effects, as they often do, and we’d felt faint and stumbled into a hollow.

As we came to our senses, we’d realized that we were in the home of a witch… and if we were ever going to get out, we’d need to find the antidote for the poison shrooms.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a a witch's hat and a rat.

Analysis

➕ As a jigsaw puzzle, the image was entertaining with a lot of details to enjoy.

➖ The image was pretty brown. It felt like the box art was more vibrant than the puzzle itself.

➕ The variation between the box art and the jigsaw puzzle was fantastic. We found the differences in this puzzle more playful than in the other escape puzzles in the series.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a magical books and ingredients.

➕ The “escape room” puzzles were clear and solved cleanly.

➕ The culminating meta-puzzle was clever.

Buy it Now

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Witch’s Kitchen Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger 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.)

Ravensburger – Space Observatory Escape Puzzle [Review]

The Death Star

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Space Observatory offered a slightly more challenging jigsaw than the other Ravensburger Escape Puzzles, but concluded with a softer series of “escape room” puzzles.

If you’re more of a jigsaw puzzler, Space Observatory is the smart place to start. It worked well from beginning to end. Its meta-puzzle was a little easier to grasp than those in the other Escape Puzzles.

Whether you’re new with the series, already a fan of these, Space Observatory put on a strong show for the Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Ravensburger Escape Puzzle Overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a beautiful telescope in a warm book-filled study.
Space Observatory

Story

While exploring an observatory, we’d happened upon a letter from a professor warning us of an impending cataclysm. The professor had build a device capable of saving the world, but couldn’t activate it. It was up to us to save the world.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a map of the planets.

Analysis

➕ When it all came together, the jigsaw puzzle’s art was delightful.

❓ While we were assembling the jigsaw puzzle, a whole lot of it felt really similar… especially the many shelved books. Whether this is wonderful or annoying really comes down to personal preference.

➕ One of the “escape room” puzzles featured a really clever twist that was a bit confounding for more experienced puzzlers.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a microscope and a quill pen.

❓ The concluding meta-puzzle was considerably easier than those in the other 3 Escape Puzzles. This would be great if Space Observatory was your first Escape Puzzle… and may be less interesting if it was your fourth.

Buy Now

Buy your copy of Ravensburger’s Space Observatory Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger 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.)

Ravensburger – Escape Puzzle [Overview]

Jigsaw puzzle mixed with a tabletop escape game.

Location:  at home

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

We really liked this series of puzzle hybrids: famed jigsaw puzzle producer Ravensburger applied an escape room-esque twist to their core product.

The cover of Ravensburger Escape Puzzle, Witch's Kitchen.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we solved 3 of them while our friend, the wonderfully talented puzzler Tammy McLeod, spent a weekend visiting us.

In the first wave, Ravensburger has released 4 separate Escape Puzzles, each containing 759 puzzle pieces and incorporating 6 or 8 puzzles within the assembled image.

We love jigsaw puzzles. The Escape Puzzle twist was delightful because it added more purpose behind the assembling of a jigsaw puzzle.

An opened jigsaw puzzle box filled with pieces.

Not all of these puzzles were created equal. Some had more interesting art; others had better puzzles. We will discuss each in an individual review.

If this concept sounds like fun, begin with Witch’s Kitchen or Space Observatory for reasons that will become more clear in subsequent reviews.

Series Installments

Presented in order from our favorite to least favorite:

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a kettle over a fire surrounded by magical ingredients and books.
Witch’s Kitchen

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • They are good jigsaw puzzles
  • The added twist of an additional system of puzzles
  • The meta-puzzles

Setup & Gameplay

We’re going to publish short reviews of each puzzle in the series. For the sake of simplicity and repetition reduction, we’re covering the basics in this overview.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a beautiful telescope in a warm book-filled study.
Space Observatory

While the individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzles each offered a unique picture and puzzle set, they all followed the same structure:

1. Jigsaw Assembly

We began by assembling the 759-piece jigsaw puzzle. This progressed normally with only two deviations from traditional jigsaw puzzles:

First, we had to remove the extraneous rectangular pieces. These appeared to be a byproduct of Ravensburger’s production process. They were a minor annoyance.

A pile of junk rectangular pieces.
Not part of the puzzle… but included anyway.

Second, the edge of the Escape Puzzles was a bit strange. There were only 3 piece shapes and any of the pieces could interconnect with any other. Edge assembly relied completely upon the pieces’ colors, patterns, and textures.

Mismatched, but connected edge pieces.
All edges connect.

Additionally, many of the edge pieces had 2, 3, or 4 digit numbers printed on them. These became relevant later.

Edge pieces with numbers printed on them.

2. Puzzles Within the Puzzle

After assembling the jigsaw puzzle, we identified and solved the 6 or 8 puzzles within it. Some puzzles were obvious; some were more concealed. They were all embedded within the jigsaw puzzle image.

Each puzzle resolved to a number. Once we derived a correct answer, we’d find the piece with the corresponding number printed on it around the edge of the jigsaw puzzle. Then we removed that piece.

If we got stuck, we could reference a hint website for help. The hints were tiered, but usually only had two tiers.

3. The Meta-Puzzle

Each escape puzzle concluded with a meta-puzzle, or a puzzle made from the solutions of other puzzles.

We had to take our collection of numbered edge pieces from the previous step and determine what to do with them. I won’t say anything else about this, but it was our favorite part of these puzzles.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring a shark, and fish swimming around a wreck.
Submarine

Analysis

➕ The “escape room” puzzles at the end were a delightful addition to the traditional jigsaw puzzle. It was exciting to finish the jigsaw and then receive an entirely new challenge to cap things off. This game component was a welcome dynamic.

➕ Ravensburger makes high quality jigsaw puzzles that are printed well and fit snugly. They also have a beautiful blue backing that doesn’t add much from a functional standpoint, but looks more elegant than the traditional grey or brown backings that are common on most cardboard jigsaw puzzles.

➕ 759 pieces was a good piece count. It was serious enough to present a challenge without being so large that we were reluctant to dive in.

➕ Ravensburger cleverly included differences between the box art and the puzzle art. These changes were part of the environment itself and felt logically grounded. They also ensured that we couldn’t solve the puzzles without first solving the jigsaw puzzle.

Portion of an assembled jigsaw puzzle featuring suits of armor, and a burning candle.
Vampire’s Castle

➕ Ravensburger puzzles don’t have a crazy amount of puzzle dust. There’s still dust, but we’ve seen so much worse.

➖ Each Escape Puzzle’s box contained numerous square frame pieces that had nothing to do with the puzzle itself. They were garbage. These appeared to be an artifact of the production process. While it was not a big problem, it was a bit annoying to have to sift these junk pieces out of the box.

➕ Each Escape Puzzle had its own quirky story to set up the “escape.” The story was relevant to the final meta puzzle.

➕/➖ The “escape” puzzles were static print puzzles, akin to the kind of thing that one might find shared on social media or within a puzzle book. For the most part, these were executed well (detailed, non-spoiler analysis to follow in the individual puzzle reviews). While there is a limit to how much a designer can achieve with this format, Ravensburger did more with this structure than we were expecting.

❓ Some of these puzzles got a bit math-y. It never involved anything beyond basic computation, but I know that there are some escape room players who are allergic to mathematics in any form.

➕/➖ The web-based hint system was adequate. It did a great job of highlighting the individual puzzles… and an ok job of providing granular, incremental hints. This system could benefit from the inclusion of more dropdown menus to allow the player to better control the flow of hints.

❓ The edge pieces were unusual in that they all fit into one another. This made the edge considerably more difficult to assemble. It was completely doable, but required a lot more attention to detail and effort. For some, it may be easier to start from the middle.

➖The puzzles within the image all solved to a number that we’d find printed on an edge piece. This meant we could get most of the way to an answer and hack our way to the proper solution based on the available numbers.

❓We spent considerably more time solving the jigsaw puzzles than solving the “escape room” puzzles.

➕ Some of the numbered edge pieces ultimately culminated in a final meta-puzzle… and this mechanic was really cool. Ravensburger used it in clever ways in all instances. It was a delightful way to conclude the experience.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: You’ll need a flat surface. The puzzles all measure 27 x 20 inches (70 x 50 cm).
  • Required Gear: None. We like to assemble our puzzles on a large piece of foam core in case we have to move them.

Buy Them now:

Disclosure: Ravensburger 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.)

Escape Room Notebook [Review]

This was my absolute dumbest Amazon purchase.

The cover of the navy blue journal reads, "Escape Room Notebook"

We take a lot of handwritten notes about the games that we play and the posts that we’re thinking up. As a result, we burn through a few notebooks per year. So when I was perusing Amazon at 3AM and happened upon the “Escape Room Notebook” I figured, why not? 

I’m not going to pretend that this deserves a full review.

A blank notebook with horizontal rules.

Quick Review

It’s a 6” x 9” inch notebook with 150 ruled pages. As a child, Lisa would have referred to this as an “empty book.”

The cover is flimsy. It’s filled with printer paper. The rules are laser printed. It has no bookmark. The corners aren’t rounded. It’s adequate as a notebook if it never leaves your desk.

The binding of the navy blue journal reads "Escape Room."

We made it our own, with our stickers for decoration, as we do with most of our notebooks. Its inaugural trip was our escape room marathon weekend in Austin and San Antonio. We took a lot a notes!

As we packed up for the journey home, however, we noticed it was already showing a lot of wear. It’s too easy to damage. This will likely be the first notebook that we retire before filling its pages. 

I have no idea why this product exists… but I’m still kind of amused by it. 

If for some reason you’ve read this far and actually want to be the confounded owner of this mediocre notebook, then by all means, get yourself one for $7 on Amazon.

(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.)