The Magic Puzzle Company [Overview]

It’s not just a puzzle. It’s a transformer.

Location:  at home

Date Played: January, 2021

Team size: we recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: $20 per puzzle

REA Reaction

I’m loving what The Magic Puzzle Company is doing. As an avid jigsaw puzzler, I am always on the lookout for puzzles that do a little more than simply ask me to assemble the picture. It’s a difficult challenge and we’ve seen mixed execution.

Puzzle closeup of segments of the Mystic Maze.

The Magic Puzzle Company has happened upon something that is really clever and elegant. Nothing in this review will spoil what that is, beyond telling you this:

It’s cool, deliberate, and unique… but it isn’t going to completely melt your brain. We spent a lot of time as we assembled our first Magic Puzzle speculating and fantasizing about what might happen, and it was truly cool, but don’t let hype bring down the moment.

Box art for The Magic Puzzle Company's The Mystic Maze 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Of the available products from The Magic Puzzle Company, I’d rank them in the following order:

  1. The Mystic Maze (Review)
  2. The Happy Isles (Review)
  3. The Sunny City (Review)

If you only ever do one of these, The Mystic Maze was a knockout of a puzzle.

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Beautiful art
  • High quality components
  • The concluding magical twists
Continue reading “The Magic Puzzle Company [Overview]”

Ravensburger Sort and Go Jigsaw Puzzle Trays [Review]

I’m a stress jigsaw puzzler.

Something bad happens. I do a jigsaw puzzle.

Someone dies. I crack open a jigsaw puzzle.

I found out that we were entering quarantine on account of a global pandemic… well… I had a stack of jigsaw puzzles. In anticipation of a significant increase in my jigsaw puzzling activity, I bought a box of Ravensburger Sort and Go Jigsaw Puzzle Trays and gave them a try over the past 6 months.

Many jigsaw puzzles later, these are my thoughts.

Puzzle Tray packaging beside a stack of trays.

Reaction

I have seen these trays for years, and always disregarded them as an unnecessary decadence. We’ve always had a humble setup for jigsaw puzzling. (Our only gear has been a large piece of damaged foam-core board that we assemble on so that we can move the puzzle if needed.)

When I saw Hivemind reviewer Tammy McLeod, puzzler extraordinaire and our jigsaw puzzling sensei, using Ravensburger Sort and Go Jigsaw Puzzle Trays, I thought, “for $10, I’ll give them a shot.”

After a lot of testing I can honestly tell you that they make a difference.

Traditional cardboard jigsaw puzzl pieces in a tray shaped like a blue puzzle piece.

The trays make it much easier to organize our pieces and stay organized. These trays make it easier to look for pieces and pass collections of pieces around the board.

Are they necessary? Absolutely not. My initial assessment of puzzle trays as a decadence was correct.

Am I happy that I have them? That’s a big yes. Their form is designed for their function. They are superior to using the box, laying pieces all over the table, and using kitchen bowls. I love how easily we can stack them and clean up our table when we need it.

If you’re an avid jigsaw puzzler, a $10 set of Ravensburger Sort and Go Jigsaw Puzzle Trays is a decadence, but it’s a worthwhile decadence.

What’s in the Box?

This product is simple. It contains 6 stacking blue trays molded in the shape of puzzle pieces. They measure 7.5″ x 6.5″ x 0.75″.

Analysis

➕ The fact that these trays are 3/4 of an inch deep means that they are far easier to look into and fish around in than the box and its top are. This was incredibly helpful when working on a puzzle that had only slight variations in color, pattern, and texture.

➕ The trays make it easy to pass collections of pieces to other people or move them to another part of the table.

➕ The stacking capability is useful. When it came time to take a break and use the table for working or eating, it was much easier to tidy up without wrecking our puzzle piece organization.

➕/➖ We liked how the trays were shaped like puzzle pieces and interconnected… but the fact that they only connected in a line felt wrong. Functionally, this was an inconsequential detail, but it felt like a missed opportunity.

Puzzle trays only sort of interlocking.

➕ 6 trays feels like enough for us. We don’t go nuts sorting and subdividing, and we don’t generally tackle jigsaw puzzles that exceed 1,000 pieces… because time. That said, if you need more, you can always buy an additional set.

Prices may be higher due to demand.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Game: A is for Arson [Review]

A Mixed Bag

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 14, 2020

Team size: we recommend 1-3

Size: two 500-piece 13 x 10 inch puzzles

Price: about $15

REA Reaction

This puzzle packed two gimmicks into one box.

Even as an avid jigsaw puzzler, the prospect of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into the same box was a bit intimidating. As it turned out, that worked a lot better than I’d expected. In fact, this was easier to assemble than most of the 750 – 1000 piece puzzles that I’ve solved. The clever trick here was the different depths of field in each image.

A is for Arson box art, shows an ominous scene with various chemicals and a zippo lighter.

As an added twist, the story booklet set up a mystery that we could solve using the evidence we observed in the puzzle pictures.

So, how did this all come together? Well… it was a mixed bag.

The jigsaw puzzles were fine, even if the puzzle pictures were inelegant. (The box art was way more interesting.)

As a mystery game… it was also fine. The mystery was solvable, although some clues were a bit hard to read on account of the image quality.

The biggest stumble in A is for Arson was the narrative, which substituted cultural and ethnic stereotypes in place of actual character development.

A is for Arson was conceptually brilliant; I wish that it had stronger execution.

Who is this for?

  • Jigsaw puzzlers

Why play?

  • The unusual design of 2 different 500-piece puzzles mixed into 1 box
  • The additional story/ mystery content

Story

Investigators had been summoned to the charred ruins of a local Indian restaurant to investigate the origins of the suspicious fire.

It turned out that there were quite a few people with a motive for torching the place.

Continue reading “Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Game: A is for Arson [Review]”

Ravensburger – The Curse of the Wolves Escape Puzzle [Review]

Three Wolf Moon Puzzle

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 2020

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: about $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

With its nature scene in shades of blues, teals, and greens, The Curse of the Wolves was a beautiful jigsaw puzzle with the most innovative and advanced collection of escape puzzles that we’ve seen in a US-released Ravensburger Escape Puzzle to date.

Ravensburger's The Curse of the Wolves Escape Puzzle box art depicting a pack of wolves in the moonlight.

While this puzzle was given the same difficulty rating as Forbidden Basement, it was substantially more challenging than the other puzzles in the Escape Puzzle series. It wasn’t even close. The Curse of the Wolves was a harder jigsaw puzzle. It was also more difficult to find the escape puzzles with the puzzle, and a few of them were considerably harder to solve than in previous installments of the Escape Puzzle series. That’s not a knock against it. We enjoyed the elevated challenge… but it would have been nice if it were labeled appropriately.

Our biggest knock against this product was a stretch of the top edge that was nearly impossible to solve 100% correctly (because all edge pieces interconnect) that we got it approximately correct and stopped caring. There was far too much visual noise in this segment.

Overall, The Curse of the Wolves took a lot more time and effort to solve than previous Escape Puzzles. We welcomed that challenge. We highly recommend it if you’re already comfortable with and enjoy Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle format. If you’re new to Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series, please don’t start here. Try out the Space Observatory for a fantastic starting place.

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 the puzzle - a closeup of two wolves.

Story

Lost in the woods and encircled by cursed wolves, with meal time rapidly approaching, could we break their spell?

Portion of the puzzle - a closeup of of the cresent moon in the night's sky.

Analysis

➕ The puzzle art was beautiful. We loved the colors. It was a lovely image to construct as a jigsaw.

➕ This puzzle hid the escape puzzles in the jigsaw puzzle far better than any of the previous Escape Puzzles that we’ve reviewed. We really had to study the image to solve this puzzle.

➖ Ravensburger’s difficulty rating doesn’t appear to have meaning. The company rates both The Curse of the Wolves and Forbidden Basement as “level 3” in difficulty. However, The Curse of the Wolves was far more challenging.

➖ A portion of the top edge was so visually noisy that we found it impossible to solve correctly. Because every edge piece fits into every other edge piece, solvers must rely on visual cues alone. We knew that we had mistakes in that stretch of pieces. While this didn’t impact our solving of the escape puzzles, it did impact our satisfaction with the jigsaw portion.

➕ Ravensburger created some innovative escape puzzles. One favorite especially caught our eye; another favorite took us in a new direction.

➖A few of the puzzles required logic leaps. Although with enough trial and error we always landed at the solution, these puzzles would have been more satisfying with additional clue structure.

➕ The hints were detailed and clear (even if a small, inconsequential segment wasn’t fully translated into English).

Portion of the puzzle - a closeup of a wolf emerging from a cave.

➕/➖ The meta puzzle was satisfying from a narrative perspective. That said, it was too easy to recognize too early on. We fully solved it about 25% into the assembly of the jigsaw.

The Curse of the Wolves Escape Puzzle was too easy to backsolve. Because of the way the escape puzzles build into a meta puzzle, this compounded on itself. The more we solved, the more we could backsolve.

The Curse of the Wolves Escape Puzzle relied more heavily on color than some of the other puzzles in the series. If you suffer from colorblindness, this puzzle will be especially challenging.

Buy It Now

Pickup your copy of Ravensburger’s The Curse of the Wolves Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Ravensburger – Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle [Review]

Rich uncle’s last puzzle & testament

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 2020

Team size: We recommend 1-4

Duration: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Price: about $25

Publisher: Ravensburger

REA Reaction

Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle may be the most escape room-y of Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series.

For this jigsaw puzzle-based experience, Ravensburger took a classic escape room setup, and put their own visual twist on the concept.

Ravensburger's Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle box art depicting a ransacked basement filled with strange items.

This was an approachable, fun, and fast-solving jigsaw puzzle. There were lots of colors and overt textures that we could sink our teeth into.

The escape puzzles within the jigsaw puzzle were creative, but mostly straightforward.

We wished that the visual underpinning the meta-puzzle solve was a little sharper. It was a cool idea, but it looked kind of blurry.

All in all, if you’re a fan of jigsaw puzzles and want a little more of an escape room twist, we recommend Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle. It worked well, solved cleanly, and while it offered up some challenge, it never once stymied us. We enjoyed the momentum.

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 the puzzle - a closeup of a human skeleton with red glowing eyes and a fedora.

Story

A distant uncle passed away and left us access to his estate. If we could find his fortune it would be ours to keep.

Portion of the puzzle - a closeup of of a mouse sitting atop a bag of spilled sugar.

Analysis

➕ The art was quirky and playful. There were a lot of strange things to look at while building this puzzle. The image had depth and texture, which added momentum to the jigsaw solving.

➖ While the image worked well for puzzling, it wasn’t captivating as an image to piece together.

➕/➖ Once we’d completed the jigsaw, it was straightforward to locate and work through the escape puzzles. They solved cleanly… with one exception:

Portion of the puzzle - a closeup of a set of jars with red and blue shapes as labels.
That blue one in the center. Is that an oval or a rectangle? The answer: Rectangle.

➕ The escape puzzles took inspiration from escape room gameplay. While grounded in familiar concepts, they were varied, interesting solves.

➖ The meta-puzzle solve was conceptually cool, but the visual was far too blurry. We knew what we were looking at, but it didn’t look right. It was a less satisfying culmination of the Ravensburger Escape Puzzle experience.

❓With Ravensburger Escape Puzzles, it’s generally recommended to solve the edge later. You can read more about the oddities of the edges in our Escape Puzzle Overview. In Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle, you can choose to solve the edge first, like you would most puzzles, and you won’t be hopelessly lost.

Buy It Now

Purchase your copy of Ravensburger’s Forbidden Basement Escape Puzzle, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ravensburger provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.