Escape Hunt: Day of the Dead | Review

Image

Escape Hunt Day of the Dead Review | Tonight, it is the Day of the Dead and amongst the festivities, music and colour, lies a legendary challenge: the chance to be reborn. Have you got what it takes to lead a skeleton crew of expert thieves into the most heavily guarded building in the whole underworld? For one night only, the walls between the real world and the afterlife have come down and the greatest prize of them all sits inside a secure vault somewhere inside the palace, waiting to be taken by someone bold enough to try.

Date Played: October 2021
Time Taken: 1 Hour 2 Mins
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Easy

Bright, colourful, yet slightly spooky

Its no surprise that I am a big fan of the print at home games produced by Escape Hunt over the last year or so. Everything is of the highest quality, with some outstanding graphic design and solidly thought out themes and puzzles. And this game is certainly no exception.

The theme grabbed me instantly. I have real love for all things based on Dias De Las Muertos and I am surprised that its a theme that isn’t more widely used in the escape room community. The combination of traditional family values, beautifully colourful painted faces and the more ominous death factors give some real endless opportunities for puzzle designers – and the guys at Escape Hunt have certainly gone to town with this theme, and grasped the challenge with both skeleton painted hands!

Sensory overload?! You bet! But my eyes were buzzing with the amazing colours involved in this game. Obviously, your printer might not enjoy it, but your eyes certainly well. But don’t worry, the guys at Escape Hunt have you covered – the opening page of the PDF file clearly shows what you need to print to make the game a little more pocket-friendly on your printer!

Strike up the band, Amigos

Getting a sense of immersion from a print at home game will always prove difficult. One way that is always a winner for me, is the use of sound and music. With Day of the Dead, the website gives you the opportunity to strike up the Mariachi band and indulge in the sounds of Mexico. And whilst the soundtrack does get somewhat repetitive, it really adds a nice touch and a little bit of atmosphere often lacking at print at home games.

My favourite subject – puzzles! Now whilst I’d suggest that the majority of the puzzles are relatively simple, don’t go thinking you’ll just sail on through without too much to test you. There are some common puzzle themes which you may have likely seen before, but what Escape Hunt do really well, is give these a subtle twist. There are around 10 puzzles within this game and all are accessible to any level of player – the kids will love how they look graphically, and can certainly get involved without question. The more experienced players would likely love this as a solo or duo game.

The game is broken down into three distinct sections – as ever, no spoilers, however Escape Hunt have cleverly placed page blockers into the game to make sure that you don’t accidentally turn the page to the next puzzle and ruin your journey to secure what’s hidden within the vault. And whilst the game is linear in nature, there would be no harm in separating away from each other during each of three sections to play games as individuals and then pulling together when required.

The game also ties itself together well, by using a set of bones which are found early on in the process. These have some odd encryptions on them which need to be referred to on a number of occasions throughout the game. This is a really solid way of not making the gameplay feel too sporadic.

As with all the Escape Hunt games, there is a very trusty online guide available. As you progress through the series of puzzles, should you find yourself up the Mexican creek without a paddle, here you can find a selection of hints. The first hint for each puzzle tends to be rather cryptic but gives just enough of a nudge to push you forward. If this still isn’t enough there’s a secondary hint for each game which is much more obvious. And whilst I wouldn’t expect many players would need them, you can also find the answers for each puzzle too. It should be noted that this online guide is just as beautifully colourful as the printed documents and is a real treat for the eyes.

Cutting skills at the ready!

Don’t forget your scissors for this game though amigos! Two major puzzles (and I’d probably also suggest my favourite of the entire game), need you to put your cutting skills to the test. I often worry that you lose your flow when having to stop to cut things up when playing printed games, which can often a frustration. And whilst one of the two games did require me to put my expert arts and crafts skills to the test, it actually gave a much greater sense of achievement when I completed it. Instead of just reading through material, having these more interactive factors, were a perfect addition.

The finale of this game is very clever. The answers to your final puzzles just appear to be a bit of a muddle; I was certainly questioning whether I had messed up, but I shouldn’t have feared! Make use of the printed decoder tool and you’ll soon find how to complete your mission! Head online to enter your secret password and find if you can what secrets there are to unveil.

The Verdict

When all was said and done, this is certainly a very solid outing from Escape Hunt. The combination of some well designed puzzles (both with and without the requirement of my trusty scissors!), possibly the most beautifully created graphics for a print at home game I’ve played, and a really cracking theme, make this one of the games I am unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Sounds like fun right? If you think so head on over to the Escape Hunt website at this link.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: A Curious Tea Party | Review

Image

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

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

Yes, Yes I Know…

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

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

Every Adventure Requires A First Step

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

Nelson scouring the puzzle pages for clues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

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

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

Imagination Is The Only Weapon In The War Against Reality

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

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

How Long Is Forever? Sometimes Just One Second

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

For The Mad Hatter Or Sleepy Dormouse?

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

Rating

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

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

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

Escape Hunt: Level Up | Review

Image

Escape Hunt: Level Up Review | Welcome to Level One …When you discover a mysterious old console from the 1980s in the attic, a dangerous computer virus hiding in the software starts to escape. Through a combination of printed puzzles and online hacking, can you play your way through the retro levels and shut the console down before the virus gets out? It’s your job to hack into the mainframe, attack the computer virus and Level Up!

Date Played: 2020
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 60 minutes

A very cool and colourful retro styled print and play at home game, with a tech edge! 

The story – you stumble upon an 80’s retro games console however things aren’t quite what they seem. Switching it on, you release a dangerous computer virus which threatens the future of the world. You must hack into the mainframe and shut the system down before its too late. 

A really enjoyable story and theme which certainly opens up a real field of creativity. Retro gaming is a real personal favourite theme of mine (in fact a physical room I have played previously which had a retro theme is up there with my personal favourites) so I was very excited when I saw this game advertised! 

In respect of game play, once purchased you will receive a printable PDF file. This includes the vast majority of puzzles and story however you do miss key pieces of evidence which you will unlock online as you work your way through the different levels. 

The first thing you notice when receiving the PDF is the outstanding design – a real 80’s feast of pixel- led retro gaming vibes. Nicely created characters and effects certainly fit the theme beautifully. Now, it may not be the most printer-friendly of games given the vast amount of colour, however the instructions sheet does direction you as to what should be printed and what is required to be in colour – there are a handful of sheets that will require colour in order to help aide you in solving the puzzle. 

In respect of puzzles, again, these fit the theme brilliantly and there is certainly no doubt you are on a retro gaming mission. There may not be vast amounts of puzzles, but those within the game are very strong and unlike anything I have seen on any other print at home games. Be prepared with your scissors and best origami skills and then be prepared to be amazed with the games creativity. 

I would certainly suggest that this is one that families and enthusiasts alike will enjoy – with a medium/high difficultly this certainly isn’t going to be a game you will crack within 20 mins and move on! Younger players will certainly enjoy the design, bright colours and the physical aspects to the game (which also includes some interesting online elements), whilst others will appreciate the difficulty and effort which has gone into making a very well rounded game.  

If you get stuck, the PDF includes a link to a web page where there are some well appointed clues and if you get really stuck, you can also track down the actual answers. We used the clues on a few occasions and they certainly helped move us along. Given that the puzzles have multiple elements to them, make sure you press the right box for the right hint otherwise you could end up getting yourself in a bit of a mess! 

An honourable mention should go the way in which this game reaches its conclusion and the addition of a “bonus” , just for fun level. They are both great little touches which added to the enjoyment.  

In summary, a game that we certainly enjoyed. The colourful design, story and theme are strong. Although not hugely puzzle heavy, those included are great fun and unlike anything I’d played before. Nice interaction between the printed and online elements make this a very well rounded game.

Level up can be downloaded from Escape Hunt’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: Murder at the Mansion | Review

Image

Escape Hunt: Murder at the Mansion Review | As the sole heir to the family fortune, it’s up to you and your team of detectives to solve the crime. Go back to the fateful night of a lavish party at the old Blackwood estate, where Sir Charles’ body was discovered. Can you put the suspects under the microscope to discover who did it, where and with what? Sift through the evidence and step deep into a world of mystery and intrigue!

Date Played: 2020
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 60 minutes

Now, this print at home/online murder mystery ticks every box for those who love a who done it case!

The story, back in 1914, the owner of a wealthy estate died under mysterious circumstances. With the war looming, the case went cold and no one had been charged with his murder. A Will has since emerged over 100 years later, with you as the sole beneficiary –  you are attempting to solve this cold case, find out his killer and gain your rightful inheritance! 

In short – love the story! I think it sits beautifully with a print at home game where you can have multiple pieces of evidence and pull it all together. The element of the case going cold due to the war is a great touch – not only does it make the story line believable, it adds to the feel of the game and provides a greater insight into the world you are being plunged into. 

The initial aspect of the game is at print at home PDF document. It contains some vastly detailed, well produced documents which set the scene nicely – great attention to detail and some strong characters aide your experience. This is much like an old-school puzzle book elimination puzzle where you have to work out who did what, where they did it and what they did it with – but on a much more elaborate scale!   

Unlike the online escape games where things are much more linear, the printed materials provide a great way of building a case file against the prime suspects, where everything isn’t black and white or on one screen! Some “puzzles” are on the simple side where it is easy to understand what suspect the evidence relates too – other are much more complex and will call on numerous pieces of evidence to understand the motives of the killer. As such, families with older children, couples and enthusiasts alike, will all enjoy this game and bring something to the table!

In addition to the printed materials, there is a handy online hint and answers page which you can refer to. It is particularly helpful that this doesn’t form part of your printed materials, as not to spoil the game by accidentally reading the answers! There were moments we were tempted to check for answers but I’m too proud to do that so carried on regardless! (Although from looking at them after the game, these are really well put together, easy to understand and provide just enough level of hint without spoiling the game play). 

Without giving too much away, cleverly, the finale to this game isn’t as part of your printed materials – the use of email and internet is therefore also required to solve the mystery. Further evidence comes to light which, as long as all your other answers have been solved, allows you to complete your mission and rightfully gain your inheritance! A strong finale to this game ensured we went away happy with our hours-worth of detective skills! 

All-in-all, a well rounded game, with great puzzles, a strong design and good story telling. A real treat for families and enthusiasts alike, this game comes really highly recommended. Take an hour out of your day to become the detective you were born to be! 

Murder at the Mansion can be downloaded from Escape Hunt’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: Stolen | Review

Image

Escape Hunt: Stolen Review | Five priceless treasures, five notorious thieves … can you catch them in time? Take on the role as one of Scotland Yard’s finest detectives as you hunt down the suspects behind the world’s most audacious heist!

Five priceless treasures have been stolen across London and the five dastardly thieves have escaped the police’s clutches once more. But intelligence has it that they will strike again soon. Can you work your way through the evidence and reveal which thief stole which item and where they’ll strike next?

Date Played: April 2020
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 48 minutes

A strong “who done it” print at home game, which is slightly different to the norm, but safe to say we really enjoyed it!

There’s Mischief Afoot in London

The story – there is mischief afoot in the streets of London! Five robberies, five precious items stolen. Your job, work out the culprits, what they stole, when they stole it and where they stole it from. 

I really enjoyed the concept with the game in that it isn’t the traditional linear puzzle in that you have to find out one person who is responsible for the crime. 

On the flip side, this isn’t the normal escape room format and works off a logic style grid in being able to eliminate particular individuals or scenarios as you work your way through the evidence you are presented with. 

In terms of the evidence, the attention to detail is strong within this game. The printed materials are certainly believable and very well presented. In fact, given that this is a print at home game, there is the potential to turn your home into a physical escape room by hiding the different printed objects to be found and then pulling the team together to carry out the actual detective work.

The print at home document contains 9 pages of “evidence” to aide you in your detective investigations. The puzzles vary vastly in each evidence item and there were two or three which we were particularly impressed by. Your powers of deduction will certainly be tested! In terms of difficulty its an odd one to gauge – I would suggest slightly more experienced gamers would enjoy this, that said, it is a great game for families with older children to get involved in too!

It is clear that the designers have taken great pride in developing this product and it certainly shows in the care and attention. It cannot have been easy developing the volume of complex “puzzles” which allow you to solve this game – particularly as all the documents intertwine with one another and it is not always cut and dry as to whom the evidence relates to- one member of the team certainly got themselves in a twist!

We made our way through the puzzles and managed to work out correctly all five scenarios without the need of any clues in 48 minutes! As a side note, the PDF file received with the evidence includes a link to the clues and answers page should you get really stuck – the clues are very well put together and point you well in the right direction without giving you too much to spoil it! 

Having completed the game, we checked the answers on the link and found that we got everything correct!  As with most print at home games, its really difficult to get the wow factor “pay off” finale. That said, we certainly had a great sense of pride in completing this complex who done it game. 

When all was said and done, we all agreed that this is a great print at home game which was very enjoyable. Some very strong puzzles, great attention to detail made even better by having to work out multiple different scenarios as opposed to just one. This being the second print at home game we’ve played by Escape Hunt UK, we would certainly recommend these games. Looking forward to the next one, and, when the doors are able to open again, making a trip to see their physical rooms! 

Stolen can be purchased from Escape Hunt’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: An Enola Holmes Adventure | Review

Image

An Enola Holmes Adventure Review | The game is afoot! Players have the opportunity to join Enola Holmes’ new detective agency – if they can prove their skill as detectives of course. Individuals displaying intelligence, bravery, and a degree of cunning are highly desired for the post. Armed with only a map of London, a newspaper, and your wits, chase Enola investigating iconic locations including Covent Garden, Bond Street and 221b Baker Street.

Date Played: September 2020
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 30 minutes

A print at home game, with the added bonus of being accompanied by a brand new film, just released on Netflix. What’s not to love?! A escape room game and a movie – that’s my weekend sorted! 

So to give you a full insight into the story, your best bet is probably to watch the film first (its a great watch and will certainly get the pulses of escape room enthusiast racing!). The film certainly sets the scene and you will certainly understand why Netflix and Escape Hunt have collaborated on this project.  The game would still work really well standalone, but combined it hits all the right notes. When it comes to the print at home game story, this follows a similar vein, however you will need to track down Enola Holmes (the sister of Sherlock), who has left a trail of breadcrumbs throughout London. Track her down, and become part of her allusive detective gang. 

Didn’t Cost a Penny… Except for the Ink!

A real positive to this game is that it is absolutely FREE! Yep, didn’t cost a penny, except the cost of ink. Although it is a rather colourful, and should I say beautifully designed piece of work, there isn’t particularly a need to print if all off in colour.  So don’t worry about your pocket when downloading this!

Now, onto the puzzles. When watching the film in the first instance, it was very clear to see the way in which the puzzles would likely to pitched, and it certainly didn’t disappoint – a brilliant collection of cipher styles and word games, plus some great fun origami type challenges.

As print at home games go, I often find them overcomplicated or over-engineered, however this is not the case here. The team have found a great balance between being able to cater for the enthusiasts and first time gamers. There are no huge surprises in puzzle content, however this is actually a positive – its more of a “what you see is what you get” approach, where the simplicity of the puzzles is a real bonus – that’s not to say that you will find this a breeze that for sure.

(One particular origami challenge was passed to the wife to complete, as it beat me!)

In terms of clue systems, the download document includes a page of clues in which you have to use a mirror to read. A nice touch, which added to the detective style theme – we didn’t use them often however they do provide just the right amount of hint without ruining the game. Likewise, if you are completely stuck, there is a web address where you can check the answers. These explained the puzzles very well and also included video answers to demonstrate the trickier paper folding challenges! 

The games revolve around some key London areas, and solving the puzzles in the correct order moves you to your next location and its associated puzzles. The game builds into a crescendo, whereby everything you have already solved works into the final puzzle, therefore getting the correct locations in the correct order is certainly key! 

The Verdict

When all is said and done, this is certainly up there with my favourite print at home games. As ever, getting a real wow factor proves difficult, however the combination of the escape puzzles and an accompanying Netflix movie certainly goes a long way to fill that void. A great collection of beautifully designed puzzles, suitable for all, which hit a home run in my household. Get out your magnifying glass and check this one our for sure!   

An Enola Holmes Adventure was available as part of a promotion for the Netflix film in 2020.

Ratings

Escape Quest Queenstown: Empire Escape | Review

Image

Empire Escape Review | Before Henry Garrett became Queenstown’s most notorious gold rush bandit, he was an Australian convict and fugitive on the run from the British Empire….

Based on a true story! A Gold Bank in Victoria, Australia has been robbed! The fugitive, Henry Garrett, has been identified as the robbery’s ringleader. He has disappeared with the plunder. A convict and a thief. Charming and intelligent. A fugitive on the run to escape an empire. Using only your wit, hunt for the clues and embark on a global chase. Can you find him before the trail runs cold!?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 17th October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Hard

After playing Escape Quest Queenstown’s The Missing Gold Escort back in March this year, we were very excited to hear they had a new at-home escape room out. What’s more, it’s not just any new game… It’s a fully augmented reality escape room!

The World’s First At-Home Augmented Reality Escape Room

So how does an ‘augmented reality’ escape game work? The idea is fairly straightforward:

  • You purchase your copy of Empire Escape
  • You print off the puzzles on A4 paper
  • You download the supporting app on your iOS or Android devices
  • Then, when ready to play, you hit ‘start’ on a browser-based interface to input your answers

As the wider The Escape Roomer family, we did have a little difficulty accessing the app and it took us a while to figure out whose phone worked with the new technology. But, once we figured that part out we were off to a flying start! Note the device recommendations from their FAQ below:

If your device is under 3 years old, it should support the app. Try downloading the app first before purchasing the game. Supported Platforms are iOS and Android. Compatible versions are iOS versions 10, 11, 12 and 13+. Android versions 27, 28 and 29+.

Once you’ve finished your setup, the game has a slow start setting up the premise through a series of videos and introductory puzzles then *boom* “Take your your app and scan the paper”.

I wasn’t sure exactly how this could work. I mean, there’s no QR code or barcode, so I had a lot of disbelief as I loaded up the app and held it carefully over my sheet of paper but wow… It just…. Works! Wow!

Image (c) Escape Quest

Almost every page in the entire game has some kind of augmented reality mini-game on it. This ranged from character popping up from the pages, to 3D recreations of maps, and entire 360 degree rooms. Each puzzle-scape also came with it’s own music track or sound. Often just for ambience, I found that when moving my mobile device closer into each puzzle the sound would get louder and shift in perspective. The attention to detail here is amazing.

One of my favourite puzzle in the whole game was right at the end where scanning a page popped up a doll-house sized building. As well as rotating the paper to get a closer look at each room, players can also tap their phone to interact with different elements of the space as well. Really, really impressive stuff!

A Puzzle Adventure Rooted in History

Once you get over how exciting it is to play an augmented reality escape game, you can begin to appreciate the story and the setting. Just like in The Missing Gold Escort, Escape Quest Queenstown have rooted their experience in history which adds a special something to the experience. It’s educational too!

I can imagine a game like this being added to the New Zealand national curriculum. A lesson for all in how to teach rich stories through games.

The specific story of Escape Empire follows Henry Garrett, a gold rush bandit on the run from the British Empire. Oh hey, that’s us here in the UK! As you track down Garrett, players explore different locations around the globe. I mean, how do you escape an empire that spans almost the entire globe? You run… Fast and far! Which is exactly what Henry Garrett did and it’s exactly why your help is needed to track him down.

Along the way the puzzles felt true to the era and the genre. We poured over maps with shipping schedules, complex geography and hydrography, detailed documents about the various ranks of the British Army. There’s a lot to learn in this game. Thank goodness I had an eagle eyed history graduate as my Player 2 on this particular game!

Crack the Codes, Catch the Bandit

In terms of difficulty, I’d put this on the harder end of the scale. That’s not to say it’s too difficult, but it’s certainly challenging!

As with Escape Quest Queenstown’s earlier game, there’s a good amount and of cutting and assembling 3D models which I really enjoy in a printable escape room game. Tactile puzzles always get a thumbs up from us – but this time these puzzles were supported with the addition of more video game style puzzles that felt closer to the VR escape room games I enjoy a lot!

Players can expect to encounter plenty of historical puzzles (though nothing that would require outside knowledge), a few maths puzzles, some spatial reasoning puzzles, and lots of search-and-find puzzles, which are made all the more fun by being able to twist and turn your mobile device around a real life augmented reality 3D shape.

Each time you solve a puzzle you check your answer on the online interface provided. This verifies your answer and progresses the game, so you always more or less know what to do next. The online interface also has a handy hint system which *cough* we used rather a lot.

Ideally you want to play this with a small group. Many brains to crack the puzzles are better than fewer and if you have a history buff in your friendship group then be sure to invite them along too!

The Verdict

We absolutely loved it! It was delightful and challenging, rooted in history and yet immeasurably fun. Why couldn’t I have learned all my history from fun games like this, eh?

As the first of it’s kind, I cannot wait to see if the genre of augmented reality escape games will take off. Game designers take, note! I want all my print and play games to literally pop off the paper from now on!

If you’re looking for a fun escape game to play around the table with family, look no further. Once again Escape Quest Queenstown have nailed it with a unique experience that’s unlike anything else I’ve played. A round of applause.

Escape Empire can be played by heading to Escape Quest’s website here.

Ratings

The Other Tales Printable Escapes: Gatekeeper | Review

Image

Your Uncle Keith always stood out from the rest of the family. He lived alone in a grand old mansion, and everybody thought him to be a bit of an eccentric. It was a great surprise to you when you received a postcard from Uncle Keith. You haven’t heard from him in many years. You arrive at his home, but find the house empty. What mysteries await you within?

Rating: Lighthearted!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 15th May 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A fun game to play at home – if you have a printer handy!

I kept planning to play The Gatekeeper and waited for the perfect sunny day to take photos… And waited… And waited. Yep, the perfect sunny day never arrived (*shakes fist at London rain*), so instead I tackled the print & play game with my Player 2 on a Saturday morning over a pot of tea.

What followed was a particularly charming game about breaking into your uncle’s house- but I get ahead of myself! Here’s the review:

The Story

The story starts with your eccentric uncle Keith who lives alone in a mysterious old mansion- alone. One day, he invites you to come visit but immediately you know something is not right when you arrive and Keith is nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is just one of Keith’s peculiar games, or perhaps he is testing you? In any case, you decide to see if you can find your way into the mansion.

What follows is a journey from room to room as you explore the mansion and uncover secrets along the way. Behind each new door is a delightful new environment filled with surprises. The magic you’ll find at the heart will surely change your life forever, if you can unlock it!

The Experience

The Gatekeeper is an entirely printable game, meaning there’s no online interface to grapple with. Even the clues can be printed in advance, making this a pretty good game to pack with you on a holiday if you know you’ll be without internet for a while.

The game is played in ‘chapters’ where each chapter has a number of puzzles which must be solved before you can proceed onto the next one. Each of these puzzles is marked with a unique symbol that relates to the puzzle at hand. For example, a star, or a key, or a potion bottle. These act as locks, and your answers are the key.

The Puzzles

There are 11 puzzles in the entire Gatekeeper game – 11 symbols to find, dotted around the pages and we both really enjoyed the puzzles. There’s a good mix of nice and simple and really hard but the different difficulties are dotted around the whole pack giving someone something to do at all times and no big blockers to continuing the game.

As the game is magic themed, players can expect to come across puzzles that make use of dusty old tomes, of strange language ciphers, mixing potions, harmonising crystals with magic properties, and crafting keys. In particular, I really enjoyed the first half of the game’s puzzles the most. There’s a puzzle early on involving books which took us a while but it was worth all the more when we finally cracked the code.

I also enjoyed a puzzle involving the Herbarium – or maybe that was mostly because I loved looking at the beautifully drawn pictures of flowers!

In terms of difficulty, I’d overall rate the puzzles as “Medium”. We definitely struggled more than we expected to – probably the pot of tea wasn’t strong enough! But there was plenty to do in this game and persevering on the harder puzzles made it worth it. In short, a great mix of different things to do in this game and the creators have made good use of the printed medium!

The Clues

If at any time you need to check your answers, there’s a separate PDF. I think Gatekeeper actually does their clues and answers system really well for a printed game – it’s kinda like a mini puzzle in of itself! The reason being, the clue system is designed so that you can’t accidentally spoil the game for yourself.

For each answer there is a 5×5 grid of letters. If you cross out all the letters contained in the answer you think is correct, the Xs will make a shape and you can check if this shape is correct. Pretty ingenious actually! And, if for any reason you want to skip this, the actual answers can also be found later in the PDF but written backwards so a skim read won’t be a huge spoiler either.

The Art

The artwork in this game deserves it’s own header as it is frankly fantastic! The whole pack has a whimsical, magical allure to it and this is made all the more special by the hand drawn illustrations on each page. It’s almost water-colour style and really brings the house to life.

Overall

Because of the light hearted nature of the game with it’s bright colours, warm vibes, and magical plotline, I’d recommend this game for families and kids in particular – and I think it would be a big hit in this group! I really enjoyed it, but after a whole lockdown of printing out play at home games I think my printer might be on it’s very last legs these days. Worth it though to see the bright colours of The Gatekeeper in all their glory.

The Gatekeeper can be downloaded for $29 USD on The Other Tales’ website here.

ClueQuest: Operation E.G.G.

Image

As any hard-boiled detective knows, it’s important to keep your sleuthing skills at the top of their game. Luckily, the egg-heads over at clueQuest HQ have developed this training course for all our agents. So scramble together a team and get ready to foil the villainous Professor Blacksheep as he attempts to poach our latest technological marvel – the Elastic Gateway Generator.

Rating: Eggs-cellent!
Completion Time: 26:59
Date Played: 2nd April 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Family Easter Fun!

So… Many… Egg… Puns… And that’s no eggs-aggeration!
*crickets*
I’ll show myself out.

No, but seriously I was really impressed with Operation E.G.G.! It’s got everything you want in a light hearted Easter escape room game and, as usual, ClueQuest have hit the mark with their target audience. Whilst I played this one as a solo escapist (my partner sat next room, backseat escaping with his hilarious Mr Q impression), this would be such a perfect game for a family setting, a couple, flatmates, new escapers and ‘veterans’ alike! What I mean is, the puzzles felt somehow really accessible and solvable. So let’s get into it:

The Story

We’re once again joined by MM7, the plucky robot you may recognise from Mechanics of the Heart and it’s time for your first day of Secret Agent Training. Mr. Q has simulated various secret agent scenarios to see if you’re up to the job. You, the mastermind in Mission Control and MM7, the boots on the ground (actually err, he kinda floats above the ground but yeah, you get the idea). Was I up for the task of taking on the nefarious Professor Blacksheep? Sure, I’ll give it my best shot. It’s not my first rodeo with Blacksheep.

The Experience

As with every Print + Cut + Escape game there’s a fair bit of printing out. No printer? No problem – ClueQuest also offer a home delivery service which is pretty cool. After a long lockdown of playing ‘at home’ escape rooms my printer is on it’s last legs but it managed the 20 pages required by Operation E.G.G… Phew!

I think it’s technically possible to get away with printing less than 20 pages. In this game there was a lot less cutting out as usual – possibly only 4 or 5 pages in total? Although other pages had folding puzzles, some you needed to assemble things, and in others it’s very helpful to write on the paper – so you should aim to print as much as possible.

For the full experience, I just went for it and printed everything though and that worked for me! From here, you pre-cut everything out, lay it all out into it’s various chapters, and hit ‘play’ on an online web portal ClueQuest have set up. You get your intro video, you jump into the game and at each stage, enter a password to proceed to the next ‘level’. Some levels require only the printed material, others a combination of video + print, or click and drag digital interface.

The Puzzles

USUALLY with a ClueQuest game I struggle with the puzzles but nope not this one, which is why I highlight it as being especially accessible for a family audience. I smashed through the whole game in just under half an hour – fuelled by elderflower cordial, the sun, and chocolate Easter eggs… HEY! I see you looking at the date and judging me for eating my Easter eggs early!

Players can expect to encounter a big range of puzzles including (but of course, not limited to), a folding puzzle, a puzzle akin to a jigsaw, puzzles with moving cogs and dials, puzzles where you have to watch a sequence and repeat it back on your paper, puzzles where you have to search and find symbols, puzzles where you have to match up very abstract shapes… The list goes on!

In particular, my favourite involved a lock and the wildest looking set of lockpicks I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, I laughed! No spoilers here – but just light warning to look out for that one, it’s fun!

Overall

So how did I do? Well I’ve eaten a whole Easter egg and a box of Quality Streets oh- you meant the game? Yep, you bet I saved the world! I think that deserves some more chocolate? No? Okay.

In any case, if you’re reading this and wondering what to do this Easter honestly this is a pretty fun game. We’re not quite out of lockdown here in the UK and annoyingly there’s snow warnings for this weekend so heck, looks like another Easter indoors. But with a fun game like this to look forward to, it’s a real silver lining and I can’t recommend it enough.

I also recommend it if you enjoy any of the following: puns about eggs, anthropomorphic mice, secret agent stuff, saving the world, wacky puzzles, or great illustrations.

Operation E.G.G. can be purchased for £15 on ClueQuest’s website here.

Escape Quest Queenstown: Missing Gold Escort

Image

It’s the 1860’s gold rush in the wild frontier of central Otago, New Zealand. Prospectors have flooded into Queenstown and its surrounds from around the world in search of gold. The gold rush has also attracted bandits who roam the pioneer tracks in gangs looking for unsuspecting travellers carrying gold. The biggest prize of all for a bandit would be a gold escort which takes a carriage full of gold from the gold fields to the town banks.

Rating: Adventurous!
Completion Time: 1 hr 20 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People interested in New Zealand history, and who want an adventure whilst in lockdown!

So a long time ago in another lifetime I used to live in New Zealand and I look back on the place with incredibly fond memories! Sure, I lived in Auckland, not Queenstown – but the moment I read the game’s description I was immediately transported to the local history lessons of my school days learning about the gold rush and was reminded of holidays with my family spent gold panning*

*I actually found some gold one time, it’s a tiny speck but damn I’m proud!!

So for me, Missing Gold Escort was a joy to play… And we all know how much I love a good print and play game! History aside, the print + assemble aspect of this game was outstanding.

I’ve tried not to spoil it too much with my photographs but at each stage in this game you’ve got something to cut out and in most cases, something to assemble too. From 3D rooms you have to rotate and examine closely to ‘enter’, to assembling items from within locations only to repair them, from cutting out intricate dials to adjust the speed of water flowing, to extensive 3D map puzzles with obstacles to assemble then overcome. Wow! So much detail!

The Story

The year is 1860 and a gold escort has gone missing whilst travelling to a secret location. With bandits running rife, the worst is feared and it’s up to you to solve the clues and retrace the escort’s steps. First, you locate the route chosen, then you find the driver, then you find the gold, then you deposit it at the bank.

As you can tell from my description, the game doesn’t follow a typical escape room format, it’s much more of an adventure-come-treasure-hunt game, and I love that. The game heavily uses map puzzles, but does so in a creative way where each part feels fresh. At some points in the game, I had to reuse maps I’d already looked it (cue lots of rummaging around in my ‘discarded’ pile), but it all made sense within the larger narrative.

In terms of difficulty, I’d say this was ‘intermediate’, and I’d definitely recommend tackling it in a group (and not as a solo team of 1 like I did!). It’s also just so much more fun to bounce ideas off people (and have an extra pair of hands to help cut things out!)

A little bit more signposting may have helped me in parts, but I know that everyone likes a different level of ‘this is what you have to do’. There was also one section where I breezed past a puzzle using the clues and not fully figuring it out myself, only to realise the next puzzle in the game build directly upon the previous solution. Oops @ me for not paying attention!

But overall, it was good fun! I’d planned to play it on Friday evening but instead did it over lunch in a sunny spot in the corner of my apartment. With the sun on my skin and a light breeze through the window, despite being a million miles away in London, UK, I felt *there*. Escape Quest have absolutely nailed it and I really hope they make more printable escape room games soon!

Missing Gold Escort can be purchased for $30 NZD (~£15) per team by heading to Escape Quest Queenstown’s website here.