Paper Adventures – The Case of Auntie’s Manor [Kids’ Product Review]

Update April 25, 2022: Check the comments to note the improvements since the time of this review.

Mind your manors

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 16, 2022

Team size: 2+; we recommend 1-2 kids plus 1 gamemaster

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about £12 ($16)

REA Reaction

The Case of Auntie’s Manor was an approachable escape room kit suitable for introducing young puzzlers to the genre. With fairly straightforward puzzles, crisp art, and an evolving story, it kept my kids’ attention and made them feel like competent puzzlers. One puzzle even caught their imagination long after the game itself, leaving a lasting impression of the experience. They only wished for a more interesting setting than “just a house.”

Cover art for The Case of Auntie's Manor with 6 illustrated character cards beside it.

The support for the gamemaster in this kit was a step above other kits that we’ve used. I particularly appreciated the concept of the “Game on a Page” guide, which summarized the plot progression, hints, and result of each puzzle. It was designed to enable me to support the game flow with a single paper. I’d like to see a tool like this in any escape room kit.

The experience was marred somewhat by a series of minor imperfections that accumulated into a general lack of polish. None of these broke the game (especially with a nearby gamemaster), but my detective-minded kids pointed them out enough to warrant noting here. Additional copy editing could have uncovered some of these issues earlier, and it would only take minor design revisions to ameliorate them.

Paper Adventures has a solid escape kit framework that, with a few tweaks, could sustain a welcome series of affordable games for kids. We look forward to seeing how these games evolve!

Continue reading “Paper Adventures – The Case of Auntie’s Manor [Kids’ Product Review]”

Mindware: Dig It Up! Crack the Crate – A Dragon’s World [Kids’ Product Review]

Don’t let sleeping dragons lie

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 15, 2022

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 1-2 kids and at least one adult

Duration: 1.5-2 hours

Price: $34.95

REA Reaction

Dig It Up! Crack the Crate – A Dragon’s World was a strong kid-focused tabletop escape game that was unique for its inclusion of three “magic” orbs/ eggs (i.e. diggable clods of clay containing clues). Depending on your perspective, this integration with Mindware’s Dig It Up! product line either enhanced or interrupted the game. Kids throughout my house raved about the orbs and chiseled with an uncharacteristic persistence, eager to earn their prizes. Adults weren’t as enthralled, mostly because the diggable objects awkwardly disrupted progress for sizable chunks of time, sidelining the majority of our team.

Dig It Up! Crack The Crate - a dragon's World Adventure box, looks like grey wood paneling.

Aside from the divisive issue of magic orbs, the puzzling was the star of this game, with nine entertaining puzzles that were remarkably well constructed for young players. These puzzles won’t challenge experienced players, but I still felt genuine admiration for how they combined interesting objects, motivating scenarios, and simple interactions to engage us.

The overarching story was a bit convoluted, stretching to justify some of the orbs. Even so, the themes of magic and dragons persisted throughout every aspect of the game and gave sufficient coherence to the experience.

This would be a lovely game for experienced puzzlers to play with their younger apprentices. Kids will be able to do most of it on their own, and they’ll love the gimmicks. More experienced players will appreciate much of the design and wish things like this existed when they were kids.

Continue reading “Mindware: Dig It Up! Crack the Crate – A Dragon’s World [Kids’ Product Review]”

YULU – Cut the Wire [Review]

Snip. Snip. Boom!

Location:  at home

Date Played:  December 20, 2018

Team size: 1-10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 5 -15 minutes per round

Price: $33

Publisher: YULU

REA Reaction

Cut the Wire was a bomb defusal game, rooted in turn-based deduction and chance. Our goal was to use clues and a bit of luck to cut the right wire.

Cut the Wire's packaging.

As far as straightforward, kid-friendly games go, this was about as enjoyable a game as I’ve seen. The interactions felt great. There was a solid mix of luck and skill, and a round of play never lasted more than a few minutes. This is one of YULU’s strongest offerings (although their essentially unreleased Fire Quest is still our favorite #Justice4FireQuest).

Additionally, I think it’s the kind of toy that could break out of board game play and be used for imaginative play (provided that you don’t have a problem with the subject matter).

If that sounds like it will fit into your family’s game night… then give it a clip.

Who is this for?

  • Deductive puzzlers
  • Kids
  • Families

Why play?

  • Cutting the wires was bafflingly satisfying
  • Fast-paced

Objective

 Cut the right wire and disarm the bomb.

The bomb, dice, and wirecutter.

Setup

We plugged in all of the wires and turned the game on. We then rolled the die and did as the die commanded.

Everyone took a turn, rolling the die and doing as it said. We repeated until someone cut the defuse wire and won… or cut the detonate wire and lost.

A wire being cut.

Wires

There were nine wires: 3 green, 3 blue, and 3 red.

Each wire was also labeled with a shape: circle, square, or triangle.

Closeup of a cut wire.

Dice

A turn consisted of rolling the die, then doing what the die commanded.

The die could tell you to:

  • Get a Clue (1/6 chance) – Push a button and receive a random hint as to which wire was either the defuse or the detonate wire.
  • Cut a Wire (2/6 chance) – Cut a wire blindly, without getting any clues that round.
  • Clue + Cut (2/6 chance) – Take a clue, then cut a wire in a single turn.
  • Clue + Force Cut (1/6 chance)– Take a clue, then force another player to cut a wire of your own choosing.

Game End

The game concluded when someone cut the defuse wire and won or cut the detonate wire and lost.

“Timed Mode” added 1 additional hurdle of a 15-second clock to complete an action. Failure to take an action within the allotted time would detonate the device.

Gameplay

Spy Code’s Cut the Wire was a play-at-home game of deduction and chance with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around deduction, memorization, and chance.

The hint screen.

Analysis

➕ The device was designed as a caricature of a bomb. It looked fun and non-threatening.

➕ The physical act of cutting wires in Cut the Wire was especially pleasing. The wire cutters had a good feel to them. The sound, sight, and feel of clipping was delightful.

➖ I found a little too much variation in cut tension. Most of the wires felt great. One was too hard to cut. One felt just a touch too loose.

➕ I cut the loosest wire about 40 times to see if it would break. It did not. Similarly, the stiffest wire didn’t loosen. This speaks well to Cut the Wire’s durability.

➕ The clue system was great. The display was recessed deep into the device such that it was easy for the active player to see it and difficult for other players to sneak a glance.

The wirecutters attached to the back of the bomb.

➕ There was a clip on the back of the device that perfectly held the wire cutters and die (all of the things you need to play). This made me inordinately happy.

The dice attached to the back of the bomb.

➖ We found it a bit difficult to visually distinguish the shapes printed on the wires. If I were planning to play regularly, I’d modify the game by taking a Sharpie marker to the shapes to make them easier to see.

➕ Cut the Wire was easy to set up, quick to learn, and approachable for most ages. It was simple, but there was an actual game to play.

Tips For Player

Buy your copy of Cut the Wire, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: YULU 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.)