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.
Continue reading “The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the British Museum [Review]”

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks [Review]

All great adventures begin by turning the first page…

Location:  at home

Release Date: June 2019

Date Played: April 2021

Team Size: we recommend 1

Duration: ~3 hours, depending on thoroughness

Price: $14.95

Publisher: Ammonite Press

REA Reaction

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks is the first in a series of Holmesian branching-narrative puzzle books. Combining story and puzzles in roughly equal measure, it leads the reader through a second-person adventure of mystery, murder, and escape.

The Adventure of the London Waterworks read like a Choose Your Own Adventure book fortified with Professor Layton-style “everything’s a puzzle” gameplay. The story would be fairly simple without the puzzle layer, and vice versa. But in combination, the narrative structure served as a sturdy framework for puzzle delivery.

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks cover with code wheel.

The solving covered many puzzle types, with frequent appearances of the Dancing Men cipher from the classic Sherlock Holmes story. The puzzle difficulty gradually increased from simple warmups to some genuinely challenging moments. Certain choices cleverly rewarded close scrutiny while deploying red herrings to discourage guessing or cheating.

From cover to cover, The Adventure of the London Waterworks provided several hours of entertainment, with details that rewarded multiple reads. You could enlist the help of your own Watson, but the book seems best suited for a solo puzzling experience, particularly because certain puzzles require close inspection.

Seasoned solvers may not find a hardcore challenge in The Adventure of the London Waterworks, but it’s a good amount of entertainment in a small package. If you’re a fan of interactive fiction books or Sherlock Holmes stories, this one is worth checking out.

Who is this for?

  • Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Gamebook aficionados
  • Puzzlers who enjoy a narrative foundation
  • Readers who enjoy a sprinkling of puzzles

Why play?

  • To get all the endings
  • To feel as smart as Sherlock Holmes
  • Red herrings done right

Story

Playing the role of consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, I followed a mysterious note to the London Waterworks with the trusty Dr. Watson. After infiltrating the pumping station, I made choices and solved puzzles in order to uncover and foil Moriarty’s mysterious plan.

Continue reading “The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks [Review]”

Escape Game Adventure: Trapped in Space [Book Review]

Erreurs dans l’espace

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 18 2021

Team size: we recommend 1-family

Duration: 15-60 minutes

Price: about $10

REA Reaction

Trapped in Space was a sloppy product that had lots of potential.

The Escape Game Adventure series originates in France, and the English version is a translation. Over the past few installments, there have been minor issues such as typos or odd phrasing, but it hasn’t presented any meaningful issues.

In this installment there were two translation/ localization issues that felt like critical failures:

  • A full puzzle that output its solution in French
  • A puzzle that rendered an image that likely won’t be clear to American children due to cultural nuance
Cover art for Escape Game Adventure Trapped in Space shows a damaged spaceship.

To top it all off, many of the puzzles in this Trapped in Space played a little too loosely with cluing for my liking.

I really like the Escape Game Adventure series, but I categorically cannot recommend Trapped in Space in its current form. Play literally any other book in this product line.

Story

We traveled with Dooz to the year 3144 to rescue a team of space explorers whose ship had been disabled after an attack by an alien species.

Illustration of a damaged spaceship seen from within the ship's bridge.

Analysis

The analysis in this section is about the content of Trapped in Space. To see our analysis of the structure, refer to our Escape Game Adventure Books overview.

Trapped in Space’s story was grand, fun, and the kind of storytelling that would have spoken to me as a child.

➕ The art in Trapped in Space was great. It captured the epic space opera vibe brilliantly.

➕ /➖ The puzzles were a mixed bag of fairly common puzzle types. While they all solved fine, there were a number of moments where it felt like the cluing was tenuous at best.

Dooze the robot pointing confidently, saying, "We'll be stronger together! Attack!"

➖ One puzzle was never translated into English. The surrounding text was in English, but the puzzle itself output a French solution. If you’re playing this with your kid… maybe teach them to count to 30 in French first?

➖ Another lesser, but still serious issue, was a puzzle that output a solution in a decidedly French form. In France, 7’s and Z’s are crossed, which is not common in the United States, and will likely make one puzzle needlessly confusing.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pencil, scissors

Buy your copy of Trapped in Space, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: we received a media sample for review.

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