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.

iDventure: The Fire in Adlerstein | Review

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Adlerstein Review | A citizen was killed in an arson attack in the city of Adlerstein. Isn’t it a strange coincidence? You, inspector, have to find out who the culprit is by detecting files and alibis.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 23rd October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

“Let’s play a board game, here are two choices” I say to my escape room un-enthusiastic partner on a Saturday morning. Surprisingly, rather than picking another ancient civilisation building romp, they selected Adlerstein as something a little different. It’s not quite an escape room in a box, but it’s not quite a board game either.

The packaging – a box that fits neatly on my board game shelf – is deceptive. What you actually receive within this box is a detailed paper case file. The game also doesn’t come with any instructions, except for a single letter entitled “Dear Detectives“.

No turns, no dice, your goal is to simply ‘solve the case’ in the fastest time possible.

Good luck!

Find the Culprit, Crack the Case

Your introduction to the case begins when you receive a letter from a local journalist. Interested in the case, we had gathering evidence when suddenly he got arrested – I mean, he was spotted at the scene of the crime and took an unhealthy interest in the fire! Protesting his innocence, he sends you all the evidence he’s collected in the hopes you’ll solve the case for him.

From here it’s a classic whodunnit… A number of suspects with motives, unpicking their actions and figuring out who reasonably could have been at the scene of the crime at the correct time with the right motive to have commited the crime.

To help you out, you’ve got a box packed with a large quantity of stuff to sort through, which was a lot of fun. One made up location, but plenty of impressively realistic pieces of evidence, ranging from Google Maps, license plate searches, stills from CCTV, high quality photographs, written notes. We can’t fault how exciting and realistic it felt to receive a box filled with such objects.

By the end of the hour as we were approaching the climax, we’d completely covered two tables in a ‘detectives board’ style of flat lay, spreading all the relevant information out and drawing lines and connections between characters and events. If you enjoy completely immersing yourself in fictional worlds as you unravel a complex case, then this game is for you! For sure, there are better games out there that do the same thing, but it certainly scratched that armchair detective itch.

Photo (c) iDVenture

There’s a Killer Among Us…

Putting our ‘escape room’ hat on for a moment, it’s hard to judge Adlerstein on puzzles because there weren’t many puzzles to solve in the game – with one exception in the form of a classic cipher puzzle. But this cipher didn’t fit well in the universe, and whats more it was long, cumbersome, and not fun to solve. We ended up skipping the cipher by checking the hints as not to disrupt the flow of the gameplay.

Otherwise all the puzzles players will encounter are pure social deduction puzzles. “If this, then that” or “If he said this, and she said something else, who is lying?” type of thing. Which are fun in their own right, but are less common in the escape room world.

You solve the case by filling out a grid – find everyone’s motive, their alibi, and so on. Whatever the gaps int he grid are is where you’ll find your killer.

So how did we do? We played Adlerstein once through without filling the grid and instead just holding the information in our heads. We reached the ending and short of an educated guess – couldn’t crack the case. So we started from the top and went through methodically, filling the grid, and making sure that each piece of information couldn’t be guessed. And then… We couldn’t crack the case either. I’m quite sure we guessed every single wrong answer before getting to the correct one, and even then we were like “huh? how?” A little but anti-climactic and a lot of frustrating, but we were glad for the resolution at the end.

No, the best thing about playing Adlerstein wasn’t solving puzzles – or even cracking the case. It was reading through a pretty cool story and feeling like you too were at the heart of it. People (fictional, sure) are depending on you to crack the case. It’s not your regular board game, it’s something quite different and that’s exciting!

Photo (c) iDventure

The Verdict

The Fire in Adlerstein is a classic whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns in the detailed story. Our tip to anyone using this post to help solve the game is to read and re-read everything for even the smallest details. The game comes in at between 1 – 3 hours, but can easily be reset and regifted. We made a lot of effort not to ruin any of the materials, and passed it along to the next person at The Escape Roomer to see if they could solve any faster!

The creators want you to feel like a real detective, but they’ll make you work for that solution – good luck!

Adlerstein can be purchased from iDventure’s website here.

Professor Puzzle: Danger in the Deep | Review

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Danger in the Deep Review | Using all your secret agent training, you need to navigate your way through the deserted sub, crack the shutdown code, disable the warheads, and locate the enemy agent. All in two hours! There are 14 interactive and interlinked puzzles, and the detailed instructions, helpful hints and easy-to-follow game format ensure that both novices and experts are guaranteed an immersive, high octane experience. Let the countdown begin!

Completion Time: 1.5 hours
Date Played: 24th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

From the moment the postman knocked on my front door and handed me Professor Puzzle’s newest game “Danger in the Deep”, I knew this was going to be something quite special. A great quality box covered in bright poppy colours and themed around one of my favourite ‘settings’ for an escape game: the submarine!

For this reason, it took me a little longer than usual to get round to playing it. Since the box was explicitly one-use I wanted to make sure and gather the A-Team over an evening, pour us some ice cold, suitably submarine themed cocktails, and tackle the adventure together. Danger in the Deep was well-worth the wait and an exciting mid-week excursion for us all onto the Retiarius: A submarine primed and armed to the teeth with nuclear warheads. No pressure, hey!

About Danger in the Deep, the Escape Room Game

The year is 19?? and as the country’s most successful secret agent, you’ve finally tracked down your arch nemesis: Agent Proteus onboard the nuclear submarine Retiarius. But, as your initial mission briefing indicates, it’s a trap and the submarine is being remotely piloted by Proteus. Oops. Your mission is two-fold:

  • Disarm the nuclear warheads
  • Escape the submarine!
  • Track down where Proteus is really hiding

If that sounds like a lot… Well, it is! But you do have up to 120 minutes to complete all your objectives. Though (don’t tell anyone) you’re not actually on a timer, so if you take much longer than this then no stress. But in any case it’s a great rule of thumb to set aside at least 2 hours in your game night and have plenty of snacks handy. Once you’re trapped in the Retiarius, there’s no going back!

Fun Fact: A Retiarius literally translates to “net man” (wow, my Latin classes finally came in use) and refers to gladiators who carry the three-pronged trident.

Danger in the Deep is played in a pretty unique way. At first, I was a little overwhelmed There is a lot in the box for sure! But once you’ve read through the simple, one page explainer it makes a lot of sense. Your box contains:

  • A “How to Play” Guide
  • A “Training Manual” for the Engineering Deck, the Living Quarters and the Control Room
  • Blueprints for the whole ship
  • A deck of cards
  • A UV Torch
  • A field radio
  • A mysterious “do not open until instructed” envelope

You begin the game by drawing a specific card from a deck of cards, the other side of which sets up your first puzzle. From here you move seamlessly between all of the other materials in the box – from the booklets, to the blueprints, to the other objects as instructed in search of the answer. Once you have your answer you’re looking for the corresponding symbol. You then find this symbol on the answers page, scratch off the foil underneath, an the game tells you which card to draw next.

The story unfolds fairly linearly. You begin in a specific area of the submarine and move to the next sequentially as you follow along via the blueprints. It felt pretty immersive to enter each new area and have a peek into the lives of the employees who worked on the submarine through a series of photographs of the spaces, notice boards, lockers and floor plans. All the while we were grounded with a sense of where we were in the ship and what our immediate objective was. I loved that the game was guided by the cards but otherwise you had a wealth of information to pour over (and spread out within your group) to contend with. We never once felt lost or confused.

Solving the Submarine

In terms of puzzles, this is where Danger in the Deep really shone! We’ve put this at the “medium” difficulty level as some of the puzzles really clicked right away, others had us scratching our heads for ages – then eventually looking at the clues, and others were a real “aha! That’s awesome!” moment once we finally got them right.

Difficulty aside, what Professor Puzzle does really well is create high quality and incredibly tactile puzzles. By that, I mean despite beginning with a lot of paper, the actions you make and the things you construct with the paper are so utterly delightful at every turn, it’s hard not to smile the whole game through.

There was a huge range in ‘styles’ of puzzle too, meaning quite literally: there’s something for everyone. Off the top of my head we encountered several different types of ciphers, some really fun logical deduction puzzles, plenty of searching-and-finding, some maths, some folding, some map reading, and so on. Every time one of us picked up a new object from the game box and started leafing through it our minds raced at the puzzling possibilities. Little details we’d spotted in the first 10 minutes suddenly came into play an hour later, and we found ourselves returning to different parts of the submarine armed with new tools and knowledge.

My favourite puzzle in the game came towards the ending of the game. No spoilers here, but we finally got to use a fun item that had been staring me in the face for the whole experience. It had a healthy balance of “roleplay”, forcing you to do an action to solve a puzzle which felt like you were really there in the game, and finally tied up those last unanswered questions in a satisfying way.

Is Danger in the Deep Replayable?

Well, technically no. But I just know this is going to be a “regularly asked question”, so I’ll be super upfront and share my thoughts. For starters, it’s an escape room game so once you’ve solved everything once, you already know the answers! So there’s no fun in playing again, unless you have a really short-term memory!

Secondly, Danger in the Deep requires you to cut things up and semi-destroy other things. Similarly, in order to reveal answers, you’ll need to scratch off little metal panels which cannot be, well, un-scratched.

Is it possible to play without doing these two things? Maybe. Should you? Probably not! To get the best experience, just do what the game tells you to and try not to worry about it. But if you’re dead set on preserving Danger in the Deep (I get it, it’s a beautiful game and I’d love to keep mine too!), then it is possible to photocopy those destructible elements. I’m personally a very careful escape game player and it breaks my heart to destroy anything, so I managed to solve all the destructible parts without cutting up a single thing. The creators don’t recommend it, and in hindsight, neither do I.

The Verdict

I absolutely loved Danger in the Deep! No, seriously, it may just be one of my game highlights of the year so far. It’s got 5 stars almost across the board from me, and I’ve also decided to award it the special “Puzzle Prize” badge for having some seriously cool puzzles in there I’ve never seen before but were brilliant fun to play.

Professor Puzzle’s Danger in the Deep can be purchased on Amazon. Head to this link for Amazon UK.

Puzzaroo: The Corporation | Review

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Puzzaroo’s The Corporation Review | The Corporation have tried to contact you through covert means. They are looking to recruit you to their agency but unfortunately they have had trouble with their subtle ways to contact you. With one last ditch attempt they’ve collated all covert communications in one envelope to send to you and are expecting you to meet them in a secret location, the whereabouts of which you need to figure out.

Completion Time: ~1 hour
Date Played: 17th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

Way back in the summer of 2021 (it feels like a lifetime ago now), Bianca and I went to visit Escape Entertainment. It’s little inner-city escape room tucked away a short walk from Bank, and also not too far from my apartment. Besides the localness, Escape Entertainment has a special place in my heart firstly as I drink from my commemorative Escape Entertainment mug daily, but secondly because we had such a great interaction with the host!

It was to my absolute delight that our very same host (the enigmatic Paul) reached back out to us at The Escape Roomer with a new, independent project he’s been working on: Puzzaroo!

*round of applause*

So excited to get into the game, I sat down with my regular Player 2 and gave Puzzaroo’s premier game “The Corporation” a go the same evening. So how did we get on?

About Puzzaroo’s The Corporation

The format of The Corporation is a fairly straightforward one: A mysterious envelope arrives in the post packed with puzzles to be solved. Each puzzle outputs a letter or a number, and those characters must be strung together, ‘solved’ and popped into a password box on the Puzzaroo’s secret link to verify and finish the game. In this way, it’s similar in format to games like Puzzle Post, or Post-a-Puzzle – and totally accessible to enthusiasts and puggles (puzzle muggles) alike.

In this case, it seemed a mysterious shadowy organisation had been trying to test my skills over the past few weeks by putting secret codes in everyday objects and leaflets. Me, ever un-observant, had missed them all. But not to fear, my future-handler wanted to give me one last chance so they gathered up all the clues, bundled them into an envelope, and popped them through my letterbox.

My goal was simple: Solve the puzzles, find the secret location to meet my handler.

Ooooh ~ exciting!

Finding Puzzles in Everyday Objects

☝ It’s a topic I’m fascinated by. Like when you’re in a Doctor’s waiting room and the unusual wallpaper is ripe for a puzzle. Or an accidental pattern somewhere must be Morse code, right?

The genre of: puzzles in normal items hiding in plain sight is something Puzzaroo does really well in this game. Here are the items you’ll find inside our Puzzaroo envelope:

  • A flyer for a betting shop
  • A number of playing cards
  • A newspaper
  • A photograph
  • Some business cards
  • A tube map
  • A lottery ticket
  • An old receipt
  • And so on…

If you didn’t look closely, you wouldn’t suspect anything is wrong about these items. It’s only on second glance (or third, on some of the harder puzzles) that you begin to spot irregularities.

What I really liked about everything in this game is that it was all of fantastic quality! When I say it’s a tube map, it looked and felt just like a tube map. No detail was spared on the design and print quality!

In terms of types of puzzles encountered, it was mostly fairly recognisable types of puzzles – no, no, not the dreadful car parking spaces puzzle which I see 8 times a week – more like creative reimaginings of familiar mechanics. There’s a little folding, a little maths, some fun wordplay puzzles… And so on. Between two players we found it to be a medium level of challenging. Not too difficult, but certainly a challenge! We used clues on 3 puzzles in total, and on one extra puzzle received some clarification from the creator directly – the answer for which was brilliant I might say, we’d just not spotted it in our playthrough!

The Verdict

Overall, we really enjoyed playing The Corporation. For sure, it wasn’t ‘perfect’ (whose first game design venture ever is?!), but it still impressed us! If this is the company’s first game of this style, then we’re very very excited to see what they come up with next. More stories, more envelopes, more more more please!

We’d recommend the game for anyone wishing to dip their toes into puzzle solving. It’s a really well priced and lovely looking gift filled with mystery and intrigue.

In the mean time, the creator is also one of the game designers at Secret City Trails – so until they launch another game, we might just have to go and play all of his outdoor walking trails to scratch that puzzle itch!

The Corporation can be purchased from Puzzaroo’s website here. Currently, they ship to the UK only.

Code Bakers: Fudge Fiasco | Review

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Fudge Fiasco Review: A pack of puzzles to solve to uncover what flavour fudge you’ve been sent!

Rating: Fudgin’ brill!
Completion Time: ~30 minutes
Date Played: 29th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A sweet treat!

Penguins taken from codebakers.co.uk (not literally)

A Christmas Treat!

A combination of a sweet treat + an escape room style puzzle…

…We are so there!

The team at Code Bakers have hit the jackpot with this winning combination which allows players to combine delicious sweet treats with puzzling to definitely make you feel like you’ve earnt your dessert! The Fudge Fiasco game sends players two mysterious blocks of fudge, challenging you to find out what the flavours are before tucking in.

A mystery map!

For Fudge Sake!

After receiving Fudge Fiasco as a part of the UK Puzzle Bundle, we cracked it open on a cosy afternoon, looking to fill half an hour of puzzling and tuck into our afternoon snack. These games are interesting in that it can be difficult to know where to start, especially when you are presented with multiple puzzles at once. But, once we had figured out what we were doing and what bits went together, the puzzles flowed really well.

It is great how much the Code Bakers’ team can pack into their small envelopes!

The map puzzle (pictured above) was definitely one of the more innovative versions of this style of puzzle that we have seen. It did leave us scratching our heads for a while, but once we realised some slightly ‘outside the box’ thinking was needed, we worked our way through this nicely!

It was very satisfying to solve, and the aha moment left us both smiling.

The puzzles are good for teams of two or more working together in a more relaxed atmosphere. We think this would be a great pre-dinner game for a family or a pre-escape room warm up for a team of enthusiasts (plus then you’d have the sugar kick from the fudge ready to go in and boss your room!).

Ash looking 10/10 happy with discovering her fudgey flavours

The Delicious Finale

Once we had made our way through the puzzles, we treated ourselves to two tasty bars of fudge! It’s nice to have a physical reward for solving the puzzles, which helps make these games stand out in that ‘at-home’ escape market.

We always enjoy a game from the Code Bakers – I think we will start using these to send gifts to our friends (to make them work for their treats!).

We look forward to playing more of these in the future!

Fudge Fiasco can be purchased for yourself (or given as a gift) by heading to Code Baker’s website here.

Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse | Review

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Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse Review | The legend tells that certain people who are blessed with the gift of deciphering and solving the most complex puzzles descend from dark pacts of blood. But now, an evil curse hangs over their shoulders, one that is taking the life of more than a hundred people. 

The Butterfly Curse” is an original horror escape game that mixes physical and digital puzzles with dark narrative to immerse you in a such terrifying experience that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction.

Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: 28th November 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Challenging

Welp… Definitely a game for a dark night!

We sat down on an extremely snowy afternoon to try out Key Enigma’s game, ‘The Butterfly Curse’. After Mairi had warned us that word on the street was that The Butterfly Curse was a real ‘scary’ play at home game, we were very excited to see what we would find within the ominous red envelope!

It had a number of “ah-ha” moments as you always want to see in an escape game, but The Butterfly Curse was also markedly different. There were also a number of ‘AHHHH’ moments, especially when we finally got around to opening that sealed envelope. Al was watching the screen through her fingers at some points, and insisted that we turn the volume down after being made to jump off her seat (on more than one occasion).

Before we started playing this game, Ash already had a fear of butterflies… Turns out, she might have been on to something!

Just your average, friendly BuzzFeed quiz…right?

We’ve all sat and played the classic online quizzes, wondering which Friends character we would be, or which Disney princess we would marry, but we can’t say we’ve ever done an online quiz quite like the one that welcomed us into The Butterfly Curse. It started off so normal… Until everything seemed to go terribly, terribly wrong! We were so impressed at what Key Enigma have managed to create – it is easily one of the most immersive web elements of a play at home game that we have had the pleasure of using.

The introduction was perfectly pitched – it was scary, the puzzles ranged in difficulty, and the general preface of the story was set up so well. We were very excited (read: Al was scared) to see where our journey would take us.

A word of advice: Definitely make sure you play the introduction first – it’s well worth it!

Image (c) Key Enigma

Your run of the mill friendly internet stranger

We soon got our heads stuck into the game, after finding out that we had been cursed by Farglos(!) (which Al kept reading as Fergus lol), to see if we could make it out alive. You are taken in by a helpful internet stranger, who becomes your guide for the rest of the game. The game functions through an online portal, as you solve puzzles using physical components, plus information that you find on the in-game website.

This combination worked really well as you were guided nicely through each step, making it clear which puzzle was next, and what to use when. We really liked this, as it stopped us getting super distracted by exciting items we found in the envelope, which we wouldn’t actually use until about 5 puzzles in. We had to use the hint system a couple of times to get some nudges (Al does not perform well under fear). Luckily, the clue system is set up nicely to give you a few hints before offering the full solution (useful if you really are paralysed with fear – or if you bang your head falling off your chair from a jump scare – looking @ u Mairi).

Welp x2 – what an ending!

The game finishes on an excellent climax, producing one of the most ‘thrilling’ final envelope openings of any game we have played. We had been looking at the mysterious ‘do not open’ envelope throughout our play, wondering what on earth was inside, and whether it would save us from an eternity of being Farglos’ slaves…

No spoilers – but everyone should play the game just for the ending. It was high tension, high drama, and Key Enigma have done really well to re-create the ‘buzz’ of that final puzzle of a real-life escape room. Anyone who has played this will know what we are talking about!

Overall – this was a wonderful game, with clever tricks and turns. Turn off your lights, close the curtains, and hope for the best when you eventually open your sealed envelope…

You can buy The Butterfly Curse here:
https://keyenigma.com/products/horror-escape-room-the-butterfly-curse.

Ratings

Puzzle Post: The Scandal | Review

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Puzzle Post – The Scandal Review | Femi Banuve, a sports photographer, has stumbled across a story of match-fixing and blackmail at the Marseille Tennis Championships. A bank of files and documents are being used to threaten a leading tennis star and Femi needs your help to disrupt the plan.

Completion Time: 70 minutes
Date Played: November 2021
Party Size: 2(+2)
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: A dinner party with a twist!

I am a huge fan of Puzzle Post – so when I found out they had a new (and quite unique) experience out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! The Scandal differs from every other Puzzle Post game (such as The Split, The Secret Service and The Missed Flight) in that this one is not personalised. Rather than working on a code which unlocks a secret message for your lucky recipient, The Scandal is a game for groups to play together for a common goal.

Finally – I can stop buying these games as ‘gifts’ for other people then immediately asking to borrow them so I can solve it too!

Because it’s a group game, the envelope is packed with not one but two copies of the entire game. Doubles of everything. In particular, the creators suggest playing it over a dinner party – and I’d agree! With the addition of multiple copies in one go you can spread out and work together. With Christmas around the corner, it’s an impressive game that slims down to an A4 envelope that you could bring to your next celebration.

So What is The Scandal?

The scandal part of The Scandal takes place at the Marseille Tennis Open. The usual – blackmail, match fixing, and some very scandalous revelations. Some interested parties have got their hands on the information and stored it in a secure safe… The code for which, as I’m sure you can guess, is hidden behind juicy puzzles. It’s a fun spin on their usual formula where the sender hides their own message for the recipient to unlock!

Despite tennis being something we know absolutely nothing about, the puzzles that got us to the solution were fairly accessible. Each puzzle in the game is self contained and, hidden somewhere inside the game, is a meta puzzle which reveals the order.

I’m always particularly delighted when regular, almost ‘household’ items are included in puzzle games too. In The Scandal, on opening the envelope a full Raffle Ticket booklet fell out, as well as plenty of business cards, some stickers, leaflets, betting slips and menus. Each item is printed on different styles and qualities of paper but the whole thing felt incredibly genuine. In short, pretty much all the things you might accumulate if you were hanging around the Marseille Tennis Open.

Most of the puzzles are offline with the exception of one that will require you to use the internet. The ending too is digital, as you need to collect the codes from each puzzle and enter them to see if you’re correct. We used a couple of clues and again had to hop online for this – though the whole thing was mobile optimised, so no dinner-party-immersion breaks here!

At the end of the game we found ourselves with a very exciting decision to make. One that, amusingly, we could not agree on! It’s traditional to have at least one argument per dinner party, right? I particularly enjoyed that ours was over our escape game choice (and not the best method of cooking potatoes – I’ll die on the ‘mashed potato’ hill).

The Verdict

I am completely here for this new direction of Puzzle Post games that you buy for yourself rather than a gift, and The Scandal is a fantastic first entry in what I hope is a new series. Everything the company produces is super high quality, really accessible to puzzlers of all ages and demographics, and feels so exciting. All round reliably good games.

There’s a reason they were one of the first puzzle-game creators to get me into the genre and hey, look at where we are now!

The Scandal can be purchased on Puzzle Post’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Tales: The Awakening

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Escape Tales: The Awakening Review | Players take on the role of Sam, whose daughter has been in a coma for a couple of months and whose doctors still cannot explain how or what caused it. According to them, everything is fine with the girl; she’s healthy and shouldn’t be in this condition. Sam is desperate and looks for answers everywhere he can.

Enter Mark, a man whose son was once in a similar condition. Mark is quiet on the details, handing Sam a scary-looking book containing a ritual called “The Awakening”. Mark promises that the book contains the answer, but Sam will need to prepare himself mentally for the journey ahead. Sam must transverse a whole different reality! Through determination, and a bit of luck, he will be able to find his daughter, understand the cause of her condition, and wake her up.

Completion Time: 3-4 hours
Date Played: Summer 2020
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

A sinister, story-driven game

The Awakening is a spell-binding, mysterious experience, merging board game and escape room, all pulled together by an emotionally charged, superb story. We played this during Lockdown 1.0 in Summer 2020, and absolutely loved it! We had added it to our wish list for a while before purchasing, and we are soo glad we did (and have since gone on to buy the other two games released by Escape Tales because it was so great and we wanted more!) because this game is a worthwhile investment!

The Escape Tales games’ format is an escape room style card game. But where, in an escape room you are challenged to complete the game within an hour, there are no time limitations in the Awakening, and encourages players to fully explore the story world they find themselves in, getting an amazing 3-6 hours of game play out of this story!

Logistically, this means that the game works as a choice based narrative, combining the use of a puzzle book with various cards, and an online app to input your answers and access clues. Players are required to solve puzzles to access objects or snippets of information. You are then required to make a series of (sometimes morally ambiguous!) choices, in order to progress through the game, moving you through various locations. You only have a limited number of moves in each location, so you need to think carefully about whether you *really* need to look at the teddy bear…

We found because of the decision making aspects of this game, that it worked well to play as a pair, as we could discuss our options and come to an agreement over what to do next. While the game is marketed for 1-4 players, we feel that 2 is the sweet spot for not having too many opinions on what to do next, while being able to talk each other into good decisions and out of bad decisions!

Image (c) Tabletop Board Games

You have chosen wisely

There is a good level of re-playablilty of The Awakening, as there are multiple different endings that players can end up with, depending on your choices throughout the game. This is great, as investing in a boxed game, it’s nice to know that you can play it again and get a different outcome! Lots of play at home games are designed to be played once, so it’s good to know that we can pass this on to someone else to enjoy without having the fear of ‘destroying’ anything that would affect future players’ game play!

By a very happy accident, we ended up with the most successful outcome (in the circumstances…), so we were pleased (read: extremely relieved!) about this. We did have a peek at the alternative endings and have to say, if you do choose less wisely, things certainly don’t go so well…

We got so engrossed in the story that we played the game in one hefty sitting (probably about 3-4 hours) ⏰ Considering that this is a play at home game, it is extremely immersive- we felt transported into a sinister ‘in-between’ land of those who have passed, or nearly passed!

The puzzles were challenging and logical, and managed to be varied despite the card based nature of the game. We got stuck in a few places, and definitely made some questionable decisions looking back 😦

The Beautiful Game

No, no, not football! We’re still talking about The Awakening and how beautiful this game’s aesthetic is! The artwork in the game was brilliant. We loved the style of the drawing, the theming and the colours used to create the perfect atmosphere for the story. The room cards are so vibrant, and each room you explore is so different.

In our first play through, there were some rooms we didn’t even mange to reach due to the choices we made, so when we glimpsed 👀 these when packing away the game we were definitely inspired to replay- we want to go to the bathroom next time!

Content warning

We would 100% recommend The Awakening games, but would add a provision that the story can get quite dark in places, with a content warning for themes of suicide, so tread cautiously if this concerns you. Perhaps give Children of Wyrmwoods a go, which doesn’t have a content warning, we’d definitely recommend giving Escape Tales a go!

You can purchase Escape Tales: The Awakening, as well as their other games: Low Memory (also great) and Children of Wyrmwoods (we have this on our games shelf ready to play 😃) from Board & Dice for €17,50.

Ratings