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.
Continue reading “Gruzzle – The Will [Review]”

District 3 Escape Rooms – Haunted [Hivemind Review]

Haunted is an avatar-led, livestreamed adaptation of an in-person game created by District 3 Escape Rooms in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

A person entering into a strangely shaped room with high ceilings.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Adaptation of an in-person game (can be played IRL)
  • Avatar controlled by the players
  • Web-based inventory system

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 3-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $19 CAD per person (accounting for the current discount)

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Players control the game host avatar through Zoom, and have access to a Telescape inventory website site for a 360-degree view of the space and a better view of puzzles.

Hivemind Review Scale

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. These videos are available for free.

The pro version (£97) includes more resources. There are 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.

Enibot – The Vaccine Chase [Hivemind Review]

The Vaccine Chase is an online game played through a chatbot created by Enibot, based in Israel.

In-game animation of people in a medical lab.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on demand
  • Point-and-click

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: ~30 minutes

Price: $20 per ticket (per game on a single computer with up to 6 players)

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Playing through a chatbot, we had to solve puzzles to usher a research scientist from their lab to the CDC to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine formula.

Note that although the subject matter is sensitive to many people at this time – the game pulls in real-time COVID-19 data and puzzle answers are dynamic – it also treats the material respectfully.

Chat and animation based UI for Enibot.

Hivemind Review Scale

REPOD Episode 7: Chris Lattner: The Gordon Ramsay of Escape Rooms

In episode 7, we talk to Chris Lattner, CEO and creative director of The Room in Berlin, one of the top-ranked escape room companies in the world, according to TERPECA—the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards. The Room’s immersive adventures have continued to win awards and accolades throughout the years, including our own Room Escape Artist’s Golden Lock Awards.

Chris’ background was as a professional DJ in the techno scene for many years, performing at clubs and festivals around the world. He was also heavily involved in the European geocaching scene, years before escape rooms even existed. After chatting with Chris, it became very clear that he has a focused design philosophy rooted in his past influences.

From guiding party-goers on an immersive emotional journey as a DJ, to creating a world-class geocaching adventure that oftentimes involved climbing equipment and wandering through forests at night, and even playing countless hours of video games, Chris shares with us all his influences and inspirations.

Chris is opinionated, deliberate in his design choices, and full of interesting life experiences. We loved getting inside his head and hearing about how he brings his immersive adventures to life.

dimly lit staircase in what looks like a temple with a picture of a man wearing glasses.

Episode 7

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Chris talks about his philosophy regarding renovations and updates to his existing experiences, explaining that when he designs an experience, sometimes the technology for his vision isn’t available yet, but when it does become available, he will update. [2:08] 
  • Chris tells us that his company isn’t really a “puzzle shop” and that he prefers what he calls “tasks” over puzzles. He illustrates the difference between puzzles and tasks, and why he considers “tasks” to be more immersive. [3:45] 
  • David discusses a third type of “puzzle” that he sees in escape rooms, something he calls “challenges,” which require physical dexterity. [5:37]
  • Chris talks to us about why he changed the subtitle of his business name from “Live Escape Game” to “Immersive Adventures,” and what differentiates the two. [6:09]
  • Chris tells us about some of his influences, including open-world video games like Assassin’s Creed, and old point-and-click LucasArts games. [7:08]
  • Chris says that the storytellers of his youth were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and talks about what an impression those adventure movies, like Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters, had on him. What he loves most about those movies is the emotional journey on which they take you. [9:10]
  • Chris jokes about being the “Gordon Ramsey” of escape rooms, and acknowledges being a harsh critic of escape rooms. [11:38] 
  • David comments that for him, the best games create a realistic sense of urgency, as opposed to the drive to win the game for the sake of ego. [14:20] 
  • Chris tells us about his past experience designing and creating “extreme” geocaching adventures in 2012, even before escape rooms were a thing. [15:33] (video below)
  • Chris talks about his popular geocache adventure “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” a multi-stage 6-hour experience that required climbing gear, treks into a German forest at night, and crawling through a dark tunnel. He even created a chest with a beating heart, booking system and hint system. [17:15] (video below)
  • Chris explains the terrain ranking system for geocaching, from wheelchair accessible to requiring climbing gear or scuba diving gear. [19:23]
  • Chris talks about “lost places,” abandoned military complexes, and how this type of extreme adventure geocaching is forbidden now. [20:23]
  • Peih-Gee talks about her days as a raver in her twenties, and how they would sneak into these types of “lost places” and throw big underground parties, and the adventure of trying to locate parties in the desert. [21:30]
  • Chris was a professional DJ in the techno scene, performing at clubs and festivals around the world for many years. He talks to us about how he immerses the audience, taking them on a journey, building atmosphere, and controlling the crowd. He discusses the importance of managing the ebb and flow of the energy levels, and how he applies this philosophy to the immersive experiences he creates. [22:50]
  • Chris tells us that for his game The Lost Treasure, they created an automated mechanism where the sound is mixed in real time with a game engine during the game, triggered by the actions of the players. [25:22]
  • In his newest game, Brandon Darkmoor, Chris tells us that his gamemaster is basically “running a real theatre show for just five people.” In this game, the gamemaster is mixing the sound for the games live and triggering scenes by hand. [26:32]
  • Chris talks about the use of scents in his immersive adventures, and how powerful it is in creating a realistic atmosphere. [27:45]
  • SPOILER ALERT: We discuss the political message and narrative story of Chris’ game Go West. Some details are spoilers for the game, so if you haven’t played it and don’t want to be spoiled, you can skip ahead to 32:19. [29:35] 
  • Chris discusses his philosophy behind updating existing older rooms as opposed to completely discarding them. [33:11]
  • Chris tells us that his next immersive experience will be centered around Vikings, inspired by his love of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the newest game in the series. He has even consulted a historian to ensure historical accuracy. [35:47]
  • We chat about creating immersive experiences for tourists and using theming based on local history and culture. Chris gives us an example of creating an experience rooted in local history and making use of a unique location, like an old railway station. [37:05]
  • Chris talks about his love of LinkedIn and about his second company, The Room Labs, which creates themed entertainment for restaurants, escape rooms, and museum experiences [39:55]
  • Chris gives us a bonus escape room story. [42:45]

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Follow Chris Lattner

Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

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Thanks for listening!

Guest Bio

Chris Lattner, Owner and Designer at The Room Berlin

After 28 years working as a professional DJ playing techno and house in clubs around the world, Chris decided it was time for something completely different.

His first escape game experience in London in March of 2013 was the ignition point for the decision to open his own escape game in Berlin.

Together with his business partner Jochen Krüger and their former geocaching crew, he opened THE ROOM on the October 3, 2014 after a year of planning and six months of building.

Their first two rooms, GO WEST and THE BEAST OF BERLIN, were more successful than they’d ever imagined and the business quickly grew to a point where a third room made sense.

The goal with the third room was to create something groundbreaking in terms of set design and technical equipment. Thus the team was expanded to include Malte Eiben, who is responsible for programming, and Wilko Drews, with whom Chris designed HUMBOLDT, or THE LOST TREASURE, as it is known today. 

After 8 months of building, THE LOST TREASURE opened to the public in November 2015. It has been extremely well received with many positive reviews from both new and experienced players.

At the end of 2018, THE ROOM opened BRANDON DARKMOOR, a one-of-its-kind immersive adventure.

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