Most of the Exit series is on sale for Prime Day. The Sunken Treasure is one of my favorites (full review) that they offer. It also happens to be one of their easiest games, so it’s great for first-timers to the series.
We really wanted to love this puzzle. From a jigsaw puzzle standpoint, this was comfortably our favorite of the 4 Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.
Unfortunately, once we’d assembled the jigsaw puzzle, the “escape room” puzzles were a mess. There were multiple broken or ambiguous puzzles. While it all came together well enough in the end, the mistakes were too numerous and inexcusable for us to recommend this product.
Pretty much all of the issues could be fixed in a future printing, if Ravensburger gets around to it. I hope that they do.
While vacationing in Romania, we’d decided to take a hike. Along the way we’d found an old castle; we couldn’t turn down the adventure. As we entered the castle, the door had locked behind us. We slowly realized that we weren’t alone. What could we do to survive?
➕ From a purely jigsaw puzzle standpoint, Vampire’s Castle was our favorite of Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzles. The image was vibrant, with a lot of color and texture variation. The design kept our momentum going from start to finish.
➕ The puzzle was filled with all sorts of cute oddities and amusing details.
➖ Too many of the puzzles within the puzzle were problematic. A third of the puzzles worked well. A third of the puzzles were too ambiguous for my liking… and a third of them were a total mess.
➖ There was a counting puzzle that was far too fuzzy.
➖ The puzzles that didn’t work properly were baffling, I’m really confused as to how they went to print.
19 cases later, it’s still a fun and solid puzzle game. The gameplay flowed well and the solves were satisfying.
Sleuth Kings has cleaned up the response time issues and minimized the emailing by adding an alternative hint system.
Sleuth Kings’ cases are more challenging than escape rooms, but still quite approachable. If you’re looking to expand your puzzle solving skills outside of escape rooms, this is a good choice. Its consistent puzzle content delivered to you in a well-organized format with as much hand-holding as you want. For more experienced puzzlers, it won’t offer anything novel, but it will give you a monthly puzzle fix.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
Players who want a monthly subscription
There’s a new one every month!
In Case 020: Blood P.I., we had to identify who’d been stalking Rosalyn Neal, the actress who played Rebecca Blood, the lead character in a popular vampire detective show. She’d just been shot, and while she would recover, we were under the impression that this stalker was behind the incident.
Sleuth Kings sent a slick cardboard box containing a case file with various printed materials. These included an investigation report and various clues to the case. Everything was clearly labeled for orderly solving.
We emailed Detective Sullivan King to begin our investigation.
Sleuth Kings’ Case 020: Blood P.I. was a play-at-home detective game with a moderate level of difficulty.
The puzzles were more challenging than typical escape room puzzles, but quite approachable. They were substantially easier than you’d find in a typical puzzle hunt.
Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, decoding, puzzling, and emailing the detective.
➕ Case 020: Blood P.I. delivered varied and interesting puzzles. Some resolved with aha moments. Others took a bit more process to complete. Overall, it was a satisfying collection of solves.
➖ Although the puzzles were solid, they weren’t revolutionary or particularly memorable.
➕ The story made sense. It was a bit hokey, ridiculous even, but I don’t think it needed to be believable. The gameplay worked within the story.
➖ There was a lot of reading involved in solving this case. The story was told through text rather than through the puzzles themselves. Additionally, in a couple of instances, the font choice was a tad arduous.
➕/➖ Case 020: Blood P.I. contained generally high quality printed materials. That said, it still felt a bit homemade, some pieces more than others.
➕ The mailing was well organized and clearly labeled. It was easy to get started. While there were a lot of materials, they never felt overwhelming. The gameplay flowed smoothly.
➕ There was a nuanced hint system. A Clue Analysis was included with the Investigation Report in the mailing. Players who need a nudge can take a peek. The detective’s assistant, Celest, had a website where we could find additional hints. We could always email the detective. He replied pretty quickly, but if there was lag time, we had this other tool at our disposal.
❓ Although I liked the organization, and always knowing where to focus my attention, this may come across as too much hand-holding for some, especially when coupled with some of the additional hint-y materials available in the package.
➕ While there was still lag time in the detective’s responses, it was no longer momentum-killing, as it was when we first played. Sleuth Kings has minimized the emailing; we had a quarter as many email threads this time around. In this playthrough, the emails made the game more interactive, in a positive way.
➕ Sleuth Kings has managed to churn out one case a month. Although we haven’t played the others, we hear the puzzle quality is consistent and the meta mystery through the series is interesting.
Tips For Player
Required Gear: You need an internet-connected device (we recommend a computer), and pen and paper for taking notes.
Subscribe to Sleuth Kings, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
NEScape! is a new escape room video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (or downloadable ROM).
This game captured old-school escape room gameplay on old-school video game hardware… and did a generally good job.
There are 4 days left to back this Kickstarter and it is fully funded. The decision to back should be simple:
Do you like the idea of old-school, puzzle-forward gameplay?
Does playing an escape game on NES hardware sound fun?
Do you have access to a NES?
If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then give them your money.
NEScape! isn’t flawless. There are more than a few things that I think could improve it.
NEScape! isn’t revolutionary. It can’t be. It runs on 8-bit hardware in 2019.
For me, that was fine. Now that I’ve completed playing it, just looking at the cartridge makes me smile.
Who is this for?
Point & click fans
People who really just want to own the game cartridge
Players with at least some puzzle experience
Classic escape room puzzle play on the NES
We were in an escape room and needed to puzzle our way out. Like I said, old school.
We received NEScape! in cartridge form. That meant that the first puzzle was finding a working Nintendo Entertainment System or a high quality NES clone like the RetroUSB AVS. The Retron5 and RetroDuo (which I love) unfortunately didn’t do the job.
So… we went out to a local retro video game arcade called Yestercades to play with their toys.
Once we were up and running, NEScape! was a point & click puzzle game on an 8-bit platform. The controls were simple. We had to find objects and use them to solve the puzzles that lined the game world’s 4 walls.
KHAN Game’s NEScape! was a point & click escape game with puzzles of varying levels of difficulty and a non-negotiable 60-minute game clock that terminated the run at 0.
Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.
➕ Opening the mail and finding a translucent blue NES cartridge was utterly delightful.
➕ The colors were vibrant and made good use of the limited graphics capacity of the NES.
➕ The controls were easy. Lisa was never a console gamer and had no problems picking them up quickly. There wasn’t any action, so my decades of muscle memory weren’t particularly useful.
➕ The opening sequence was an unusual intro that taught the basics, provided a puzzle and allowed us to bypass it.
➕ There was solid point & click escape game-style play that captured the feeling of escape room puzzles from 4-5 years ago.
➕ There was a structured, self-service online hint system, should you get stuck (or, like us, be playing in a loud space, which inhibited us from solving auditory puzzles).
❓ There were a number of auditory puzzles that we had to bypass with hints. The clanging of pinball, the beeping of arcade cabinets, and the crashing of Skee-Ball at Yestercades meant that we couldn’t hear audio puzzles. It seemed like NEScape! was doing some interesting things with sound, but I genuinely have no idea how anything sounded. When I eventually replay in a quiet location, I’ll update this.
➖ At the start of each chapter, we began with the “lights off” and had to find the switch. This was hard the first time and easy, but annoying, in subsequent chapters.
❓/➕ We aren’t good at slide puzzles. We’d like to get better at them when we have a little time. We ended up sinking a little more than half of our time in our first play loop into a slide puzzle. In our second hour, we just used the hint system to power through the slide pattern. (We so appreciated that the hints included the solution pattern.)
➖ There were times where puzzle solves had no visual indication of completion. There may have been auditory feedback, but we don’t know. It made certain aspects of the game feel clunky. Sure we were playing under sub-optimal circumstances, but visual feedback of success would have been a significant improvement, even if it was just for accessibility purposes.
➖ The ball maze puzzle was visually jittery and difficult to look at.
➕ There were some really great destructible puzzles… the kind that you wouldn’t typically see in a real life escape room.
➖ NEScape! would have benefited from more puzzles that could only work in a digital environment. There were a few too many puzzles that were straight translations from the real world.
❓ We felt pretty conflicted on the rigid timer that terminated the game at 0 forcing us to start over:
On one hand, it was annoying. It felt like there was an opportunity to do something more creative at 0 or offer more outcome options.
On the other hand, unforgiving fail-states is pretty much tradition on the NES. It wasn’t a big deal because we were able to navigate through the game pretty quickly on our second playthrough to pick up where we’d left off.
➕ It’s a Kickstarter… but the full product exists. For those of us who have been burned before, knowing that a crowdfunding project is more than notional ain’t nothing.
Tips For Playing
Time Requirements: I would plan on playing at least 2 or 3 hours (unless you’re good at slide puzzles or plan to bypass it with the hint system).
Required Gear: You’ll need a Nintendo Entertainment System or a high-quality clone. We also used pen and paper to track our solutions. This was especially helpful on our second play-though.
Back KHAN Game’s NEScape! on Kickstarter, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
The package contained both a map of the USA and one of the World.
Thus far we’ve played escape rooms in a dozen countries and 26 states (and DC). It turned out… that was a lot of scratching.
It appears our escape room habit has a coastal bias in the US. We’ll need to change that. Our travels abroad have been disproportionately to Europe. We hope to get back to Asia soon!
If you’re a traveling escape room player, you might be interested in one of these scratch-off maps. You can see your escape travel trends in vivid color.
Tips for Scratching
Thankfully the maps came with a guitar pick that was considerably more effective than a coin.
It’s deceptively challenging to color in the lines. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The scratching produces quite a lot of shavings. If you try to suck them off the map with a Dustbuster, you might inadvertently make a scratch with the Dustbuster. Sorry, Montana. We’ll just have to visit!
Finally, the maps emerge from the box curled up in a roll. The hardcover Harry Potter series is fantastic for flattening them.
You could use these maps to keep track of all sorts of travels. We know a couple who is trying to win an escape room in every state. Could be a fun way to keep track.
We played a late beta of Airmail Adventures’ first game, The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn months before its Kickstarter launch. (So, yes, it’s on Kickstarter, but there actually is a game. It exists.)
Airmail Adventures did a beautiful job of building their 6-episode, kid-focused, tabletop puzzle game around the player. They created a fictional world. Each subsequent package added to the feeling that the player was impacting the game’s world.
The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a more challenging game than we were anticipating given its intended audience. It was absolutely solvable. While the puzzles varied in difficulty, I suspect that most of the kids who complete it will feel like they earned their victory.
The puzzles felt incredibly uneven. Some were great; some left something to be desired. Additionally, we persistently felt bogged down by the volume of reading. There was a lot to take in and the font choice didn’t make it easier on the eyes.
Additionally, we can’t really comment on the quality of the hint system as it wasn’t completed when we played. Our guess is that if Airmail Adventures built a quality hint system it would mitigate some of the more frustrating puzzles.
All in all, this was an interesting game for late elementary school and early middle school aged-kids who like to read, puzzle, and think for fun.
Who is this for?
Children and families
Players with at least some experience
A child-friendly play-at-home puzzle adventure
A feeling of impact: solving puzzles created the illusion of changing the game world
Some brilliant puzzles
We had been recruited to help the virtuous League of Treasure Hunters discover lost relics and share them with the world.
As members of the League, we were privy to information about their expeditions and able to help from afar by deciphering the clues, riddles, and ciphers to identify the location of the treasure… and suss out villains who would attempt to steal and sell the treasure.
Divided into 6 different mailings, The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a serialized puzzle game made of mostly paper-based components: letters, maps, journals, and the like.
Each mailing was part of a sequential story and built on what came before it.
Airmail Adventures’ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn was a play-at-home escape game designed for children, with a high level of difficulty for the intended audience.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, puzzling, and deducing.
➕ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn placed the child player as a character in the game. The design was subtle, but brilliantly executed. We could see how children playing detectives would feel as if they had a role in deducing this mystery and affecting the game world.
➕ Airmail Adventures crafted beautiful letters and other mostly paper-based items for this play-at-home adventure. We could tell that a lot of love and care went into the design and creation of the props. The materials felt good to hold, sift through, ponder over, and fiddle with.
➖ We inadvertently destroyed some of the game materials… with an object sent to us as part of the game. It was the very thing that made the object interesting that we used to wipe out some of the game’s content.
➕ The different items that carried the gameplay made sense in the world. They served different purposes, narratively and puzzle-y. This structure of items worked well.
➖ There was a lot of reading in The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn. We felt bogged down by this. At times, choice of font added to our frustration. Mostly, however, it was an issue of volume.
➕ We enjoyed many of the puzzles in The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn. Although some felt repetitive to us as adults, we can see how children would build mastery through play and gain satisfaction out of solving new puzzles with the same mechanics. This design worked for the intended audience.
➖ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn required substantial deciphering. Airmail Adventures should provide definitive cipher keys as at least one of the ciphers used has common variants.
➕/➖ The puzzles varied enormously in cluing. They weren’t necessarily challenging, but at times they required significant logic leaps. In our favorite puzzle in the game, for example, the tolerances needed to be tighter to properly orient the player. This was quite a bummer because the puzzle was brilliant.
❓ We played a copy that wasn’t fully ready for testing. We were unable to assess the hint system and we cannot comment on how it will work in its final state. At the time we played, Airmail Adventures had an unfinished website that was difficult to use.
Tips For Player
Space Requirements: a small table
Gear Requirements: pencil, paper, and an internet-connected device
The purchaser will receive all the game components and will be responsible for distributing them to the people playing the game.
Back Airmail Adventures’ The Lost Journal of Flintlock Flynn on Kickstarter and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
With a vibrant look, Submarine stood out aesthetically among the first wave of Ravensburger Escape Puzzles.
From a puzzle solving standpoint, this installment pretty much nailed it… except for one noteworthy issue: a puzzle that didn’t quite resolve correctly. While this didn’t break the game, if this were your first attempt at an Escape Puzzle, it would be a harsh and confounding ending.
If you’ve already enjoyed an Escape Puzzles or 2, Submarine would be fantastic. Just watch out for a bit of confusion near the conclusion and you’ll have a good time.
This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.
While wandering the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we’d happened upon an old man and his submarine. He’d previously used the boat to explore wrecks, but he’d grown too old for sea adventures and had offered the sub to us. We’d accepted and he explained its inner workings to us… but we’d been bored by this.
As soon as we’d pulled away from the dock, something broke and we sank to the bottom of the sea. We had to figure out what to do to survive.
➕ The jigsaw puzzle was vibrant. It featured great art.
➕ It was a moderately challenging, but fair assembly. There was a lot of blue, but there were also lots of fish and details to help pull everything together.
❓ We found most of the “escape room” puzzles to be a touch easier than those in the other Escape Puzzles released in Ravensburger’s first wave.
➖ The story in the instructions featured a choppy English translation.
➖ One of the puzzle solutions was at best lacking a significant clue… but it was probably just an incorrect inversion of the numbers. This was disappointing, but it wasn’t game-breaking… especially if you’ve played other Escape Puzzles and have a sense of how they work.
The actually correct answer to the above fish puzzle is 846.
For unclear reasons, the game reports the correct solution as 462. We stared at this thing with a few really experienced puzzlers (including 2009 US Sudoku National Champion, Tammy McLeod) and we couldn’t imagine a way to get 462. I have to believe that this was a typo.
➕ The concluding meta-puzzle was another clever solution. Ravensburger pushed this game mechanic considerably farther than we’d expected.
While wandering through the woods, we’d decided to sample some of the local mushrooms, as one does. The wild mushrooms had had unexpected effects, as they often do, and we’d felt faint and stumbled into a hollow.
As we came to our senses, we’d realized that we were in the home of a witch… and if we were ever going to get out, we’d need to find the antidote for the poison shrooms.
➕ As a jigsaw puzzle, the image was entertaining with a lot of details to enjoy.
➖ The image was pretty brown. It felt like the box art was more vibrant than the puzzle itself.
➕ The variation between the box art and the jigsaw puzzle was fantastic. We found the differences in this puzzle more playful than in the other escape puzzles in the series.
➕ The “escape room” puzzles were clear and solved cleanly.
Space Observatory offered a slightly more challenging jigsaw than the other Ravensburger Escape Puzzles, but concluded with a softer series of “escape room” puzzles.
If you’re more of a jigsaw puzzler, Space Observatory is the smart place to start. It worked well from beginning to end. Its meta-puzzle was a little easier to grasp than those in the other Escape Puzzles.
Whether you’re new with the series, already a fan of these, Space Observatory put on a strong show for the Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzle series.
This review only covers details specific to this individual Ravensburger Escape Puzzle.
While exploring an observatory, we’d happened upon a letter from a professor warning us of an impending cataclysm. The professor had build a device capable of saving the world, but couldn’t activate it. It was up to us to save the world.
➕ When it all came together, the jigsaw puzzle’s art was delightful.
❓ While we were assembling the jigsaw puzzle, a whole lot of it felt really similar… especially the many shelved books. Whether this is wonderful or annoying really comes down to personal preference.
➕ One of the “escape room” puzzles featured a really clever twist that was a bit confounding for more experienced puzzlers.
❓ The concluding meta-puzzle was considerably easier than those in the other 3 Escape Puzzles. This would be great if Space Observatory was your first Escape Puzzle… and may be less interesting if it was your fourth.