Fifthroom – Ouija [Hivemind Review]

Ouija is an online game created by Fifthroom in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Game streamed over zoom, a website shows a creepy forest at night, text reads, "You are almost ready click here."

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on demand

Who is it For? At the time we played, the game was broken and we cannot recommend it.

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: When you buy the license key you have 24 hours to play. Active playtime was about 30 minutes.

Price: 19.9 MYR per license (about $5 per license key )

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This was an on-demand digital experience played in a browser. The game consists of text and pictures, with one puzzle on each page. When you solve a puzzle, you enter the answer in the answer box and hit submit. You are then taken to the next puzzle.

A broken website for Fifth Room.
Continue reading “Fifthroom – Ouija [Hivemind Review]”

SCRAP – Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School [Hivemind Review]

Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School is a tabletop escape game created by SCRAP in Japan.

Anime cover art for, Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School depicts 4 characters wearing black uniforms.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on demand
  • Includes video segments
  • Tabletop escape game

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Anime fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper, scissors

While this game is mobile compatible, playing on a computer is a much smoother experience. Note that if you close out of the online portal and return you have to re-enter all of your answers.

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: 2-3 hours

Price: about $30

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School is based on the award-winning anime Jujutsu Kaisen (“Anime of the Year” at the 2021 5th Crunchyroll Anime Awards).

Order the game kit, which gives you the background of the characters and some important definitions and instructions. Start the game, listen to the introductory videos, and solve puzzles/ interact with the characters as directed. You can pause gameplay at any time. Use the materials in the game kit to solve puzzles.

An assortment of paper components, the top one is labeled, "To Secret Documents from Jujutsu High."

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

I’ve always wanted to use origami to battle evil forces.

With Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School, SCRAP delivered an impressive amount of densely clever gameplay in a small package. This game’s core mechanic, which involved repeatedly folding and aligning a paper doll to extract keywords and remotely cast spells, would fit right in at a puzzle hunt. This mechanic was novel, cleanly implemented, and perfectly thematic. While things started off simple and directly clued, the puzzles layered on themselves in highly satisfying ways. Even a few classic “SCRAP twists” toward the end of the game proved to be insidious but fair, with proportional payoffs.

As with many SCRAP games, there were some elements that didn’t fully translate. There was too much dialogue for my taste, and Japanese-audio-with-English-subtitles videos contained little visual action. The English was occasionally clunky, but decently translated overall. As I skipped most of the video content, I found it frustrating that sidebar video transcriptions always jumped to the end, requiring repeatedly scrolling back up to find where the last chunk of dialogue began.

For the price, Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School may not have provided much in terms of physical production value, but the paper components provided got used very efficiently and cleverly. And with at least a couple of hours of creative gameplay, I’d strongly recommend this game to avid puzzlers and fans of Jujutsu Kaisen.

Theresa W’s Reaction

As someone who has watched (and loves!) Jujutsu Kaisen, Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School did an amazing job encapsulating the essence of the show. Using very few paper elements and an online portal, SCRAP was able to design unique gameplay where the player truly felt like part of the story. The voice acting by the original voice actors from the show added another level of immersion, although the interactions with the characters could have benefited from more animation instead of the still images used.

This game did a fantastic job at being accessible, with added details to assist the colorblind and subtitles for each video, which could be viewed during or after the video. While the gameplay could have been repetitive, the designers spiced it up as the game progressed by adding new levels of difficulty and multiple aha moments in elements we had thought we were finished using. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, this is an awesome game for both fans of the show and puzzlers looking for a challenge! Note that the game is 2+ hours long, and all answers have to be reinserted if the game is closed and reopened.

Cindi S’ Reaction

If you are a fan of Jujutsu Kaisen, then you’ll want to play this game, which is based on the popular Japanese manga series. And if you are like me, completely unfamiliar with manga, you’ll still want to play this game! Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School combined an intense story and a unique puzzle mechanic that kept us actively involved throughout the game. In fact, we played a pivotal role in the exorcism of the evil spirit haunting the high school, all while using an interface that made it feel like we were interacting in real time. The game kit available from Amazon looked simplistic at first, but it turned out to be more than meets the eye. There are quite a few video segments, all in Japanese with English subtitles, and with numerous pauses for puzzling, it took my group more than 3 hours to complete the game. But by the end, you really want to take down this cursed spirit! This was another entertaining game from SCRAP, and I’ve already recommended it to several friends.

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Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Confectionary Countdown [Hivemind Review]

Confectionary Countdown is a tabletop escape game created by Trapped Puzzle Rooms in St. Paul, MN.

Confectionary Countdown box beside a calendar and a stack of cards.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Light puzzle hunt
  • Tabletop escape game

Who is it For?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: pen and paper, internet-connected device for checking answers

Parchment paper or other tracing paper will come in handy.

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: Each puzzle required from 5-15 minutes to complete, depending on the complexity. In total, the game takes a few hours, either all at once or spread out over a month. Your choice!

Price: $39.95

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Confectionary Countdown is divided into 4 sections, and each section has individual puzzles and one meta puzzle. You can do one puzzle per day, or one section, or all the puzzles at once. The puzzles are mostly word puzzles, and outside knowledge/ internet access is needed for several puzzles, unless you are extremely knowledgeable about a lot of different, random subjects. One final puzzle pulls from the prior sections.

Confectionary Countdown box beside a set of 30 fanned out cards with dessert names.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Confectionary Countdown was a pretty sweet little puzzle hunt. (See what I did there?) I was perhaps a tad bit disappointed to learn that despite its title, this dessert-themed game was not accompanied by any actual edible sweets. The concept was very clever, though. The game is meant to act as a countdown of sorts similar to an Advent calendar. Players may choose to solve one puzzle card per day or as many as they’d like in one sitting. There are different color-coded sections, which each resolve to a meta answer. Be sure to track your answers because there is an ultimate meta puzzle at the end. The game wasn’t perfect and there were a few minor errata throughout (only one of which was officially noted in my review copy) but they were easily bypassed. I appreciated the very clear, incremental hint system on the website and made good use of it for some subtle nudging on a couple of puzzles. Overall, this was a very enjoyable puzzle hunt and I’ll even forgive the lack of snack.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Having played both the The Spielburger Box Set and Taco Tuesday by Trapped Puzzle Rooms, I almost expected a giant box of candy-shaped puzzles to show up at my door. Instead, Confectionary Countdown arrived in a simple box filled with cards. But make no mistake; the game is packed with fun word puzzles that can either be consumed over time (as a countdown to an event) or binged in a single sitting. There is a good variety of dessert-themed puzzles that play to different strengths, letting each one of us feel like the smartest in the room at some point during the game. You can play alone or with a small group; our team of three chose to work the puzzles independently, comparing answers as we solved. This is a great game for puzzle people of all experience levels who want their puzzles in small, bite-sized pieces.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Another great at home, snack-themed puzzle hunt from Trapped Takeout. Great puzzles and fun themes, however, I found it a bit pricey for being basically a box of postcards. Unlike their other game The Spielburger Box Set, which came with cute props and pre-cut items that you manipulated physically, I didn’t really see a need for this to be printed and mailed out. I think this puzzle hunt would be better off as a print-and-play or even just playable on a website for a lower price.

Immersion: Adorable dessert-themed puzzles. The theme carried throughout the entire puzzle hunt and was very cute.

Puzzles: Really fun puzzles, medium difficulty on average. A few of the puzzles required some leaps of connection, and could have used better cluing or signposting, but overall very fun.

Interface: The accompanying website was very easy to use with a granular hint system that gave you tiny nudges without giving the whole puzzle away.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Confectionary Countdown was a palatable pile of dessert-themed puzzles. Whether you solve a puzzle a day in “countdown mode” or complete the game in a few sittings in “gorge mode,” Confectionary Countdown provides a solid few hours of puzzling and a rapid sequence of quick, satisfying wins.

The puzzles included a wide range of light puzzle hunt-style formats, including word puzzles, logic puzzles, observational puzzles, and puzzles that require looking things up. Each puzzle was similar in length and difficulty to those found in Eric Berlin’s Puzzle Snacks. Players loosely familiar with puzzle hunt conventions will have a slight advantage, but the puzzles were quite approachable overall, and an online hint system provided well-written, granular nudges.

As a stack of cards in a box, Confectionary Countdown somewhat lacked the novel physical presentations — which included a pizza box and a stack of DVD cases — that made the other Trapped Takeout games shine. Yet for what it was, this game was attractive, elegant, and compact. As I’ve also noted with some of the previous Trapped Takeout games, Confectionary Countdown could have benefited from a bit more playtesting. I came across a small handful of unaddressed errata throughout the game, and there were certain puzzles that could have been tightened up. Overall, though, the puzzles were cleverly designed, included some fun metapuzzles and a meta-meta, and would provide a sweet dose of holiday cheer for puzzle lovers of any skill level.

Disclosure: Trapped Puzzle Rooms provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Club Drosselmeyer – Radio Broadcast of 1944 [Hivemind Review]

Club Drosselmeyer’s Radio Broadcast of 1944 is a print-and-play audio experience created by Green Door Labs in Boston, MA.

Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour Field Agent Manual, a long with a letter and a slide-o-matic code decoder.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Audio game
  • Play on demand
  • Print-and-play
  • Immersive theater (for the December 2021 live shows only)

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, mobile device that can call US phone numbers, printer, pen and paper, scissors (print-and-play version only)

If there are multiple players, it would help to print more than one copy of the materials. If printing from PDF, it’s better to print in color.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: unlimited, about an hour

Price: $30 for a digital and printable pdf (still available for purchase) or $45 for the mailed Drosseldossier (no longer available)

Booking: live shows took place in December 2021, but the printable version is still available to purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is an immersive theater event with live actors and puzzles. Listen to the radio program and solve the indicated puzzles. Then enter your answers via phone using the keypad.

During December of 2021, there was an option to play during the live show. During the live show, actors phoned and interacted with us, adding humor and immersion to the experience.

Photos and profiles of all of the Drosselmeyer characters.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Version: live show & print-and-play

After hearing so much about the Club Drosselmeyer experience in Boston, I was excited to play the 1944 Radio Broadcast live show event, even if it was a remote game again this year. My team gathered around the computer and at five minutes to showtime, we pressed play. Audio scenes reminiscent of an old-time radio drama drove the story while musical interludes of 1940’s orchestra music provided both atmosphere and pacing for the game. The puzzles were fairly easy, with most solvable by one or two players. But the puzzles are secondary to the immersive experience, which is highly impacted by the mindset of your team. If you are here only for the puzzles, you may be disappointed, but if you all get dressed up in your 40s best and serve your favorite martini, you will get much more out of the game. Since we attended the live show, we received several calls from in-character actors, and while not necessary to the overall storyline, these certainly added humor and quirky fun, and were easily the most memorable part of the game.

Having no prior experience with Club Drosselmeyer, I can’t really compare this to the in-person show – I would imagine it is a much more exciting experience. But the remote game is still worth playing, not for the puzzles, but for the entertainment.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Version: live show & print-and-play

The format of this game is a unique blend of physical paper and audio. I think that the combination is done well, and it is easy to immerse oneself in the story. The game is customized to the players in surprising little ways, and the voice acting is excellent. The printed puzzles are very nicely done, both visually and from a puzzle design standpoint. Experienced puzzlers will find the puzzle content on the easier side, but that makes this game quite appropriate for introducing puzzle games to friends and family.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Version: live show & mailed Drosseldossier

For those who, like me, have not yet had the privilege of attending an in-person Club Drosselmeyer event, these virtual experiences have been a delightful alternative. I will admit that this year’s experience was slightly less engaging than last year’s in some ways, but it was still a very polished and enjoyable experience regardless. My friends and I opted for the mail-ordered version and found it to be interactive and group-oriented enough to keep everyone entertained. I did, however, miss some of the previous year’s more immersive elements. I recall receiving phone calls from actors last year as well as more social media engagement encouraging costumes, decor, and period-appropriate food/beverages and crafts. This year’s version felt like a scaled-back, family-friendly, approachable version which may not please the diehard puzzlers but certainly makes for a recommendable activity! In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young child had played along with their parents and everyone in the family seemed to have enjoyed it. Despite a slimmer gameplay experience, the tone-setting elements were still wonderful. From the live radio play with swinging ambient music, to the excellent voice performances from the cast, this year’s Club Drosselmeyer provided a rousing evening filled with adventure and story. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to join in person!

Star-Crossed Puzzles – Romeo and Juliet [Hivemind Review]

Romeo and Juliet is an online game created by Star-Crossed Puzzles

A wooden chest labeled, "Romeo also spots an empty table with an abandoned card game. He sits to think about how to open the chest."

Format

Style of Play:

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

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • “Aging lit majors like myself” – anonymous Hivemind reviewer

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: 45-60 minutes

Price: £9.99

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This is a browser-based game, played through a series of texts and images, where you are following a story, solving puzzles, and entering the answers to progress to the next section. Answers must be exact and in all caps. If you get an answer wrong, you remain on the same page. Hints are available if you are stuck.