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.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
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.
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.
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.
➕ 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.
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
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.
From a user standpoint, this is a keyed padlock. There is nothing unique about its operation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
➕ 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.
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
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.
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.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
Value – There are 5 hour-long games in this box
Some really creative and fun puzzles
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:
The Grand Finale
MacGyver: The Escape Room Game featured the original 1985 Richard Dean Anderson version of MacGyver.
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:
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.
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.
➕ 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.
➕ 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.
➖ 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.
❓ 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.
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 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?
The puzzles solve cleanly.
A well-designed and generous structured hint system
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.
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.
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.
The puzzle solved to a number. We then turned to that page number to continue the story.
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.
Finally, we could turn the page in the hint section to reveal the solution.
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.
➕ 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.
➕ 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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
Smooth linear gameplay
An approachable difficulty curve
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 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.
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.
➕ 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.
➖ 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.
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.
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
It has appeal for players of all ages
The torch balances well but not effortlessly
It’s easy to set up, learn, and administer
We entered a temple filled with obstacles and treasure. We had to carry our torch through the challenges in order to earn our prize.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
+ 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.
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.
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?
Any experience level
Some great puzzles
An interesting and cohesive 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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
– 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.