Escape Hunt: A Curious Tea Party | Review

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Escape Hunt: A Curious Tea Party Review | Wonderland is all in a whirl at the news of a Royal Tea Party. The White Rabbit needs your help delivering invitations, and time is running out! Use the map and guestlist of memorable characters to explore Wonderland, help the white rabbit, and join the tea party!

Date Played: 29th October 2021
Number of Players: 2 (+1 cat)
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 50 minutes

Yes, Yes I Know…

Here at The Escape Roomer, I’m the video game guy (with maybe midlands-based, brick-and-mortar escape games if I’m lucky). I’ve done a good handful of print and play games; but never reviewed one.

The reason for agreeing to review this? My wife. She loves anything Alice In Wonderland based. If she knew that there was anything Alice In Wonderland to review and found out I passed upon it… it bares not thinking about!

Every Adventure Requires A First Step

So. We have a print-out of the game. My wife is here and so is Nelson; one of my two cats. Nelson was especially curious to begin, as you can see in the picture below. The instructions were on the first page; plus, an introduction to read out loud, a map and guestlist, 9 puzzle pages and a clues sheet; which we immediately turned over and put to one side. Scissors and a mirror were also required. A good start, instructions and requirements clearly displayed with no ambiguity or confusion.

Nelson scouring the puzzle pages for clues…

If I Had A World Of My Own, Everything Would Be Nonsense

In terms of theming, I felt it was best to leave this decision to the resident Alice In Wonderland expert; my wife. In her words, “It was excellent. The style, narrative, page illustrations and puzzle thematics, all complimented the original literature wholeheartedly and authentically.” High praise indeed.

If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, Any Road Will Get You There

What I liked most about the puzzles was the pacing. They weren’t incredibly taxing, however the difficulty curve was well balanced and followed a core game loop that was solid throughout. That being said, I felt some of the puzzles lacked finesse. Two of the nine puzzles from the puzzle pages can be (and subsequently were), made incomplete to advance; once we knew the answer from the puzzle, we didn’t have the motivation to complete it in its entirety.

The hints system is written backwards and thus, requires the mirror mentioned earlier. This is a perfectly adequate way to stop players from accidentally reading hints from other puzzle sets; as long as your mirror is small enough!

Initially eager to get stuck in, Nelson opted for the sought-after ‘supervisory’ role quite quickly.

Sometimes I Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

I appreciate that one of the main obstacles of a print-and-play game is creating an immersive atmosphere, with only the printed paper presented. I felt that the quality of the materials provided in A Curious Tea Party do this quite well. All things considered, it provided enough for us to want to continue and be invested in the narrative throughout the entire gameplay.

My main qualm, was that after all is said and done, we were merely looking from the outside. Maybe we could have been actual characters from the Alice In Wonderland universe, to immerse us further?

Imagination Is The Only Weapon In The War Against Reality

Some factors of A Curious Tea Party are quite innovative, whilst others aren’t so. The positives involve how the puzzles are tied to the thematics of the game. For example, there is a directional puzzle, as one of the puzzle sets. On its own, it’s not very innovative. However, the method the player moves to the instructions provided by the character in the puzzle, is innovative. On the whole though, the puzzles (and the game’s mechanics generally), are quite safe, quite conventional and otherwise, don’t really push any boundaries.

At this point Nelson either trusted me, or got bored of my poor deduction skills.

How Long Is Forever? Sometimes Just One Second

A Curious Tea Party costs £15 for around 30-75 minutes worth of play depending on player experience. £15 is the bench mark for all Escape Hunt print-and-play games, however I’d argue that this is a little steep considering the amount of play time outputted. Especially, with what you tangibly receive as a product, alongside the hit-and-miss nature of the puzzles presented.

For The Mad Hatter Or Sleepy Dormouse?

Escape Hunt says this game is for ages 8 and up. I’d very much recommend this game to children (with or without parents actively involved), from those ages, without a doubt. It is most definitely a family friendly escape game option. This would also be appropriate for introductory puzzlers or even people who don’t regularly like puzzle games; there’s enough here to whet the appetite, but not too heavy to put non-puzzlers off completely.

Rating

This is a decent print-and-play game that is perfect for beginner players. More experienced players however, (unless they are die hard fans of the Alice In Wonderland franchise) may not find enough present, to be value for their money. That said, what it lacks in puzzles and innovation, it certainly makes up for in theming and overall fun.

Nelson also enjoyed herself, however would have liked it more, if cat treats were present. 😸

A Curious Tea Party can be purchased from Escape Hunt’s website here.

Code Bakers: Code Bake

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A delicious treat locked up. A set of clues and puzzles to solve. A code to crack to stop the clock and release the treat.

Rating: Deliciously Puzzling!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 28th February 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A gift to send a friend!

When I first saw Code Bakers I may just have let out a little scream. My two favourite things: Escape room games AND sweet treats?! Yes, yes, everyone ‘loves’ food, but I take sugary and baked variety very, very seriously. Sadly I’m not much of a baker myself, but I make up for it by being my friend’s go-to cake and cookie tester, lockdown allowing!

The premise behind Code Bake is absolutely magical. A mysterious package arrives in the post from a baker who trusts you well. Their secret recipe is on the verge of being stolen by a nefarious gang of rival bakers, and with nobody to turn to they send their last sample to you to eat it *cough cough* I mean PROTECT the sample at all cost. The baker has also sent it to two of their other close friends: Violet and Basil, but one of them is not to be trusted either, which is why each sample sent is different.

From here, the plot does get a little vague, but I’m not fussed. I came here to kick ass and eat cake. In any case, you’ve a number of steps to follow. Although slightly daunting at first, once you’ve got your head around what you need to do and why it’s fairly straightforward. Your goal is twofold:

  1. Figure out the 3 digit code to unlock your wrapped treat
  2. Figure out who can be trusted and who cannot

Lots of the puzzles give you a number, but there’s a little extra stretch at the end (admittedly one I used clues for) to find out what to do with the numbers, for example what order. Then, you’re golden! There’s no huge reveal at the end of the game in terms of plot, but you DO unlock your treat and immediately get to gobble it up… “Wait, what’s that? I was supposed to keep this safe? Oops”

Overall, the idea is super charming. At the time of writing I believe it’s the only thing like it on the market and honestly, it’s the perfect gift for these *gestures at world* troubled times. I’ve mail ordered my fair share of brownies to friends during lockdown but this gift goes the extra mile and it really brightened up an overcast Sunday morning after the postal worker visited. Plus, mine came in the most beautiful bright blue box adorned with yellow washi tape. Exciting, to say the least!

One thing I would highlight is that the puzzles are definitely on the harder side. For me, this is to do with a lack of signposting – it’s not always super clear what you’re supposed to do next. Even after checking the helpful online clues, there was a little bit of “oh! I had no idea we had to do this next” but nothing felt too frustrating or insurmountable.

My favourite puzzle came towards the end, an origami-come-childhood game that was tricky but brought a lot of delight once we finally got it correct! Other puzzles you can expect to tackle include logic puzzles (where’s my pen and paper at?!), ‘say what you see’ puzzles, algebra puzzles. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there’s an enjoyable mix of things to get stuck into.

Oh, and how was the treat? DELICIOUS! Player 2 and me had to fight over who got the biggest piece. He argued that as ‘hand model’ for my photos, he did the most work. But I solved all the puzzles sooo….

When all is said and done Code Bake is a LOVELY idea. I’m quietly hoping they make a sequel, building on what worked best from the first one! …Not that I need an excuse to order more cake! …But in the mean time if that puzzler in your life has a birthday coming up, or if you fancy just bringing a smile to someone’s face, you know where to look! Plus, you’d be supporting a local UK business too which now more than ever is super important.

Code Bake can be purchased for £20 on Code Bakers’ website.

ClueQuest: Mechanics of the Heart

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Mr. and Mrs. Q’s helpful and reliable reconnaissance droid, MM7, is starting to ask questions all robots inevitably ask, “What is Love?” and “How do you know you’re loved?” You’ll be tasked to help MM7 decipher the complex and puzzling ways of love in our world in order to help focus him on our daily mission to save the world from the villainous network of the Evil Professor.

Rating: Romantic!
Completion Time: 33 minutes + 25 minutes
Date Played: 21st – 22nd February 2021
Party Size: 2 (1)
Recommended For: A Valentine’s activity

I did Mechanics of the Heart in two sittings – complicated? Yeah! Maybe. But hey, it makes for an interesting perspective and hopefully an interesting review. So here goes…

Valentine’s Day unfortunately got away from us this year inbetween playing the Civilisation board game (sorry babe for giving you the plague and sacking your city if you’re reading this!), baking brownies, and watching films. So we tackled Mechanics of the Heart 7 days after the big red day – as if I need an excuse to have a second Valentine’s Day!

But, puzzles aren’t really my Player 2’s thing, so we tapped out at 33 minutes after getting a bit stuck (and a little bit prosecco-and-cheese-lazy too). But not before secretly making a note of answers so I could come back to this in my own time at a later date. Which I did the following day!

So how did I find this Valentine’s themed game for two as a solo adventure? It still worked! That said, the main selling point of Mechanics of the Heart that are that it IS really a game for two to share together perhaps sipping red wine beneath a gorgeous sunset. For example, there’s personalisation. You can input your partner’s nicknames, ideas for cute dates, and funny stories from your relationship. I put a couple of jokes in mine and only misspelled my partner’s pet name once (with hilarious consequences).

Another way in which it’s best played with two players are the style of puzzles. Many of the puzzles actually benefit from having two pairs of eyes, for example comparing lots of information quite quickly. There’s a cool bit of “divide and conquer” which worked well in a play at home setting. I’d look at one half of a puzzle, or one half of a folded paper divider and try to describe what I saw and my partner would do the same and opposite.

What this tells me is that ClueQuest (as usual!) put SO MUCH thought and effort into making this game perfect for ‘the season’ and with a lovely plot and beautiful illustrations to boot, it makes Mechanics of the Heart an exceptional game in the printable escape room genre!

So what is that plot you speak of?” I hear you ask. The story goes, MM7, one of the ClueQuest droids has their heart (no pun intended) set on becoming a secret agent! But Mr. Q has his doubts, arguing that secret agents must be able to understand EE-MO-SHUN. So this is your quest, to help MM7 understand the most powerful emotion of them all: Love.

It was a surprise not to meet Mr. Q in this game (I suspect he’s still in peril after Prison of Memories), but I’ll never say no to learning more about the ClueQuest world lore, and this game’s got buckets of it.

I’d recommend this game for a date night, for any level of puzzler. This game is all about affection, compatibility and like NY Times’ 36 Questions to Lead to Love, it might just make you fall in love.

Mechanics of the Heart can be purchased for £15 via the ClueQuest website.

Access Escape: Escape the Mailbox: The Loco Love Tester

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You spotted a facebook Ad for a love tester. In one of your weaker moments, you click the Ad. The page loads and explains that in order to use the love tester you should email your name to this address. The bit that really catches your interest on the page is that if you score highly enough it will reveal the name of your secret admirer. You should really know better but you email the address with your name and the result comes back, “Cold Fish”!

Rating: Different!
Completion Time:  ~10 minutes
Date Played: 14th February 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting emails

I’ll repeat EXACTLY what I said in my review for January’s game: The feel when the wonderful people at Escape the Mailbox release December, January AND February Escape the Mailbox but you decide to play them all in one day rather than one a month like you’re supposed to…

The Loco Love Tester bursts into February with a shower of pink hearts. Ever remember those retro “Love Tester” machines? Nah. Me neither, I’m too young. But I Googled it and essentially they were arcade machines where you’d press a button, or spin a wheel, and the machine would tell you how attractive you are. I also found out there’s a museum in San Francisco that has over 300, but that’s a story for another time I’m sure.

Access Escape have created a very fun (and modern) twist on the idea of a Love Tester – except the catch is, this one has gone loco. After putting your name through it, you come back as a “Cold Fish”. Assuming that’s not right… Your job is to hack the system and find out your REAL love rating. I asked my Player 2 and he laughed and said of course I’m not a cold fish… But I’m 99% sure he’s just being nice because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Fittingly then, the puzzles in this month’s Escape the Mailbox are themed around two things: love, and hacking computers. In solving them I learned some cool things about Unix timecodes, binary and encryption – very cool! I also learned that I am an absolute Casanova and everyone had better watch out (just as soon as I’m allowed out my apartment again, post-pandemic).

Once again, it’s a really sweet little game. I took around 10 minutes to complete it, but typically Escape the Mailbox can take between 10 – 40 minutes. A fun way to spice up your inbox. Heck, you can even forward The Loco Love Tester to your crush this February for a fun laugh.

The technology used is called Puzzle Panther if you’re thinking about making your own. But if you’re more of the puzzle-solving, than puzzle-making type, you can sign up on Access Escape’s website for free.

The Puzzled Maker: Date Night Treasure Hunt

Love is in the air!

Rating: Romantic
Completion Time: 1hr30
Date Played: 13th of July 2020
Party Size: 2

I was sceptical! Okay, I’ll admit it! We’re not a lovey-dovey couple … But then maybe that’s why this game ended up being so darned perfect? Being forced to sit down and work through your relationship with a series of puzzles and games made an average Monday evening just lovely. It reminded me a lot of the 36 Questions to Fall In Love article the New York Times ran a few years ago. After reading about it, I booked a dinner for my other half and we went through the questions together and yes, we fell in love again. The same effect that had could also be found in the Date Night Treasure Hunt.

Full disclaimer however, we did not realise it was an interactive PDF and meant to be played on a tablet. We printed the whole thing out – hah! There are some elements in the game where it encourages you to “click here” or pick from a selection of buttons … But it still very much worked as a printable game. In fact, a few of the puzzles (such as the word searches) worked a lot better printed anyway.

In terms of gameplay, the Date Night Treasure Hunt is quite simple. It’s not an escape room – not even slightly. It’s a couples game and revolves around activities for pairs. Some of them will challenge the puzzling parts of your mind, there’s a bit of hunting and searching for things and coming up with ideas. But there’s also truth and dare, questions to asked your loved ones, and an activity where you must synchronise your thought processes (which took us a very, very long time to get right!).

The most charming part of the game was it’s competition. At the start, you’re encouraged to set your own prize. My prize was a “surprising edible treat”, player 2’s prize was me sitting down to watch a film in full and enjoying it (hey! I’m not a film person. I’ve got no attention span whatsoever). Thankfully, I won and bagged myself a box of Crosstown Donuts the following lunch time. It was a really nice touch though, in most games (or escape rooms), you don’t get a prize. In this one, you do. I like that!

As a final challenge, @societyofcuriosities on Instagram challenged us to create a pick up line from the words we got from the wordsearch! I found:

  • Wonderful
  • Dub
  • Par
  • Marie
  • Tada
  • Tool
  • Rod
  • Raw
  • Connection

Every pick up line I came up with was honestly horrifying based on these words. I can safely say I’ve failed the challenge.

The Date Night Treasure Hunt can be purchased for $25 AUD on The Puzzled Maker‘s site.