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]”

Gruzzle – The Will [Review]

Consulting Puzzler

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 23, 2020

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: about 2 hours

Price:  $30 per game, delivered every other month; $87 for 6-month subscription, $172 for a year’s subscription

REA Reaction

Gruzzle is a subscription puzzle service. They send a tabletop escape game-style puzzle box to you every other month. The Will was their second game, released in November 2020.

The Will required nothing more than what came in the box and provided a fun and satisfying evening of tabletop puzzle solving. The puzzles were approachable, cleanly clued, and made creative use of paper components.

Envelopes with different items printed on them.

Although the storytelling didn’t resonate with us, it wasn’t the reason to play. This was a game for people who want to solve elegant puzzles at an approachable difficulty level.

With The Will, Gruzzle is poised for a successful subscription model. The components are inexpensive, and the puzzles are well designed. Every other month is a substantial commitment, but if they are able to keep up the quality of puzzles they’ve established with The Will, Gruzzle offers good value in the tabletop puzzle subscription market. We look forward to seeing more from Gruzzle.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Good for less experienced puzzlers

Why play?

  • Nifty tangible interactions
  • Little aha moments throughout the experience

Story

A wealthy philanthropist had passed away and left her fortune to her equally philanthropic grandchildren. However, she’d hid the fortune behind a series of puzzles, and that’s where we came in. The family had hired us to serve as a consulting puzzler to earn their inheritance for them.

The Gruzzle box depicts a child looking through a magnifying glass.
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Online Course: How to Plan a Reopening Campaign [Product Review]

Reaction

This a marketing course, created to help escape room owners start up again after a lockdown. It could be a good fit to newer owners, those lacking marketing skills, or anyone needing a bit of motivation to dive back in to marketing.

The course is not really specific to reopening after a lockdown. It provides general marketing advice. It is well thought out, but offers mostly common sense ideas rather than some kind of secret. It is probably possible to get this type of information for free from other escape room owner support groups and connections.

It is organized and presented well, with a system of setting goals and tracking progress with the provided tools. It suggests data driven techniques to send semi-personalized messages to reengage existing customers and alert them of your reopening.

I like that the instructor, Zoli, reminds owners that they are in the “memories business.”

Photo of the course creator Zoli, text reads, "How to plan a reopening campaign. Free 4 part 'how to' Series."

Structure

This online course consists of 5 videos, each 10-15 minutes in length.

4 of the videos are available for free.

The pro version (£97) includes more resources, and versions of the videos with more detail and more examples. The resources include planning spreadsheets already populated with formulas and headers, and templates for various types of customer communications such as email alerts, newsletters, and social media posts.

Slide: "What's in the package? 1+ hour video guides, 1 on 1 consultation (limited time offer), pre-written content, all in one planner."

Audience

This course may be useful for escape room owners who are seeking help improving their marketing and have time on their hands at the present.

If you already have a marketing team or person, this is exactly the type of thing they should already be doing for you.

If you are in need of help, however, this plan could be useful to kickstart a reopening marketing plan. It is a fully workable plan you can use if you can’t or don’t want to think of a plan yourself. For some, it may be more motivation than anything else

For £97 (about $135) it is probably worthwhile if you are having trouble getting into the marketing spirit again after a lockdown.

There are lots of tips and ideas and Zoli mentions several times that he is available for questions and personalized assistance.

Use the discount code REA20 for 20% off your order until May 20, 2021.

Disclosure: Zoli gave REA access to the Pro tier for review.

This course is created by the founder of clueQuest in London, England.

Puzzling Package – The Runes of Odin [Review]

By Odin’s Drinking Horn

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 2021

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: 4-5 hours

Price: $135

REA Reaction

The Runes of Odin felt like a complicated tabletop escape game… or a light alternate reality game (ARG). We were presented with a few beautiful artifacts, many documents, and just a little direction. From that point it was on us to read, analyze, and puzzle our way to answers.

This was a higher commitment experience than most of the tabletop games that find their way into our dining room. It was well executed. The story was extensive and engaging, and most of the puzzles were solid, with one standout and one that didn’t do anything for us.

Our biggest issues with this game were two fold:

  • The hint system was under baked for how demanding the game was.
  • The ratio of flavor to gameplay felt off. There was so much to read, touch, and look at, but if you took the true puzzle components and looked at them in isolation, they made up a small fraction of the game.

All of this culminated in a big mystery… which may be exactly what you’re looking for. The Runes of Odin wants you to pour a drink, sit back, and take your time with its world. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this is a great game. If spending 4+ hours reading and analyzing documents sounds like more than you’re looking for, then you’ll likely want to explore a different game. It really is a matter of time and taste.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Artifact collectors
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Collectible artifacts
  • Extensive world-building
  • Some strong puzzles

Story

Argonaut Exports dealt in ancient artifacts. When they’d happened upon an academic’s half-finished research into Odin, they’d asked us to see what we could discover about the Norse god.

Continue reading “Puzzling Package – The Runes of Odin [Review]”

Puzzle Post – The Missing Flight [Review]

A quick flight

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 16, 2021

Team size: we recommend 1-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about £12.99 + shipping

REA Reaction

Puzzle Post’s The Missing Flight was a well-constructed, approachable puzzle game with a bit of story.

Everything was lean and cleanly presented through assorted paper components, with solid graphic design.

An assortment of paper puzzle components, including a napkin, and a coaster.

From a puzzling standpoint, The Missing Flight was clean and straightforward. The puzzles solved elegantly, and didn’t have any layers or complicated twists. We finished everything in about 30 minutes, taking each puzzle one at a time, at a comfortable pace.

The underlying technology had easy solution validation, and a self-service hint system. One of my favorite features of this game was the fact that they have localized phone numbers for US and British customers. This seems small, but this kind of care means a lot.

The one thing that jumped out to me when I took a look at the hint system was that, while the hinting was fairly humorous, sometimes it felt a little more focused on entertainment value than it was hint delivery.

Overall, The Missing Flight was a fun entry level game. There was a lot of care put into it. It was compact, and player-friendly. While it didn’t have the narrative or mechanical depth that I personally seek, I think that it’s a great game for newer players, and folks who enjoy straightforward, low-commitment puzzling. I might not normally seek a game like this out, but I honestly enjoyed banging through these puzzles.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: A small table
  • Required Gear: Paper, pencil, and an internet connected device (a laptop is best)

Buy your copy of Puzzle Post’s The Missing Flight, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzle Post provided a sample for review.