Escape Passages: Volume 1 [Review]

DIY Escape This Podcast

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 1-2 hours per scenario

Price: about $12

Author: Walter Miska

REA Reaction

Escape Passages was written by an escape room player for escape room players. This came through in the humorous writing, fun scenarios, and familiar gameplay.

This book was at its best when it leaned into its lack of physical game space, with solutions that could never have been executed without the walls of a real-life escape room. In these moments, it combined creativity and deduction wonderfully.

Although we didn’t enjoy every puzzle, and didn’t think they were all optimal choices for the medium, the gameplay generally worked well and was fun.

We played with a gamemaster who is an experienced as a Dungeon Master, and she was skilled at turning our ideas into hilarity. Rest assured, however, that you don’t need any prior experience to be the gamemaster. The book tells you everything you need to know.

Escape Passages Vol 1 book cover.

Escape Passages would be perfect for a group of 3-5 friends who have played at least a handful of escape rooms, and want to bring that style of solving home with them.

This book is a vehicle to make your own fun. We recommend you try outlandish ideas and don’t take anything too seriously. You’ll enjoy some wonderful ahas and just as many laughs.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at some experience with escape rooms

Why play?

  • You can play these escape rooms practically anywhere, even remotely.
  • The writing has personality.
  • You create your own adventure.

Story

There are 3 scenarios in Escape Passages: Volume 1:

A Lizard in the Locker Room

We were in a high school locker room, looking to recover a stolen high school mascot.

Viking Invasion

We’d been captured by Vikings and needed to escape the confines of their longhouse.

Antidote

We were trapped in a genetics laboratory looking for an antidote to an experiment gone wrong.

Continue reading “Escape Passages: Volume 1 [Review]”

ThinkFun – Cold Case: A Pinch of Murder [Hivemind Review]

Cold Case: Pinch of Murder is a tabletop mystery game created by ThinkFun.

An assortment of crime evidence. In the center of the frame are two photos of an old kitchen.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Tabletop mystery game
  • Play on demand

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: about 1-2 hours, maybe more with all the reading

Price: ~$15

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Your job is to solve an old murder case and some related crimes. To do so, you examine all the evidence in the case file and answer three questions about the crimes. When you have your answers, you input them into a website for confirmation.

There were no “puzzles” along the way to the solution, just reading and comparing evidence.

An assortment of crime evidence. In the center of the frame is a photo of a collection of jewelry with a watch circled in red.

Exit: The Game – The Cursed Labyrinth [Hivemind Review]

The Cursed Labyrinth is a tabletop escape game created by Exit: The Game.

Exit The Game, The Cursed Labyrinth box art with a stone maze structure on the cover.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop escape game

Required Equipment: scissors, pen & paper

A phone is not required but there is an app with a timer and background sounds.

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: 1-2 hours

Price: about $15

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

While touring the grounds of a castle, you wander into a mysterious labyrinth and become trapped with only your puzzle-solving skills to save you. Your adventure follows the standard format for novice Exit: The Game installments.

You have access to a puzzle book, clue cards, various “strange items,” and a decoder wheel for entering the solutions to puzzles. In the novice games like this one, the puzzle book walks you through one puzzle at a time. As in all Exit: The Game installments, you must embrace destroying various parts of the game to solve some of the puzzles, though this installment preserves more components than most.

Assorted game components including a maze, a solution wheel, card deck, and instructions.

Cindi S’ Reaction

During a visit to an ancient castle, you discover a mysterious stone labyrinth in the nearby gardens. Unable to resist, you walk through the entry gate to explore further and quickly become trapped as the doors slam shut! In The Cursed Labyrinth, you will meet mysterious creatures as you puzzle your way through the maze’s twists and turns. I always enjoy the sound effects in the companion app, and for the first time they added a character voice reading the introduction, which immediately brought the story to life. The puzzles were fun to discover and solve, as always, but a few had more direction than usual, making The Cursed Labyrinth less challenging than other Exit: The Game installments. This is a very good choice for younger players and beginners, but experienced players will still enjoy their path through the Labyrinth.

Kate Wastl’s Reaction

During a tour of an old castle, you and your friends find yourself trapped in a complicated maze with all sorts of creatures in Exit: The Game’s The Cursed Labyrinth. With two or three reaches that stretch past the Novice rating on the box, this game would be most appropriate for a group of 2-4 people (including a few adults) that have played at least one Exit: The Game installment before. There were several puzzles executed with new game mechanics that will interest even those people who have played a number of games in this series before. That being said, while Exit Game installments are typically translated flawlessly into English, there is one hint card that notes to pay attention to text in cursive, which is incorrect and may be misleading.

Theresa W’s Reaction

The Exit: The Game series is usually a fairly positive experience for me, usually containing clever puzzles and fun interactions that break from my expectations, given the game components. The Cursed Labyrinth lived up to its ‘cursed’ title and was one of the weakest additions to the Exit: The Game series so far. From vague extractions that weren’t well clued, arbitrary deciphering, and lack of signposting, this game fell apart. While a handful of puzzles were easy to solve, they felt more like a process and less like solving a puzzle. The game had either extremely easy, but satisfying solves, or poorly executed difficult puzzles, with none of them quite landing in the middle. Each puzzle in the game was a good idea, and could have been a cleaner solve, but in the current state, I really cannot recommend The Cursed Labyrinth. If you’re looking to pick up a title in the series, I’d recommend The Enchanted Forest or The Gate Between Worlds.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

This was a solidly average Exit: The Game installment with no major flaws, but also no major wow moments. The setting of a “cursed labyrinth” offered coherent mythological theming throughout the game, but resulted in visually murky game materials. All of the puzzles were reasonable with fairly obvious cluing, though a couple required us to reason about game mechanics in ways that benefitted from familiarity with those mechanics. There was also a surprising red herring, which was rather unusual for the series and was particularly disappointing in this case because we were otherwise intrigued by it.

New to Exit: The Game? Maybe don’t start here. Although some puzzles provide decent onramps to the series’s mechanics, there are too many that expect more familiarity with those mechanics than a first-time player is likely to develop within their first play.

Fan of Exit: The Game? If you gravitate toward the easier, more linear installments in the series, this game is a fine choice with a couple of interesting twists on game mechanics. Don’t expect anything mind-blowing, and you’ll have a nice time.

Disclosure: Exit: The Game provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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DarkPark Games – Dear Santa [Review]

🎵 I’m dreaming of a dark Christmas 🎵

Location:  at home

Date Played: July 14, 2021

Team size: we recommend 2-3

Duration: 1-2 hours

Price: not currently available

REA Reaction

Dear Santa was released almost a year ago for the 2020 holiday season. While the game is no longer available for purchase, we decided to put out our review for posterity.

DarkPark Games’ products always have a darkness about them; it’s in the name. Dear Santa may be their most interesting creation in that it explores familial darkness. There are lots of bad things that can happen to a family, and they didn’t hold back.

An assortment of items and letters from Dear Santa Chapter 1, including a child's drawing of his family.

Whether you enjoyed Dear Santa or not, it was a generally well-designed and well-crafted game.

We enjoyed experiencing this story, and can also easily imagine someone hating it. It was brilliantly manipulative, and went down some roads that required a certain bravery for a game designer to explore.

I’m sorry we took too long to play this one, as it is no longer available for purchase, but I eagerly await the next installment from DarkPark Games. No one is making games like theirs.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A compelling story
  • Solid puzzle design
  • The aesthetic is cleverly effective
  • It’s a unique product

Story

We had received a collection of letters to Santa from 8-year-old Julian. This year, he didn’t want presents; he just wanted his mommy back.

We had to comb through what had been sent to learn the tragic story of his family, and see if there was anything we could do to help.

White box for Dear Santa depicts a child's artwork of Santa, addressed to the North Pole.
Continue reading “DarkPark Games – Dear Santa [Review]”

Diorama – The Vandermist Dossier [Hivemind Review]

The Vandermist Dossier is a tabletop narrative puzzle adventure created by Diorama in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Vandermist Dossier box beside an assortment of interesting components, including a map, a newspaper and a strange spiral device.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop narrative puzzle adventure

Required Equipment: pen and paper

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: 90 minutes

Price: from €41 (about $48) plus shipping on Kickstarter

Booking: back on Kickstarter to purchase at play at your leisure

Description

Abigail Vandermist disappeared in 1979 but not before compiling a dossier of information about strange occurrences that she was investigating. You have been hired for your sleuthing skills to analyze the dossier and determine what happened to Abigail. To do this, you must read through a variety of media to locate clues, decode hidden messages, combine items, and ultimately answer where Abigail is now.