Trapped Puzzle Rooms: Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery | Review

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Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery Review | Barker Street Detectives… An urgent request has come across my desk and I request you aid me in this investigation. A distressed Ms Barbara Fetcher requires our assistance with the case of The Missing Ruby Bone. Contained in this box you will find evidence gathered from the scene of the Ruby Bone’s disappearance. Identify the culprit of the theft and recover the priceless artefact. A particularly puzzling path awaits you inside…

Date Played: May-June 2022
Time Taken: ~4 hours
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Challenging!

I knew Ruff Bluff would be something special as from the moment I received it I had it sitting in pride of place at the front of my board game shelf. Without fail every single person that visited our apartment in time between then and now, commented on the new addition:

“Ruff Bluff? Haha what’s that?” or “OMG are those dogs playing cards?” to “Furlock Holmes? I love it!”

Cue my whipping it off the shelf and spreading out the materials to gush to my friends and family about my favourite puzzles in the game. Even before the Kickstarter went live and the game was made available to the general public, this game is single handedly causing big ripples in my little community here in London, just by merit of it sitting on my shelf. The box is so appealingly light-hearted and funny with a picture of dogs all sitting round at a card game, and the name ‘Furlock Holmes’ suggests something puzzlingly brilliant.

…And that’s before I even start on what comes inside the box! But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

 

About Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery

Furlock Holmes is the fox character created by escape room company Trapped Puzzle Rooms all the way over in the United States. Creators of Taco Tuesday (oh! I’ve heard of that one), and a whole host of digital, remote avatar and audio rooms, Trapped Puzzle Rooms isn’t as much of a household name here in the UK escape room community as it clearly is in the United States. But after playing their first foray into physical boxed rooms, I’m impressed – and only slightly regretful that this is the very first experience of theirs we’ve played. We missed out not playing all the others in lockdown!

In June 2022, the company put Ruff Bluff up on Kickstarter as a sequel to their existing ‘Furlock Holmes’ mystery, “Furlock Holmes Museum Mystery”. The original game is a web-based point-and-click mystery that follows the titular character Furlock Holmes as he investigates crimes around a fictionalised, vintage London. That said, there’s absolutely no requirement to have played the first game before diving right into Ruff Bluff. They’re completely different!

Ruff Bluff is a 6 – 12 hour mystery game. The complete experience is self-contained within a small box, with a handy answer-checker online. It’s best played over a couple of sessions, and the box is broken up into four parts to make it easy to stop and start between those. As a bonus, the website also saves your answers up until that point so you can pick up wherever you left off!

I took on this mystery over around ~3 days, with a week or so inbetween. I took on Part I at my desk on a funny Friday afternoon. The second part is much longer and much more manual which took a little time over another day. Then I whizzed through the final two parts an afternoon a few weeks later. This super well for me, and I’d definitely recommend taking a similar approach over two or three evenings.

So, the technical parts and the ‘what to expect’ out of the way, here’s how I got on…

 

 

The game is afoot (well… apaw)

This exciting, canine-themed mystery pushes players right into the deep end! There’s been a crime! A priceless Ruby Bone has gone missing from a poker match and it’s up to you, the players, to figure out whodunnit. There are seven suspects: the seven dogs who were sitting around the table playing cards. They are:

  • Austin Fetcher, a Husky with a very boopable nose
  • Pablo Diggbury, a professional Barkeologist
  • Barbara Fetcher, the furriest ball of floof I’ve ever seen
  • Darleen Haskel, a sleek looking Dalmatian
  • Julia Dripping, a very dribbly St Bernard from New Bark City
  • Renaldo Blurri, my personal favourite, a Greyhound with a bowler hat on
  • Richard Ruffington, a pup who shares my birthday!

The game starts with dossiers about each of these dogs. Who they were, where they’re from, and what job they do. Within these dossiers are a number of blanks, and that’s where the player comes in – to fill in the missing information by scouring the clues and looking for details.

This proves an excellent introduction to the game as players are encouraged to really get to know the characters and start making their own assumptions about whodunnit (which by the way, I guessed completely wrong until the very last minute – which is exactly what a good whodunnit should do!).

To help you out, this first portion of the box is absolutely packed with clues. They’re not single use either – throughout the game I found myself constantly referring back to details from the first part and small nudges within the dossiers. From stacks of $700 bills, to a whole deck of playing cards, to napkins, poker chips, postcards and drink matts. It’s an understatement to say there really is a lot going on in this box and I loved it. Each new object seemed to hide so many puzzles, but the game leads you through them gently in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming as you scour the evidence. It’s a real “pin everything up on an evidence board and take a step back” kinda game, and I really enjoyed this.

 

 

The second part of the game however was my absolute favourite. I don’t know why I’m so easily impressed by a jigsaw puzzle mechanic but hey, what can I say? I’m just a simple gal who likes complex jigsaw puzzles. The one in Ruff Bluff was absolutely brilliant. It’s the kind of puzzle in a game that even though your partner doesn’t want to take part they can’t help but slide over to help you put a piece or two into their place. Whats more, it fit so well with the story too!

With box one and box two out of the way, the final two chapters were the home-run in terms of puzzle solving. By this point, you know the characters and you know what’s what. All that’s left to do it solve the case.

Even though I literally just said one paragraph ago that the jigsaw was my favourite… I lied. The puzzle that came directly after the jigsaw puzzle was my favourite. This time definitely no spoilers because it was so much fun to open that Box 3 and realise what the game wanted me to do. So I’ll just leave it by saying it was a logic puzzle at it’s absolute finest. More games should include puzzles like this. No, seriously. Designers take note!

In short, if you can’t tell by my enthusiasm – I had a lot of fun with the puzzles in this game. I found them to be genuinely enjoyable to solve which is at it’s heart what all games should do. For sure, I used a couple of hints. Okay, okay maybe more than a couple of hints… But despite this the whole thing felt well balanced in terms of difficulty.

 

 

When you’ve eliminated the possible…

Puzzles aside, let’s talk about the theme. Ruff Bluff’s unique selling point is… Well… Dogs.

If you’re a cat person, look away now. This game is set in the canine universe and is not for you. In fact there aren’t many other animals at all, other than a pesky squirrel, and the occasional off-handed mention of a dog’s owner. For example, my favourite part in the whole game:

“My human recently dug up a part of my back-yard and put in some new plants. I didn’t feel like they did a very good job digging. So I spent the whole afternoon digging several dozen holes all of the yard. Not only did my human not appreciate my hard work, they got upset! – I Can Dig It”

“Dear Dig It, Humans never really understand all the hard work we do for them. Whenever they accidentally vacuum our fur off the couch, we have to take the time and shed more all over it. Whenever a jogger passes by our house, we bark and bark until they keep doing by. This is important work. My advice is to keep digging holes. Eventually you’ll dig one they like and they will reward you with lots of treats.”

As a dog person. In fact, possibly one of only two ‘dog people’ here at The Escape Roomer *grumbles at all the cat enthusiasts here*, I appreciated putting our four legged canine friends at the front and centre of an exciting mystery like this one.

And what a plot it is too. It’s exciting, has twists and turns, and more dog puns than you can shake a stick at. Again, this game is FUN.

 

 

The Verdict

I had a lot of fun playing Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery and I’ve no doubt this one is going to go down as a ‘favourite’ of a lot of folks out there.

For me, the very best thing about the whole experience were the puzzles. I saw some delightful ones I’d never quite experience before and genuinely had fun solving them throughout the whole game. When the box first said it would take 6 – 12 hours, I don’t mind admitting I groaned a tiny bit. Now, having finished the game, it turns out 12 hours is not enough. I want more of the Furlock Holmes universe. Give me sequels! Give me more puzzles! For this reason I’ve chosen to award this game the coveted Puzzle Prize here on the Escape Roomer, for outstanding puzzle design. It’s well deserved.

My particular copy was an early access, pre-Kickstarter copy. As such some of the materials weren’t ‘final’ quality, there were one or two missing bits, and a few corrections to keep in mind. However this doesn’t affect the review whatsoever, since the creator was so helpful in explaining what to keep an eye out and these are things which are planned to be fixed by the time of publication. That’s why I’ve absolutely no hesitation in recommending this game to other players.

In terms of accessibility – it ticks the boxes with no puzzles reliant on colour or sound that could restrict accessibility for any players. The only thing to flag is that in one puzzle you may find yourself looking very closely for details, so potentially not for folks who might be hard of seeing. But otherwise appears to me to be a very accessible game all round. With easy to understand puzzles, I also have no qualms about saying it would be a great game for a family audience. It’s packed with dog puns and so long as you don’t mind the themes of gambling / drinking at a poker game, then you’ll be golden with Ruff Bluff.

 

Presently, Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery can be purchased by backing Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ Kickstarter here.

If you want to see what other games they have available, check out their website.

Morgan’s Escapes: Lost Treasure Mystery | Review

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Morgan’s Escape: The Lost Treasure Review | The rumours of William Kidd’s lost treasure turned out to be true. I have found it and enclosed it with your issue of Mystery Times as not to cause suspicion. The treasure itself is sealed and a four-digit code is required to access it. I could not risk sending the code but instead I have hidden it in the articles of your newspaper.”

Completion Time: ~45 mins
Date Played: 4th June 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Easy-medium
Recommended For: An extra layer of fun as part of a gift for your favourite escape game lover!

 

 

We love an escape game as much as the next escape roomer, but this weekend it was a special occasion; we were celebrating our friend Tasha’s birthday! We’d already planned a gift for her, but we decided that Morgan’s Escapes’ Lost Treasure Mystery would add an exciting, puzzle-y layer to her birthday prezzie! The Lost Treasure Mystery comes with everything you need including a flat pack box (optional sizes) to stash the lost treasure (aka gift for your fave puzzler), chain and 4 digit padlock.

The mystery itself arrives ready to play but you will need to assemble the flat pack box, put your gift inside, wrap it up and secure it with the chain and padlock. The recipient must then solve the mystery and decipher the code to unlock their gift.

So without further ado, and with much excitement for an afternoon of fun, we set up the present and invited Tasha round for birthday celebrations!

 

Dear Reader…

The Lost Treasure Mystery takes the form of a newspaper which is filled with clues and puzzles to work your way through, before pulling the various sections together to determine a final code to unlock William Kidd’s lost treasure (aka Tasha’s bday prezzie). However, to kick the game off, there is an introduction letter which sets the scene and brings you into the mystery of the game, as well as advising how to access hints as/when required. This is a great way to set up the game and after reading about William Kidd’s lost treasure and our opportunity to find it by solving the clues hidden within the Mystery Times newspaper, we were keen to get solving!

 

Time to get mysterious

Mystery Times, the newspaper containing everything we needed to work out the code to access William Kidd’s treasure, contains six pages jam packed with information! Given how much content was in the newspaper, we almost didn’t know where to get started, but we opted to go for the most logical route- chronologically from pages 1 to 6. However, there are several separate puzzles to complete and a lot of piecing together of information required, so we wouldn’t say you’d need to stick to this order!

We are always wary with play at home games that there could feel like there’s some limitations to the kinds of puzzles which can be created. However, we were pleased to see a real variety of puzzle types within the pages of Mystery Times, and enjoyed the opportunity to let different puzzles play to each of our strengths.

Of course, there were the classics that you would expect of a newspaper (if you’re not screaming CROSSWORDS, you must never have picked up a newspaper before!), but also some really unexpected types of puzzles, and clever ways of using the information provided within the pages. There was a lot of interesting information contained within the articles in the newspaper- we actually learnt about the well-known pirate William Kidd, as well as other seafarers.

We did need to sneak a cheeky clue to help us with one of the puzzles. When we did, we found that the clue system was easy to access via a QR code, and there were several levels of hints before the full solution was revealed which helped give us the slight nudge in the right direction we needed without being handed the answer prematurely.

 

Piecing it all together

As mentioned before, you need to piece lots of different bits of information together from different sections of the Mystery Times. This overarching puzzle is a fab way to make this a really cohesive game. It was really fun to pull together the various elements to determine the correct path to choose to help work out the final code to access William Kidd’s treasure. And then for the final layer of excitement- opening the treasure up! Being able to input the code into a padlock to access the ‘treasure’ brings the tactile experience of an escape room in the comfort of your own home, and with the extra fun of getting to keep what’s in the treasure box.

We enjoyed this game and think it is a great way to add an extra layer of fun to any gift-giving situation! The game took us a little under an hour so is a great extra part of a gift (and also you can organise it so you can play it with the gift recipient- FUN!!).

If you’re not sure what to get for that next upcoming birthday, we would suggest a Chocolateral Bar wrapped up as William Kidd’s treasure using this Kidd- so much puzzling fun in one celebration event!

The Lost Treasure Mystery can be purchased by heading to Morgan’s Escape here.

Micro Macro Crime City | Review

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Micro Macro Crime City Review | MicroMacro: Crime City includes 16 cases for you to solve. Each case includes a number of cards that ask you to find something on the map or uncover where someone has gone or otherwise reveal information relevant to a case. The city map serves as a map in time as well as space, so you’ll typically find people in multiple locations throughout the streets and buildings, and you need to piece together what happened, whether by going through the case card by card or by reading only the starting card in the case and trying to figure out everything that happened for yourself. Will you be able to answer all questions about the case without fail?

Completion Time: ~4 months
Date Played: Early 2022
Party Size: 1 – 3
Difficulty: Easy – Medium

Micro Macro Crime City is, dare I say it, one of the best things I own. It takes pride of place on my board game shelf, I have been playing it non-stop since I received it as a Christmas present in 2021, and it’s the first game I whip out when friends come round for board game night. Sadly, several months later I have now completed the game. The rest of 2022 is looking bleak and crimeless and I’m already wondering what I’ll do with my life post-Micro Macro.

All jokes aside, it’s a fantastic game and I couldn’t wait to flip over the very final card in the very final mission to be able to say I completed the whole thing. It really took me back to days as a kid where my parents would be at fancy dinner parties and I’d be hiding in a corner somewhere with a copy of Where’s Wally. I haven’t felt that kind of joy since becoming an adult.

*sheds a tear*

 

Image (c) Micro Macro

 

About Micro Macro Crime City

So why are we reviewing the game on The Escape Roomer? True, it’s not really an escape room. But it is a deductive detective game absolutely packed with puzzles and we review plenty of those.

The general flow of Micro Macro Crime City is as follows, you open up a case and read the first card in that case. It has a picture of a crime and a short description of what the crime is, for example a murder or a heist, or some other nefarious deed. Essentially, it tells you what you’re looking for and vaguely where to start, such as the Market Place or by the Pier. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you head to the next card in the deck and you flip that over to find your next question. For example, “where was the victim before they got killed” and then “who was the victim meeting” and so on and so on. Over the course of a number of cards you slowly retrace back in time and put together the pieces surrounding the case. If you prefer more of a challenge, the game suggests that players only read the first card and instead try to figure out the case for themselves.

Each case takes a comfortable amount of time to solve. The earliest in the game, rated 1 or 2 stars by the game’s internal difficulty rating, are easy and take just a few minutes. The most difficult (5 stars) could take 15 minutes and upwards. Towards the end of the game many of the cases take so many delightful twists and turns I found myself using coins and odd objects around my apartment to mark ‘places’ in the map where significant parts of the case occurred, just to keep track.

Because of the structure of individual cases, it’s very easy to pick up and put down – provided you have a large enough playing area of course (29.5 inches x 43 inches). For me, this made it such a fun past time. If I had a spare half an hour on a Sunday afternoon I’d put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, and play through a case or two. When friends came over I’d whip it out and suggest an earlier case. Even if I’d already played them I’d usually forgotten by that time and could play along again. The game is never too demanding, if you want to complete it in one session you could, or you can pace it out like I did over four whole months.

We’d recommend this game for a maximum of 3 players at a time, this is for a purely functional reason – when too many heads are pouring over the map it’s very easy to bump into one another or block each other’s light. The optimal number is probably 1, but I always prefer to play games with friends. It is also worth double-y mentioning that if the name weren’t a giveaway, the theme is definitely not suitable for children under a certain age. I’m not sure what that age is, I’ll let parents make that choice for themselves, but despite the cartoon characters there’s plenty of murder afoot in this city.

 

 

A Modern Where’s Wally Game

What is most impressive about this game is how it does so much with such a limited amount of materials. The only thing you receive is a large map and a number of cases. Thats it, the rest of the game is up to you. No dice, no turns, just you and your friends pouring over a map trying to spot tiny details. And yet it is so unbelievably fun! The artwork in particular is absolutely fantastic and unbelievably detailed. By now I’m sure I’ve spotted every detail, and yet even writing this review when I glance over the map beside me I notice something new.

Since the whole thing is in white line art, I’m impishly tempted to colour it in. Conversely, unlike many escape games this one is easily playable multiple times – you could keep yours pristine and sell or trade on once you’ve finished.

 

The Verdict

Again, I hate to sound like a broken drum but this game? You just can’t beat it. *ba dum dum tsk*

It’s the most fun I’ve had so far this year and sure, it’s only April, but I’m fairly sure Micro Macro Crime City is going down in my personal hall of fame. I never, ever want to get rid of the box and I’m already planning which of my friends I can buy copies for later in the year. It is worth every single penny. For sure, it was a Christmas gift, but going back to it there’s almost no price too high I would have played for this game and at it’s current retail price (~£20) it’s a steal for the amount of fun you’ll have.

Currently Micro Macro are working on new games including a kids version with a little less murdery undertones. The website also has a number of extra content to tide you over until new releases come out, which can be viewed here.

As a final note, I’ve decided to award this game the special The Escape Roomer Badge of Honour, awarded to games we thought were incredible. For it’s sheer innovation, puzzliness, and literal months worth of fun contained in such a small box, Micro Macro Crime City is something very special and I cannot recommend it enough.

 

If you want to purchase Micro Macro, you can head to their store here.

Unsolved Science: Case 01 The Object | Review

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Case 01: The Object Review | Unsolved Science is a challenging cooperative tabletop mystery game for 1-4 players. But instead of locks and puzzles, in this mystery, science IS the game mechanic.
Perform real experiments. Analyze weird data. Become the scientist to figure out why a mysterious object could spell disaster for the world.

Completion Time: 2hr
Date Played: 20th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

I was so exited when this game arrived on my doorstep. I’m by no means a science expert, but the idea of performing experiments and analysing data is completely my jam. Then mix that with solving a mystery?! Hand me a white coat and goggles because I’m ready to play.

The Unboxing

This game has clearly been made with a passion for making science fun at it’s heart. The materials are of a really high quality, and allow you to become immersed in the story as though you are receiving components directly from the Planetary Protection Strategy Service. We get a letter, name badges (with space for achievement stickers), a progress tracker, an evidence board, 3 yellow investigation envelopes, an answer envelope and most excitingly, a mysterious object!

Once all the materials have been laid out and we’ve found 4 small clear containers from the cupboard (finally a use for our leftover Gu indulgences), we open the letter to reveal our mission. A mysterious object has fallen into the hands of a questionable intelligence organisation, and they believe it could change the world. But can they be trusted? It’s up to us to uncover the secrets of their puzzling discovery.

Let the Experiments Begin

Using both the instructions and the progress board, the order in which you need to perform the experiments and analyse the data is made really clear which I appreciated. Within each envelope are several experiments, designed to gradually reveal information and test your ever growing knowledge as you progress. You track your findings on the evidence board, which is really useful for remembering the wave of new facts you’re learning, and to refer back to later in the game.

The experiments are a mix of physical tasks and observations as well as analysing a range of photos, charts and various media found online. There’s no need to navigate away from any of the online materials provided, Unsolved Science have created an online portal of information where you can search for key words to help as part of your investigation. I’d really encourage you to use this regardless of your scientific knowledge, as it’s essential in discovering the true nature of the mysterious object.

We really enjoyed the wide range of experiments provided, and found it was a lot closer to solving puzzles than we expected. Asking ourselves why certain patterns or differences were occurring required logic and reason, and discovering the answer was just as satisfying as unlocking a padlock!

Dig Deep

The key to solving the mystery of the game is to answer a number of important questions correctly to unlock the best ending online. These questions ask you to dig deep, and take a good look at the evidence you’ve acquired to find the right solution. They are each assigned a difficulty level which gives you a good indication of how much information you need to answer it. We found we didn’t answer the hardest difficulty questions until the very end of the game, so don’t worry if you feel behind at any point, the a-ha moments will come!

If you’re feeling stuck, there is an excellent clue system provided with three levels of hints to help you on your way. There is also an answers envelope, which you can compare your findings to but which will not reveal the answers to the dig deep questions.

But what is the Mysterious Object?!

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you. But I really enjoyed the story behind this game, and I’d like to know what happens next! I don’t know if any follow up games will be a continuation of this story, but the ending certainly left me wanting more.

The Verdict

We absolutely loved playing The Object and found it to be the perfect balance of scientific discovery, fun and mystery. Don’t be fooled into thinking science experiment kits are just for kids, this game is designed primarily for adults and we had an absolute blast while discovering facts we didn’t know before. Unsolved Science have created a unique, exciting new addition to add to the tabletop mystery game community and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. We’ve also chosen to award it the special “Wow Award” for being an especially innovative game!

The Unsolved Science Kickstarter

If you’re interested in playing Unsolved Science’s Case 01, the game will be available in early 2022 via Kickstarter. You can sign up for news and updates by heading to Unsolved Science’s website here.

EXIT the Game: The Mysterious Museum | Review

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The Mysterious Museum Review | You are on a trip to the Florence Natural History Museum, intent on visiting the sunken treasure of the Santa Maria. Your relaxing day at the museum is quickly derailed by an incredible adventure! Can you solve the mysteries of the museum and find a way out? Difficulty Level: 2 of 5. This game can be played only one time because you must markup, fold, and tear the game materials to solve the riddles and escape.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

EXIT the Game is one of the best known escape rooms “in-a-box” series in the world. As such, they’re fairly reliable. Going into any experience you know what you’re getting. About 1 hour’s worth of fun, there’ll be a cipher wheel-style disc, several destructible materials, and typically a little booklet with it too. The Mysterious Museum is no different. Except for once, I didn’t buy this game myself! A friend received it as a Christmas gift, and knowing how much I enjoy escape room games, she brought it over to our regular board game night in the hopes of puzzling it out.

We sandwiched this game inbetween two others, intending for it to be our “short and sweet” collaborative refresher between two other bulkier games. It was anything but. Sometimes games come along that others find perfectly straightforward and just don’t click for you. The Mysterious Museum was this for us.

But let’s get into why.

 

 

Puzzling at the Florence History Museum

Our story began at the Florence Museum of Science and Technology, a setting mysteriously hinted at by the front cover of this game’s box – a partially open door from which light pours out. At the beginning, you have an idea that your goal might be about tracking down sunken treasure – a mission quite suggestively similar to The Sunken Treasure. But it wasn’t long until we realised the actually this adventure would be quite different. For starters, it revolved around time travel.

Yep, we kept an eye out to make sure we didn’t accidentally step on a bug and change the course of history!

But it’s not just the past. The game takes players all through history – past, present, and future. A museum is an excellent setting for such a tale of time travel, and it was a fun theme to set a puzzle game such as this one in. Did I mention it looks brilliant too? I’m a sucker for lovely artwork, and EXIT has an abundance of beautiful illustrations.

 

 

How to solve EXIT the Game

Solving EXIT the Game escape rooms follows a similar formula, and The Mysterious Museum is no different. Each box contains:

  • Riddle Cards – These are given a letter and generally speaking are worked through in ABC order
  • Answer Cards – These have a corresponding letter to the riddle cards and, you guessed it, they give the answer if needed
  • Help Cards – Each help card is denoted by a symbol which you can find on the puzzle you’re working on somewhere (often it’s quite hidden – so look closely)
  • A Book – This sets the scene and guides you through the story
  • A Cipher Wheel – To check your answers, a cipher wheel is used. In The Sunken Treasure this cipher wheel is covered in cute sea critters – very sweet!
  • A bunch of cool looking misc. items – in The Sunken Treasure, you get a whole host of cool things including some very shiny looking gems!

To play, you get up your game with your Help Cards stacked according to symbol, and your Riddle / Answer cards in their own stack. The book guides you through the story to solve each puzzle, find the correct symbols, run it through the cipher wheel and progress.

In terms of difficulty as indicated, we found this game quite hard indeed! Hesitant to take any clues, and a couple of glasses of wine at board game night in, the game didn’t quite click for us. The linear nature of this particular game also meant that once we became stuck, the game ground to a halt. With 4 players playing, a few of us struggled to keep interest up, and the whole game amounted to a slow puzzling session. Even those we were sure we had correct ended up requiring an additional logic leap we hadn’t made.

That said, in hindsight and in asking a few other friends, we might be alone in finding this one tricky. For sure, the company themselves rate this game somewhere towards Novice on the difficulty scale. So don’t let our struggles put you off giving it a go if the game otherwise appeals to you!

On the flip side, this game contained several very delightful puzzles which were some of my all time favourites. In particular, I enjoyed moments of physical manipulation. Furthermore, the EXIT team always make full use of the box. Though no spoilers about exactly what I’m talking about – you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!

 

The Verdict

On balance, The Mysterious Museum has some strong pros (such as the theme and the quality) but let down by the puzzles and flow. So in a nutshell, it wasn’t my favourite EXIT game. I am however a big enthusiast when it comes to their other games, so I’ve no doubt this is just a small blip with particularly styled puzzles that our team struggled with on the day.

 

The Mysterious Museum can be purchased from all good board game retailers.

Professor Puzzle: Curse of the Dark | Review

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Curse of the Dark Review | Investigate the mystery of a doomed village and its cursed castle in this thrilling escape room game! You couldn’t resist the allure of Mordengraf: a remote mountain village, overshadowed by an imposing Gothic castle and haunted by a spate of mysterious disappearances. Could there be truth in the hushed whispers of a ‘creature’ stalking the area? As you look for answers, your investigation takes a sinister turn. Captured by an unseen force, you must escape the castle’s dungeon or become the creature’s latest victim. But you only have three hours before the creature resumes its hunt.

Completion Time: 3+ hours
Date Played: 6th May 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

It was only a little while ago that I had the pleasure of playing through Professor Puzzle’s “Danger in the Deep” so when I heard that they had another escape game out but double the length, I jumped at the opportunity. The former is easily one of my favourites of 2022 so far, and I was eager to see how their sequel would perform. It was time to dim the lamps, light some candles, pour some red wine (because of course, vampires), and crack open the game.

The story goes that you, an investigator, receive a mysterious letter from someone known only as “J”. A monster lurks in the castle at the corner of a village and many of the villagers blame the monster for the recent disappearances. Your job is simple: investigate and get to the bottom of the mystery. But before long you find yourself sucked into the castle and soon to become the monster’s next victim. That is, unless you can puzzle your way out!

 

 

How to Play Curse of the Dark

Curse of the Dark is nothing if not very ambitious. Written in large letters on the front of the box is a total play time of “180 minutes” which of course, can (and probably should) be split into two parts at 90 minutes each. Our team of 3-4 players decided that we’d set aside an entire evening to complete the experience. From 6pm on a dark and stormy Saturday evening we sat down to a bottle (okay, maybe two bottles) of red wine, plenty of snacks and spooky music in the background.

180 minutes? Pfft.
We ended up concluding the game with a successful win at around midnight 🤯

This would put the game in more comfortably at 6 hours long, but even I’ll admit that’s a bit silly. The point being is this game, despite the recommendation, be enjoyed at any pace by any sized group and is definitely the most fun when you break it up with wine and snack breaks. So long as your goal is to have fun, you can’t go wrong with Curse of the Dark. So don’t be worried if you take a lot longer than the recommended time.

Where Curse of the Dark differs from *checks notes* pretty much every other escape game I’ve ever played, is it’s fantastic use of space. It’s somewhere between a tile-based, almost “worldbuilding” game with Cluedo, and Unlock! mixed in. As a team of intrepid investigators, you reveal and place new tiles that build up an immense, sprawling castle around your movements as the game progresses. Past the halfway mark and you’ve already strayed into 3D territory with an enormous stained glass window and not one but two brilliant tall towers standing at either edge of the board. Until we flipped each new tile it was impossible to know where our story would take us, but each room was as fantastical as the previous and each twist and turn as exciting as if we were watching a movie.

Visually, this game is gorgeous. Each tile is a top-down view of a specific room, but as mentioned the game occasionally forays into 3D, building up a complete picture of an enormous ‘spooky castle’. I happen to know *taps nose* that each tile was modelled in 3D on a computer and then rendered top-down to create a large but well proportioned environment. The edges of each tile often had an overlap or matched up directly to where the next room was. Only a few times did we need to slide the whole model across because we’d built too close to the edge, but thankfully figuring out how to lay out your castle isn’t one of the puzzles. There’s a handy guide as you go.

 

 

See the Day Turn into Night…

In terms of puzzles, there are 22 in the game, but if that number sounds low I can assure you it is not. Curse of the Dark is big. No, I don’t think you understand. It’s packed with possibly hundreds of pieces, cards, tiles and objects. We found that throughout our experience, objects we’d discovered earlier in the game often didn’t come into play until hours later – resulting in more than a little panicked rummaging throughout the boxes. So a fair warning when we say that this game is big – it’s worth keeping track of what you’ve used and are still to use.

By the end of the game we found that there were a few cards we hadn’t drawn from the deck, but thankfully the game has a very robust clue system to keep you on track if you’re unsure. On only one occasion did we accidentally brute force a puzzle, and only then we realised this because we’d left a card we’d needed to solve the puzzle in the deck without spotting it. This goes to show that the puzzles whilst not too difficult nor too easy, seem well pitched for an enthusiast to comfortably potter through.

Throughout the experience, my favourite puzzles involved anything that was 3D – what can I say? It’s a lot of fun picking up the great big bell tower and pretending you’re King Kong as you push and pull bricks out haphazardly. Other puzzles take you away from the physicality of the game and onto a simple web-based application which worked well, but the bulk of it took place via a system of cards and ’tiles’. As with many games, there were some puzzles we got right away, but plenty more we needed to use hints (a scratch-off system). In each we were looking for a secret hidden symbol to proceed.

 

 

…Through the Darkness, There’s the Light

In terms of the question of age rating and accessibility , Professor Puzzle recommends 14+. In terms of theme, I’m not so sure about that. There’s the odd splatter of blood and an allusion to nefariousness, but it’s ultimately quite a light-hearted, Vampire themed romp and nothing I wouldn’t have loved as a kid. The real question is whether or not somebody is able to sit still for the full 3 hours and remain engaged and interested – so I’ll leave that at the discretion of parents.

There are a few puzzles that involve sound, so someone who is able to hear well is recommended, but I believe it may be possible to solve those with the visuals. Some of the scenes are darker and will involve Similarly there are some moments in the game where colour is referenced, but if I remember correctly, none of the solutions hinge upon being able to identify colours, so it’s also colour-blind friendly.

Unlike previous games in Professor Puzzle’s catalogue, Curse of the Dark comes with a free download of the printable elements of the game. This means that after destroying certain components during your gameplay, you can print them off at the end to reset the game perfectly back to the beginning. In an era of being more environmentally conscious, I commend the creators for making this game not single-use, and encouraging folks to re-gift it on. That said, I won’t be giving up my copy of Curse of the Dark any time soon. Oh no, by contrast I plan to reassemble some of the coolest 3D components and put them on my shelf in pride of place.

 

 

The Verdict

If you can’t tell from my gushing, the verdict is we really did have a great time playing Curse of the Dark. From the fantastically fun puzzles that consistently manage to surprise me, to the beautiful visuals (2D and 3D), to a very spooky vibe that made our board game night perfect. There were a great many “a-ha!” moments, so many I’m sure my co-players got sick of my insisting “wow thats a clever puzzle” by the end of it. For that reason, we’ve chosen to award it our Badge of Honour which is awarded to games that achieve five stars from us across the board, and it’s well deserved too.

For sure it will attract a slightly more niche audience than other games in the Professor Puzzle catalogue coming in at ~3 hours of gameplay. Compared to other ‘escape room in a box’ games you see on the high street, this one is three times the length. But in this way it’s also excellent value for money.

Typically in ‘The Verdict’ I like to recommend who I’d buy this for. The answer for this one is simple: everyone. I could see myself playing this with family members old and young, enthusiasts and newbies alike. I’ve no doubt it’ll be a big hit for Professor Puzzle and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

A big round of applause from me!

Curse of the Dark can be purchased from major retailers, pre-order it here.

The Detective Society: Trouble in Folklore Falls 1 | Review

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Trouble in Folklore Falls Review | Discover the darker side to your favourite folklore characters as you work with the ‘big bad’ wolf to crack the case, in this interactive boxed mystery. A story filled with twists, turns and some laughs thrown in for good measure. A play-at-home mystery adventure, perfect for date-nights, team building, board gamers, crime solvers, mystery fans and everyone in who loves a good mystery story!

Completion Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Date Played: 18/03/2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

 

 

I think I was one of the only play at home mystery game fans who hadn’t experienced The Detective Society, so when Trouble at Folklore Falls landed on my doorstep I was excited to rip it (gently) open. First impressions were positive, the envelope itself was really high quality and the materials provided have been successfully designed to immerse you in the story. We’re talking flyers, newspapers, notes, food packaging – all of which are so professionally made. Please see the photo below, but note – I haven’t included all of the contents in photos to ensure no spoilers!

 

 

The story itself is based on characters from folklore, with favourites such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Humpty Dumpty all under suspicion of kidnapping the community’s beloved pets. Here at The Escape Roomer, we love our pets very, very much. How could they?!

It’s our job to use the evidence provided to compile a suspect list, and deduct who is behind the crimes in Folklore Falls.

 

A trustworthy narrator?

Our guide through the investigation is none other than the Big Bad Wolf, who keeps in regular contact via SMS, email, radio and telephone calls. In fact, this is the best example of using automated communication I’ve experienced. It’s been really cleverly designed so we can speak to suspects, and the most impressive part came in a phone call where what we specifically said dictated different responses from the character.

 

A Puzzling Mystery

The main puzzles you will experience in Trouble in Folklore Falls are logic based. Who was where at what time, and could they have committed a crime? That’s not all though, there are word searches, hidden messages to decipher, fold and cut style puzzles, passwords to hack and podcast episodes to analyse. A little bit of everything to suit all different types of puzzlers, held together with a strong logic puzzle.

This feels like it might be the first Detective Society game where you could get your kids involved. Previous mysteries have been based on more adult themes, and although there may be references for the grown ups only I can see a young adult audience enjoying the puzzles, hearing from familiar characters and really appreciating the experience.

 

A game to keep you guessing until the last moment…

The storyline is brilliant, and keeps you guessing the entire time. You’re never quite sure who to trust, but you’re provided with a great evidence form for note taking. What I particularly enjoyed was that once you’d figured out the suspect, the game wasn’t over. You are directed towards more puzzles to solve and an exciting ending which of course, leads you towards episode two.

The jokes are a particular strong point, though be warned you’ll be cringing!

 

 

The Verdict

This is one of the best play at home mysteries I’ve ever played. The attention to detail is incredible, the mix of media and physical evidence means you’re constantly entertained, the storyline is the perfect mix of crime and humour – I could go on and on.

At the time of writing there are currently 4 available mysteries to solve and the reviews have been brilliant across the board. Trouble in Folklore Falls has done it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to finish this case and try the others.

If you want to get started with Trouble in Folklore Falls yourself, head to The Detective Society’s website here.

 

Enigmagram: Third Edition | Review

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Enigmagram Review | Send an Enigmagram to a loved one in three simple steps. First, create your secret message. We’ll then send out an envelope containing the puzzles and an anonymous letter explaining what they need to do. The answers to the puzzles make up a passcode, which they’ll use to unlock your message from an online location.

Completion Time: Around 45 minutes
Date Played: Over a couple of weeks
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium difficulty
AKA… Not too hard, but definitely some puzzles that require a little more than surface level thought!

 

Your mission has been set by whoever has sent you the Enigmagram. You must solve the puzzles and use the answers from each of them to gain access to your personal hidden message.

Are you up for the challenge?

 

The Enigmagram 3rd Edition. Photo (c) Enigmagram

Note, if you’re looking for our early review of the first edition, please head here.

 

About Enigmagram

The concept of Enigmagram is incredibly simple, but incredibly smart. The perfect gift for a friend or loved one who enjoys puzzles – with that added layer of personalisation. These two ideas combined make for a far more thoughtful present/celebration than just a simple card bought from a card shop.

I had been following the company for some time now but was still surprised to see that this was the third edition of the game, but after playing it, it really feels like they have perfected this short-form style of puzzle adventure.

 

The Challenges

What impressed me most about the challenges contained inside the Enigmagram was the variety. There were puzzles that required logic, puzzles that required observation, puzzles that required mathematics – something for every different part of the brain.

The thing I loved about the entire experience is that they are of course limited by the size of what you can fit into an envelope, but instead of this being a hindrance, the Enigmagram team have found innovative ways of making the puzzles transcend the paper limitation and feel much more substantial.

I think one way that they achieve this is finding clever ways of making the puzzles feel more physical. The first puzzle in the game has a lovely rip and tear element – which I think sets the expectation and tone for the rest of the experience.

Each of the following nine puzzles then brings something else to the table, which is another of the things I enjoyed about Enigmagram – no two puzzles felt the same. This is obviously quite important in a shorter experience, but very easy to overlook when designing.

There are puzzles for everyone – people who enjoy arithmetic, people who enjoy word challenges, puzzles that require visualisation, riddles – a relative puzzle smorgasbord. This variety really brings a real depth to the Enigmagram.

This brings me to my next point – is Enigmagram just for the person you’re purchasing it for to play? In my opinion, no. I would be much more fun for everyone if you played it with them.

That’s not to say that a solo individual couldn’t take on the challenge and enjoy it, they absolutely could! I personally, however, would have got a little frustrated If I hadn’t had my partner playing it with me. This is certainly not a criticism of the game, more a criticism of my own mind. But with the variety in the puzzles provided, I personally think it takes several different types of mind to solve them efficiently. There is a certain logic puzzle in the game which I couldn’t get my head around at all – but my partner solved it in a few minutes. I think this is a real plus point for Enigmagram – not only are you providing a lovely gift, but the taking the time to play it together adds to the experience.

After you have solved the ten puzzles then it’s all wrapped up nicely with the login on Enigmagram’s website – the secret message provided by your sender. I think this is a wonderful way to finish the game, it provides closure to confirm that you have completed everything, whilst also adding that layer of personalisation that I have discussed before.

The beauty of this is of course that your sender can end your game with literally any message that they want. The Escape Roomer team had been left an interesting message by Enigmagram… let’s just say that we both know the game and we’re going to play it.

 

The Enigmagram 3rd Edition. Photo (c) Enigmagram

Was Enigmagram fun?

We really enjoyed playing through the ten puzzles in our Enigmagram. They are excellently balanced, with some easy wins and some slightly trickier twists

The real fun of the experience however is in its simplicity. You have been challenged by the sender to reveal the message, and the fun is to be had in proving that you are worthy of finding out this secret.

I would definitely recommend it for puzzle aficionados, but it is also a lovely gateway into the world of tabletop puzzle games for people that don’t just want to pop down to Clintons and buy another £2 birthday card. It’s a lovely gift and a triumph for simplicity.

The Enigmagram can be purchased from their website here.

Epic Escapes: Escape Room In a Box (Piracy) | Review

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You have just 60 minutes to escape. The clock is ticking. Teamwork, creativity, logic, and attention to detail will be needed to race against the clock.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a party

This was our second outing from the Epic Escapes game box and yet again it didn’t disappoint.

What is an Escape Room in a Box?

Just as a quick recap from our first game ‘Crime‘: Initially, the prospect of an “Escape Room in a Box” really got the juices flowing. On our first occasion opening the box, we were immediately blown away with the quality of the contents. The hardware contained within the box is of great build quality and it is evident that a great amount of effort has been put into perfecting the contents. The box also contains a volume of consumable items and a large number of clear to follow, fool-proof instructions. 

The box contains three different at home escape room experiences:

  • Crime (reviewed by Mairi & Nick)
  • Piracy (this one)
  • Hijack (next on our list!)

Each game differs slightly in difficulty level and as we had already mastered the “easier” Crime game, this time we went for medium difficulty experience – Piracy. Some of the materials were re-used from earlier games, and some of the materials were brand new. This made for a similar experience between the three games, but each spun in their own unique way.

As a host, you’re in charge of the following:

  • Resetting locks for particular codes
  • Hiding certain items inside the locked boxes they provide
  • Hiding all items for your teammates to find around your room

To help you set up there’s a really handy checklist provided in the Instructions leaflet. This tells the host what to do and in what order, such as “hide this on a windowsill” or “reset this lock to XYZ”. The whole setup takes around 30 minutes, 60 if you’re being very thorough. I didn’t personally want to overcomplicate anything, so I ‘hid’ things in very obvious places such as poking out from behind plant pots or on tables.

Suez Canal Boat Disaster… No, Not That One!

A nice clear challenge card contained within the box sets the story up nicely – passing through the Suez Canal in your merchant navy oil tanker, a last minute captain has locked you and the rest of the crew in his quarters and now it appears the boat is going off course. You remember that the former captain had built an emergency escape mechanism years back. Now you must solve the puzzles in order to unlock the escape hatch and get the ship back on track!

We really like the story and its certainly not one we had seen before – which is very refreshing! Since 2021, the Suez canal has been on the news a lot, but this game predates it by at least a year. But it’s a funny co-incidence. The story was strong yet very different to the first game, Crime – which is very much suited to the home environment, whereas in this story setting up more of a boat theme will only add to the story.

With this in mind, we played the game in a different room in the house, the lights were turned off, and I had soft white led lighting as well as a very loud countdown clock (found on Youtube!) to add tension and compliment the story. Doing it in a different room from the first time we played, meant different hiding places and a real different feel to the game.

The puzzles in this game stick strictly to the theme and really add to the game play – expect to encounter the kinds of objects and documents you would find on an oil tanker hidden around your room. For an escape room at home, we were delighted at the tactility of playing with padlock puzzles and 3 or 4 digital codes. Although there isn’t a huge quantity of puzzles within the game, perhaps 4 or 5 total, they are all very strong – 2 in particular we really liked. We all agreed that the difficultly level of the puzzles was a little trickier than our first Epic Escapes outing and is a great follow on. 

One puzzle threw the team completely, however the box comes complete with a set of handy hint cards. Having a glance at these set the guys back on track and we smashed through the puzzles. A word of warning though – there is a black light puzzle in this particular game. by the time Mairi got round to playing it, her battery had run completely dead in the light provided by the game, meaning that puzzle needed to be skipped.

The Verdict

In times of lock down, a game like this is a real solid substitute to get your escape room fix. The qualify of the product is strong, particularly in terms of design and hardware. The story is very different to others so gives this experience a very different feel to Epic Escapes first puzzle we played. All in all, a really good experience. Looking forward to playing the third instalment from the starter box – Hijack! 

Escape Room in a Box (3 in 1) can be purchased on Epic Escapes’ website here.

Escape Advent Calendars: The Mystery Of The Half Eaten Carrots | Review

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The Mystery Of The Half Eaten Carrots Review | Solve the mystery of the half-eaten carrots. The store has been raided. Question the reindeer; one of them must be the greedy culprit!

Date Played: 26th February 2022
Number Of Players: 2 (+1 cat)
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 1 Hour

But It’s Not Christmas….

Yes alright, I know. But when Mairi offers up an escape game to review with the promise of free chocolate, I’m not going to pass this up, Christmas themed or otherwise.

Plus who loves chocolate more than I do? My wife; and who am I to deprive her of delicious chocolate treats for solving puzzles? Not me I assure you.

Let’s Get Started

We have a copy of the advent calendar. The product is of good quality, is attractive inside and out. It’s nicely compact and everything that is required to complete the entire contents, is either on or in the product itself. The back of the calendar gives simple instructions to get you started; alongside pigpen, braille and tap-code ciphers.

Finally, there is a clue to direct you to which reindeer should be interrogated first. Should you be correct, a chocolate with the number 1 (in flashy art deco font) will appear and another clue will point in the direction of the next reindeer to interrogate. Rinse and repeat this process to interrogate all reindeers in the right order, thus receiving the chocolates numerically and most importantly, success in playing.

Do I Feel Christmassy?

It’s a good question to ask, especially during the end of February. Theming wise, this advent calendar ticks all the boxes. Fun holiday theme ✅, chocolate in Santa-red-and-gold wrapping ✅, more reindeers than you can shake a stick at ✅. Not much else to say, top marks for this section!

Let’s Interrogate Some Reindeers!

In terms of puzzles, the functionality and logic of them are all sound. The hints system is nicely considered on the Escape Advent Calendars website; each of the 25 puzzles has a good number of progressive hints before the solution is revealed. My only qualm however is that to access the hints, you have to sign up for an account on the website. I’m not sure about the prospect of giving my personal data to access some hints for an escape game that accumulatively lasts around an hour. Maybe a purchase code to unlock the hints (and thus, proving purchase) might be more suitable?

Regarding innovation, the concept behind the game is certainly original. It’s really great to see companies like Escape Advent Calendars, breathing new life into the standard advent calendar. The puzzles I feel, are not that innovative however. Almost all of the puzzles I have seen countless times, in some variation or another in conventional escape games. Puzzle types include but are not limited to; code decipher, directional, colour-coding and observation.

Nelson Strikes Again…

You know who had fun? Nelson my cat. As you can see below, she was very happy rolling around with the puzzle components whilst we did the hard work! In all seriousness, this was a light-hearted and fun way to spend a Saturday evening. Yes, we completed the product unconventionally; I.E.: not doing one puzzle a day, for 25 days, but it didn’t dampen the fun at all.

How Many Carrots To Buy?

The recommended retail price is at £19.99. Considering the overall accumulative time spent playing and the puzzles presented, I feel that this price point is a little too high. I’d recommend looking out for a sale price on The Panic Room Online (where we purchased this copy) or another retail supplier to capitalise on the value.

For The Advent Apprentice Or Expert?

I’d recommend this to families with children and adults who aren’t necessarily into puzzles. The very small learning curve and overall accessibility would be perfect for these player demographics. Based on the price however, I’m not sure if escape room enthusiasts will get enough out of this in terms of challenge.

Rating

Overall this is a suitable and accessible escape-room-advent-calendar which can be enjoyed, especially by families with children. What it lacks in puzzle innovation and the steeper end of sale prices, makes up in overall holiday theming, fun and good quality. If you can find it on sale, out of season, I’d snap it right up ready for the upcoming holiday period… or right now if you prefer!

The Mystery of the Half Eaten Carrots can be purchased for £20 from The Panic Room’s website here.