EXIT: Advent Calendar – The Hunt for The Golden Book [Review]

24 puzzling days ’til Christmas

Location:  At home

Date Played:  November, 2022

Team size: 1+; we recommend 1-2

Duration: Average 10 minutes per day for 24 days

Price: about $49.95

REA Reaction

When I first heard that Exit: The Game was coming out with a new advent calendar this holiday season, I immediately called my local gaming store to find out the release date. Having played their Mystery of the Ice Cave last year, I knew to expect fun, think-outside-of-the-box puzzles with those special aha moments found in their standalone games. An Exit: The Game puzzle each day for 24 days until Christmas? Yes, please!

Lifting the lid of the rather large box-shaped calendar, I noticed the detailed artwork depicting a snow-covered village under a large, glowing moon. 24 sealed doors, each with a lock icon and 3 mysterious symbols covered the lower half of the scene. I couldn’t wait to find out what puzzles lay behind those doors. I also couldn’t help but check out the rest of the box, wondering what, if anything, might be part of a puzzle!

Large EXIT: The Game Advent Calendar box depicts a book opening to a beautiful and spooky European city lit by moonlight.

Solving Exit: The Game-style puzzles takes creative thinking and looking beyond the obvious. The puzzles ranged from simple to tricky. We solved most within 10 minutes, including the time to read each day’s story page. The simple mechanic of discovering which door to open next worked really well and ensured we didn’t open the wrong one by mistake. We also enjoyed a few unexpected references to well-known holiday movies and real-life people. Though there were a few puzzles that were confusing or overly complicated, and one that referenced information more common in the UK, most were delightful and fun to solve. 

The Hunt for the Golden Book is a fun, family-friendly experience, appropriate for kids 10 and older. Fans of the Exit: The Game series will find a lot to like as well. It’s those unexpected discoveries and seeing puzzle components in a completely new way that keep me coming back for more. 

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Great Escape of Central Texas – Back to the Fourth Grade [Review]

It’s elementary…and that’s okay!

Location:  Killeen, TX

Date Played: August 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As a former elementary school teacher, Back to the Fourth Grade felt like a homecoming of sorts. I recognized the floor tiles, the desks, the posters… heck, I probably even bought some of those posters once in my life. In both its decor and activities, the room captured the core essence of a classroom. It successfully made a school-day fun.

This was also the sparsest of the three rooms we played at Great Escape of Central Texas and showed a bit more wear than the others. Here, the minimalism hid some clever mechanics in plain sight, making their discovery that much more exciting. However, players looking for a richer environment should play Mobfather or Lost Tomb of Anubis.

Puzzle-wise, the room offered a good balance between straightforward activities for younger or newer players and a few trickier challenges. One puzzle suggested more patience than it ultimately deserved, but otherwise everything was well-clued and fair. Experienced players will likely fly through much of this experience but may still enjoy the nostalgic interactions here. I did.

After lamenting the scarcity of good family games in the Austin area, I brought my kids (ages 6 and 9) back to play this room with a couple of their friends. They loooooved it. They were able to make most of the puzzle connections without too much help, and they were delighted by the set interactions and surprises. I had already enjoyed this room with my enthusiast crew, but seeing it from my kids’ perspective made me appreciate its extra charm for fresh eyes.

Back to the Fourth Grade was an endearing room that is highly approachable for families, including a couple of clever ahas to delight enthusiast chaperones. Families in the Austin or Killeen area should definitely check it out.

Wide view of a 4th grade classroom.
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PanIQ Room – Wizard Trials [Review]

Where there’s a wand there’s a way

Location: Austin, Texas

Date Played: August 28, 2022

Team Size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $39/player for public game, $45/player for private game

Ticketing: Both Public and private options are available

Accessibility Consideration:  At least one player must use a step.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical

REA Reaction

Wizard Trials was an average puzzle game wrapped in an impressive set but marred by some peripheral design issues. Puzzle-focused enthusiasts likely won’t find enough substance here for the price, but newer players might be justifiably delighted. I’m actively considering bringing my kids back to play this.

The game offered an enticing thematic package: a convincing set, voice-acted hints and nudges, a fair amount of tech-driven “magic,” and a satisfying payoff to the story. Wands also played a persistent role in the room, an interaction that I’d been waiting to see come to Austin. This cohesive and fanciful ambiance was the main draw for the game.

The puzzles were straightforward, with the wand mechanic adding whimsy to otherwise common designs. Although the puzzles were generally approachable for a broad audience, a couple had questionable discoverability for newer players. Also, some set wear made another puzzle more enigmatic than likely intended.

The game’s most pervasive flaw centered around its imprecise use of sounds for cuing, cluing, and confirming. Bells, whistles, and wizardly advice were common throughout the experience, but it was hard to distinguish whether these things were focusing our attention, nudging us in a different direction, or just letting us know we did something right. This was more distracting than harmful.

If viewed as a starter game for newer players, Wizard Trials had a lot to offer. It would be a fine choice for local families (ages 8+) looking for an opportunity to puzzle together.

A wizard's study with a large desk surrounded by books
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Breakout Games – CLUE [Review]

It will be __ in the __ with the __

Location:  Indianapolis, IN

Date Played: September 24, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $24.99 to $44.99 per player depending on player count

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: One element was out of commission, but was clearly marked and handled well.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Breakout Games’ CLUE was a fantastic implementation of the original board game, keeping true to the slapstick humor and deduction we’ve loved for years. With incredibly family friendly nature, CLUE delivered an experience true to the original mechanics by implementing an overarching deduction meta-puzzle to stop the murder from ever happening.

Breakout threw everything but the kitchen sink into this experience, with numerous callbacks to the board game and great set design. The attention to detail and the high tolerance for alternate puzzle solutions shined. With the high quality of many of the puzzles, interactions, and characters, there was only one run down and out of place puzzle that could easily be swapped for something more charming.

The space felt larger than it was due to placement of doors within the set as well as the narrative incorporation of other rooms within the vast mansion. This space was decadent until it wasn’t – CLUE showed us inaccessible parts of the mansion that were much more lush and polished than the game space, making the set feel worse in comparison.

Door art reads: "Clue Presented by BREAKOUT"

We’d like to think that every time someone wins Breakout’s CLUE, someone doesn’t open the board game, as we, the players, have stopped the murder from actually happening in the first place.

CLUE is a great option for a family fun experience at the Breakout locations that offer it in their lineup.  

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PostCurious – Adrift [Review]

Watercolors & Artifacts

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 17, 2022

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

Duration: 2-3 hours

Price: about $49

REA Reaction

We delighted in Adrift’s structured gameplay. It was so well organized. This made it approachable and immensely satisfying for my anti-chaos personality. It expertly on-boarded players, and gradually dialed up the difficulty. While some of the later puzzles were quite challenging, and in one instance a change in gameplay pattern threw us off for a bit, the tangible artifacts kept us engaged and the solutions delivered.

Furthermore, Adrift was beautiful. Every component was crafted with exquisite care. You’re purchasing more than just puzzles here. You’re purchasing art. Although some aesthetic choices gave us narrative pause, the beauty of the components made Adrift that much more fun to play through.

An assortment of beautiful art and components from within Adrift.
Image via PostCurious

Adrift is the type of tabletop puzzle game that would make a perfect gift for the puzzlers in your life. It packs a few hours of compelling gameplay, which in turn give you back some keepsakes (or even ornaments), if that’s your thing.

A few pieces of advice for your playthrough to maximize fun: You don’t have to play the entire game at once. It’s easy to divide it into sections. Start with yellow and blue, and save red for last. When the puzzles ramp up, don’t be shy with the hints. PostCurious excels at hint delivery, so these won’t spoil your enjoyment of the game. With this setup, Adrift is an accessible experience for puzzle veterans and the puzzle curious.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Art aficionados
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Unique and beautiful artifacts
  • Illustrations you might just want to hang on the wall
  • Clever and approachable puzzle design

Story

Our client had been having strange dreams. Moreover they were producing gorgeous art that they didn’t have the skills to create. We were looking into these phenomena to unravel the mystery of it all.

Adrift's beautiful box art with a repeating pattern and metallic foiling.
There is a metallic foiling quality to this box that I couldn’t capture on camera. It is striking and beautiful.
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