Escape Passages: Volume 1 [Review]

DIY Escape This Podcast

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 1-2 hours per scenario

Price: about $12

Author: Walter Miska

REA Reaction

Escape Passages was written by an escape room player for escape room players. This came through in the humorous writing, fun scenarios, and familiar gameplay.

This book was at its best when it leaned into its lack of physical game space, with solutions that could never have been executed within the walls of a real-life escape room. In these moments, it combined creativity and deduction wonderfully.

Although we didn’t enjoy every puzzle, and didn’t think they were all optimal choices for the medium, the gameplay generally worked well and was fun.

We played with a gamemaster who is experienced as a Dungeon Master, and she was skilled at turning our ideas into hilarity. Rest assured, however, that you don’t need any prior experience to be the gamemaster. The book tells you everything you need to know.

Escape Passages Vol 1 book cover.

Escape Passages would be perfect for a group of 3-5 friends who have played at least a handful of escape rooms, and want to bring that style of solving home with them.

This book is a vehicle to make your own fun. We recommend you try outlandish ideas and don’t take anything too seriously. You’ll enjoy some wonderful ahas and just as many laughs.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at some experience with escape rooms

Why play?

  • You can play these escape rooms practically anywhere, even remotely.
  • The writing has personality.
  • You create your own adventure.

Story

There are 3 scenarios in Escape Passages: Volume 1:

A Lizard in the Locker Room

We were in a high school locker room, looking to recover a stolen high school mascot.

Viking Invasion

We’d been captured by Vikings and needed to escape the confines of their longhouse.

Antidote

We were trapped in a genetics laboratory looking for an antidote to an experiment gone wrong.

Continue reading “Escape Passages: Volume 1 [Review]”

Crux Club – Mob Treasure [Hivemind Review]

Mob Treasure is a puzzle book treasure hunt created by Crux Club.

Mob Treasure book cover and open book displaying a puzzle.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Book
  • Light puzzle hunt
  • Play on demand

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, mobile device, pen and paper, scissors

Expect to use an internet-connected device (phone or PC) to do research for some of the puzzles.

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: No game clock. Chapters took anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or so of active puzzling.

Price: $15.99

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

In this book, you are on a quest to find the rumored treasure of mobster Dutch Schultz. This treasure hunt is divided into fifteen chapters full of illustrations and a bit of text, and each chapter contains about five puzzles. To solve each puzzle, you must analyze the information within the chapter and sometimes consult outside sources. You verify your answer by comparing it to the solution list in the back of the book. Once you have completed all of the puzzles within a chapter, you may proceed to the next chapter.

Cantaloop Book 1: Breaking into Prison [Review]

Point-and-click Adventure Game Book (Seriously)

Location:  at home

Date Played: May 8, 2021

Team size: 1; we recommend 1-4

Duration: 5-8 hours

Price: about $30

REA Reaction

Cantaloop Book 1: Breaking into Prison was described to me as “a really good point-and-click adventure game in book form… that actually feels like a point-and-click adventure game.”

After taking this product into the lab and studying it, I can confirm that description as entirely accurate.

Cantaloop book cover depicts the main character in a mugshot with a lot of swagger.

The art, writing, characters, and puzzle design all worked together to feel like a great point-and-click adventure game. The difference is that you can play it in a small group, with physical (albeit mostly paper) props, and enjoy it communally… like an escape room.

Our group of 4 loved playing Cantaloop. It was smart, funny, and craftily designed, with all of the tropes that make people love (or hate) point-and-click adventure games. If that sounds appealing to you, then this is a must-buy. If you despise point-and-click adventure games on computer, I doubt that Cantaloop will suddenly convert you.

When we finished playing, we mused about how this game could easily be translated into a mobile app, and go full point-and-click adventure game… but concluded that it shouldn’t, because it would be less fun.

Paper might be the future of the point-and-click adventure genre. No joke.

Who is this for?

  • Point-and-click adventure lovers
  • Story seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strong writing and characters
  • Tons of humor
  • It felt like a proper point-and-click adventure

Story

Charismatic crook “Hook” Carpenter is back on Cantaloop Island and assembling a new team for one last job. The catch: the hacker he needs for this job is locked up in prison.

An in-game environmental image of a light house.
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Escape Rooms in Education: A Practical Guide – Julia Morris [Book Review]

Get schooled in creating a room escape for students

Author:  Julia Morris

Year: 2020

Page count: 190

Price: $9 for ebook, $11 for paperback

Publisher: self-published

REA Reaction

This is a well-organized, well-written guide for teachers looking to create escape room-style experiences for their students. It can be used by beginners who want to create their first escape room, or for those with experience looking for new tools to try. The author is a language teacher, and her examples depend heavily on puzzles that require recall of facts learned in class. While this is an interesting way to review material, I would have preferred to see more deductive thinking and reasoning incorporated. More and more teachers are using puzzles, breakouts, and immersive experiences in their classrooms, and this book describes many puzzles that can be used to create a fun, memorable educational experience.

Book cover for "Escape Room in Education: A Practical Guide" has an assortment of locks and escape roomy items.

Who is this for?

This book was written by a high school teacher, with other teachers in mind. However, anyone involved with designing puzzles or room escapes for people 13 and older might find it useful.

Structure

Part 1 is around 50 pages, and gives an introduction to the topic – the value of using escape rooms in education, an overview of physical and digital formats, and the importance of good puzzle design and compelling storylines.

Part 2 consists of 120 pages that give detailed instructions on how to use specific puzzles, including digital and paper-based puzzles, and physical items. Some are well known, like UV lights and crossword puzzles, and some are less common. Each puzzle section has a photo or screenshot, and sections titled “What is it for,” “How do I create it,” “How do the students use it,” and “How could I use it.” There are 35 puzzles described. The author provides examples and a link to her website that has templates for the digital puzzles she describes.

Interior page explaining the concept of a Scytale, or wrapped up messages.
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The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum [Review]

The game is a book.

Location:  at home

Release Date: March 2021

Date Played: April 2021

Team Size: we recommend 1

Duration: 2+ hours, depending on thoroughness

Price: $14.95

Publisher: Ammonite Press

REA Reaction

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum is the second in a series of Holmesian branching-narrative puzzle books. With a loose, puzzle-filled story, it leads the reader through a second-person treasure hunt through the British Museum circa 1901.

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum cover with code wheel.

I appreciated certain improvements over the first installment, most notably how the puzzles felt more connected to the story and setting. The museum location also added some fun historical details. However, The Adventure of the British Museum lacked the playful relationship with the reader that made The Adventure of the London Waterworks so delightful. Instead, it was a more straightforward puzzle-filled story without too many tricks or treats along the way.

Compared to the first book, the difficulty curve felt uneven, with no smooth on-ramp to introduce the gameplay. Also, The Adventure of the British Museum suffered from errors in several puzzles. Ultimately they weren’t game-breaking errors, but they signaled a need for more playtesting.

If you enjoyed The Adventure of the London Waterworks and want to check out another take on the same format, The Adventure of the British Museum offers an afternoon of puzzling entertainment. If you haven’t yet read The Adventure of the London Waterworks, that would be a better place to start.

Who is this for?

  • Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Gamebook aficionados
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To take a virtual tour through the British Museum
  • Code wheels are fun

Story

I assumed the role of Sherlock Holmes as he investigated a mysterious letter that had led him and Watson to the British Museum. By following a series of puzzles through the museum’s exhibits, I attempted to thwart a villainous plot and escape unscathed.

The Adventure of the British Museum included abundant references to Sherlock Holmes lore, but reading without background knowledge wasn’t a problem.

An ilustration featuring Sherlock and Watson in front of the museum entrance.
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