Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery [Review]

A doggone delight.

Location: at home

Date Played: May 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 6-10 hours, broken into four acts

Price: back on Kickstarter at $69 to receive a copy of the game

REA Reaction

With its clever construction and whimsical design, Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery stands out from the pack of play-at-home puzzle games. Trapped Puzzle Rooms has a reputation for devising uniquely charming, joyful experiences, and Ruff Bluff has built on that past expertise to create a more complex, premium addition to its Trapped Takeout product line. As of June 21, 2022, it’s available to back on Kickstarter for projected release in November 2022.

Box with the text "Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery" and an illustration of seven dogs playing poker

The real meat of Ruff Bluff is its puzzles. The volume of gameplay in each small box or envelope surprised us every time. We marveled at the elaborate game structure as the acts unfolded. Certain puzzles proved quite challenging, but Trapped provided an excellent online hint system to give the right level of guidance and prevent players from getting stuck.

Rather than leaning on printed materials, Trapped included game components that were varied, tactile, and fun to interact with. A couple of the more memorable items would be fun to keep on hand and revisit even after the game is over. We played a mostly finished prototype version; some components will be changed before the official release, but it seems fair to expect the final product will be even more polished.

Ruff Bluff is equally sophisticated and fun-filled, with a thoughtfully refined game flow framed by a wholesome whodunit set in an amusing dog-filled world. When it arrives later this year, it will be a worthy addition to any puzzle lover’s collection.

And if you like dog puns, all the better.

Continue reading “Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery [Review]”

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]”

Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters “Third Game” [Reaction]

Location: at home

Date Played: January 19, 2022

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

Duration: about 60 minutes

Price: about $29 ($14.99 each for Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story)

REA Reaction

In this third (nameless?) game, unlocked by solving both Time Drifters: Kira’s Story and Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, we collaborated across a video call to reunite our two heroines. The premise was adorable, and perfect for a pandemic era of virtual, distanced play. The puzzles relied primarily on communication, and this worked well.

Box art for Time Drifters, Kira's Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.Box art for Time Drifters, Isabel' Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

The game excelled at reusing game components from Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story in entirely new ways. Furthermore, knowledge we’d gained solving these previous stories was relevant in the third game. The flow of information went in the right direction, with each story informing the combined experience, but the combined game never impeding the individual games.

The biggest let down during our play was Mattel’s website. The solution was not able to be internally confirmed in any way, and the website where we would confirm it (and see hints) was down for at least a number of days.

I wish that Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story were sold together, with the option to supply to separate mailing addresses. It would be a letdown to only purchase one, and not enjoy this sequence of collaborative communication puzzles, which was revealed upon completion of either game. The product felt like 3 games in 2 boxes.

Close up, a panel atop the game box reads, "Stop! Don't lift this panel until you are ready to start the game."

Tips For Players

To play this “third game,” you need to have solved either Time Drifters: Kira’s Story or Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story. Set up a video call with friends who have solved the other game and combine your knowledge and materials to solve this game.

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Kira’s Story and Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided samples for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story [Reaction]

Location: at home

Date Played: January 17, 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: about 60 minutes

Price: about $14.99

REA Reaction

Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story was able to deliver a surprising level of complexity and variable gameplay, considering how few objects were seemingly contained in the box. Every item, both in and on the box, was cleverly used in multiple, varied ways, keeping us on our toes. The items were tangible and fun to play with, and worked well as puzzle-solving tools and mechanisms. 

Box art for Time Drifters, Isabel' Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

Many tabletop games lean towards word puzzles presented on paper, yet Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story went hard in the logic puzzle category. This was a welcome change for our team of logic-obsessed puzzlers, but may not be for everyone. While not too challenging for experienced players, this would be a great way to engage puzzle-curious friends and family members. The game contained a subtle yet effective way to lead players from puzzle to puzzle without being overbearing. 

While the puzzles included were fun, and the flow of the game worked, the experience felt short. We were left longing for another handful of puzzles after the first portion of the game. 

Assorted paper and plastic components. There's an interesting looking box with 4 switches on it.

Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story felt incomplete without Time Drifters: Kira’s Story, as the gameplay came to an abrupt halt after solving the final “solo” puzzle. At this juncture, we were presented with multiple additional puzzles with only half of the information. 

I absolutely love that this game came out during these crazy unprecedented times, with the option to go on Amazon or stop by your local Target to pick up half, while someone 3 time zones away could pick up the other half. Although the box notes you can have a friend purchase the other half, this should be more strongly portrayed as only a partial game without both copies. The game can also be easily reset and passed onto another group, with the option to print paper components you may have written on. 

Time Drifters as a whole is a great option for distance puzzling with friends and loved ones you can’t typically puzzle with in person. 

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Kira’s Story [Review]

A rift in the game continuum

Location: at home

Date Played: January 17, 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: about 60 minutes

Price: about $14.99

REA Reaction

Mattel’s Escape Room In A Box series emerged with a new two-part installment designed during the pandemic. The game was deliberately crafted for two players (or groups) to solve a portion of the experience on their own and then come together to solve a combined third act.

Built around a gearbox prop, Kira’s Story took us through a series of puzzles to repair a time machine. The blend of paper puzzles and tangible props was heightened by the truly strange gearbox prop.

Box art for Time Drifters, Kira's Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story are sold separately for $15 each. Upon hearing that this game was going to be split in two, I figured that there was a chance that we’d be paying more money for half a product… but that’s not what Mattel did. Previous installments of the Escape Room In A Box series sold for $30. By keeping the pricing comparable to previous products, I think that they have delivered at least as much value, if not more, than in previous releases.

Individually, either one of these games feels like less than one product. Together, they feel like more. It’s a neat trick.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players with a friend in another location… who buys Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story

Why play?

  • It’s a well-designed puzzle game
  • The props are among the coolest that you’ll find in mass market tabletop escape games
  • This two-part game was designed to be enjoyed with another friend from a distance

Story

Time traveling adventurers Kira and Isabel collided with a rip in the space-time continuum and it tore their time machine in two, sending each to a different time and place.

Each of them had to repair their own portion of the machine on their own… and then figure out how to come together.

Kira's Story box open beside the story, rules, and a caution panel.
Continue reading “Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Kira’s Story [Review]”