Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion [Review]

“… And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Location:  at home

Date Played: July 6, 2020

Team size: 1-5; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 120+ minutes

Price: about $30

REA Reaction

Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion was fun and playful. While the puzzles were adequate – some a bit better, some a bit worse -and generally unremarkable, it was written and illustrated perfectly. You play Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion for the overall experience.

Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion box art depicts th Mystery Inc gang in front of an ominous mansion.

This game plays like it was born out of a lab that dissected all of the other store-bought tabletop escape games and mixed what they found with top-notch Scooby writing. The result was unique, even if almost every component in the box could have come from any other tabletop escape game. The magic was in the brilliance of letting the narrative material shine.

Scooby-Doo is smart escape room material. Scooby is multi-generational and mystery-focused. Its tropes are entirely achievable through escape room gameplay, tabletop or otherwise.

Play Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion because you enjoy Scooby-Doo or because you have a family or group of friends seeking carefree amusement… because that’s what this was: light-hearted fun.

Who is this for?

  • Scooby-Doo fans
  • Story seekers
  • Cartoon art fans
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic Scooby character writing
  • Easygoing, exploration-based play
  • You’re a fan of the Scooby gang

Story

The Mystery Inc. gang of Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred, and of course Scooby, had been summoned to a haunted mansion to investigate the ghost of Lady Fairmont. Hijinks ensued.

Map tiles with the various charactr pieces on or surrounding them.
Continue reading “Scooby-Doo: Escape from The Haunted Mansion [Review]”

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.

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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.

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Mad Experiments: Escape Room [Review]

First-Person Cluer

Developer & Publisher: PlayTogether Studio

Date Played: Early June 2020

Platform: PC, Mac, Steam

Duration: about an hour

Price: $9.99 on Steam

Group Size: 1-6 players

REA Reaction

Mad Experiments: Escape Room was a beautifully designed room that had excellent multiplayer integration. As someone who has been missing real-life escaping, this first-person video game experience was a convincing stand-in.

The puzzles, however, could have used an injection of creativity. Too many of them relied on tired escape room tropes for finding keypad passcodes.

Because Mad Experiments had such a robust multiplayer offering, I would have liked to see it take more opportunities to use cooperation between teammates.

PlayTogether Studios delivered on presentation and provided solid gameplay, but left me wanting more from the puzzles. Regardless, I’d recommend checking out Mad Experiments because they have just released a second room, making the $10 price point a better value.

Who is this for?

  • Video gamers who want to try escape rooms.
  • Room escape fans who miss the social aspect of doing a physical room with friends.

Why play?

  • Beautiful design
  • Multiplayer integration

Story

Professor Cheshire and his assistant Hildeguard had invited me to their mansion to participate in an experiment of some kind. Or perhaps I was the experiment? The story was conveyed solely through Cheshire’s disembodied voice chiming in each time I finished a puzzle.

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Bluefish Games – Hincks Gazette [Review]

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Puzzle newspaper is surprisingly satisfying!”

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 7, 2020

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

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: $22 for 3 months, $39 for 6 months

REA Reaction

Quick, affordable, and surprisingly fun… with an emphasis on the surprise.

A copy of the Hincks Gazette being held up in front of a fireplace. The frontpage headline reads, "Talking plants now talking back. House plants sassing families all over town."

I don’t typically enjoy the writing in tabletop puzzle games, but The Hincks Gazette was humorous and well written.

The puzzle types that Bluefish Games used throughout this experience fell into categories that I usually dislike, but Bluefish Games managed to make each and every puzzle intriguing and exciting.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, and each time I started thinking, “this isn’t going to be for me,” my expectations were subverted in the best kind of way.

Quick-hit subscription games are tough. It’s hard to sustainably produce quality content on an ongoing basis. Will The Hincks Gazette maintain this level of quality over the long haul? I cannot say. For now, however, I’m really happy with this product and wholeheartedly recommend it for word puzzlers.

I doubt that The Hincks Gazette will blow your mind, but for the price and the level of commitment, like The Curious Elevator of Mr. Hincks, this was easy to recommend.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Smart puzzling in an elegant and inexpensive package
  • It’s funny

Story

We picked up a newspaper with a curiously incomplete story about sassy talking houseplants and how to make them stop being mean. The catch was that the last part was missing, and we really needed to fix our talking houseplant. The negativity was getting to us.

Continue reading “Bluefish Games – Hincks Gazette [Review]”