Escape Tales: The Book of Rituals | Review

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The Book of Rituals is an interactive puzzle book. As an adept of alchemy, you will learn the secrets of elements and alchemical ingredients to perform powerful rituals. Start your mystical journey now and become a Master of ancient magic!

Completion Time: 10-12 hours
Date Played: June 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

 

Water and alcohol are among the more recognisable ingredients you might find in sun cream. There are many others, but I can’t pronounce them, so it seems wrong to copy the spelling from the back of a bottle and expect someone else’s brain to do the work. H.A. Milton Blake is credited with its creation and – as the Crown paint colour chart places my skin tone somewhere between ‘Writing Paper’ and ‘Fresh Coconut’ – I’m very glad he put in the hours. I was in Spain while I battled with the Book of Rituals. It was 38 degrees. Never has the combination of those ingredients been so needed. Or so I thought…

 

 

Blake dabbled in chemistry, of course, and in the Book of Rituals we’re instead dealing in the more archaic branch of ‘shoving-stuff-together-to-see-what-happens’ known as alchemy. Water and alcohol are still very important here. So are 29 other ingredients, and each requires a puzzle to be solved to learn its true name and value. All these ingredients will be required if you want to tackle the 13 daunting rituals that cover the final pages with any hope of success. Only then will you fully understand this mysterious book.

I say mysterious as this is not your book. At least, you’re not the first owner. Someone else has contributed to these pages packed with elements, ingredients and rituals. Footnotes, ramblings, corrections and improvements have been jotted down to aid you in solving the puzzles and avoiding the supposed corruption the book threatens. A sort of Half-Blood Prince’s Advanced Potion-Making/Darkhold hybrid if you fancy a couple of popular culture reference stickers to slap on the cover.

 

Taming the Book of Rituals

The format is simple but fulfilling. Each element poses a puzzle. The top right corner will let you know which other ingredients (if any) you need to have solved already to put that puzzle together. These may well be later in the book, so there’s no order to speak of. You tackle them in whatever sequence you’re able to with the ingredients you have available. The inclusion of a question mark in your required ingredients list means that the book itself must be used in some way – and these puzzles are a true highlight of this beautifully put together and well-thought-out title.

Each correct solution you enter into the slick website will reward you with a true name and number to write into the fold out section on the back cover. Gradually filling it in is satisfying, but reliance on the site to get to these answers does means that an internet connection is required to make progress. The same website also holds any hints you might need, as well as occasional further information on the formatting of answers.

As you go backwards and forwards through the pages adding your own notes and mistakes to the ones already put in place by the previous owner, it does feel chaotic and immersive. That’s the point. Errors and ruined pages are almost inevitable – something that’s recognised by the creators by way of copies of the key puzzle tables and grids being repeated at the back of the book. Perfect for additional attempts once the originals become indecipherable.

 

The Verdict

The focus in the Book of Rituals is definitely on quality. 45 honed puzzles that, at times, require a huge amount of thinking is certainly preferable to an inconsistent dump of teasers that goes on forever. There’s zero fat on this book. No filler. The puzzles are so well-designed that you know that each is solvable without huge leaps of logic, meaning the temptation to dip into the hints felt non-existent.

I think that’s close to the highest praise I can give. There’s no need to rush. It’s never too daunting or boring. Hints were the last thing on my mind over the week it took me to slowly chip my way through. For those that have done a lot of puzzle books then, sure, there are a few well-trodden ideas contained within, but that’s simply the limitations of the format. What we have here are clever puzzles, laid out in an excellent way, that are sure to provide plenty of entertainment to those that like a challenge.

You can purchase the Book of Rituals here.

Crux Club: Mob Treasure | Review

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Mob Treasure Review: The missing treasure of New York City beer baron Dutch Schultz has captivated countless treasure hunters. On his deathbed, the infamous mobster rambled on incoherently for hours, possibly revealing the location of his hidden millions. The cache has never been recovered. Could the information in Mob Treasure contain new clues to finding the final resting place?

Completion Time: 6 hours
Date Played: May 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

The word gangster has evolved over time. It’s altered to such a degree that upon hearing it uttered nowadays you could be forgiven for conjuring up any one of several images, ranging from a brooding Al Capone (Snorky to his friends) through to the once-relentless Honey G. I even ate a burger a few years back that was boldly labelled as ‘gangster’ because it was topped with spaghetti sauce and was apparently impossible to refuse. It was okay. 6/10. Would probably eat again.

Here in Mob Money, we’re going classic. It’s dabbling in the 1930s public enemies-era of gangsters and mobsters – think Bonnie and Clyde and Machine Gun Kelly – and it’s Dutch Schultz’s famous stash that we’re tasked with locating.

It’s a solid theme. Crux Club has already shown it can successfully create workable and inventive puzzles using far more difficult settings in Rap Star – reviewed here – so our hopes were high going in. Compared to the world of rap, mob culture is teeming with conundrum potential (organised crime over organised rhyme, if you will) and it really doesn’t take long after opening the book to fully appreciate that.

Well, I say book… Tome might be more accurate. It’s a surprisingly bulky product and promises a lot on initial viewing. A quick riffle through the pages reveals scant glimpses of a huge variety of puzzles as well as the fact that a slice of the heft is due to the full clues and solutions being included at the back. In that sense it’s a fully contained experience. While clues are also available online, a gentle nudge or complete answer to any individual puzzle is always to hand regardless of your Wi-Fi status. Though, unless your knowledge of New York mob culture is genuinely god-tier, solving everything without leaning too heavily on those back pages is going to require a bit of help from Mr Google.

Mob Treasure Inspiration

“A boy has never wept… nor dashed a thousand kin. You can play jacks, and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it. Oh, oh, dog biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn’t get snappy.”

Those were the final words of the real-life Dutch Shultz before he died in 1935. These surreal mutterings have been interpreted by some as a coded message revealing the location of a hidden stash that, depending on which legend you choose to believe, may still be tucked away somewhere in New York. People have really searched for it. Now we’re looking for the very same thing within this book. Lines are being gently blurred in Mob Treasure, which helps deliver more immersion than you might expect from a pile of completely monochrome text and illustrations. Discovering the inclusion of actual locations and people that surrounded Shultz during his bootlegging days causes the experience to feel wider reaching than it really is. A clever element that we loved, but this ever-present theme won’t let you forget it’s there, so be prepared if you’re only in it for the puzzles. You’re going to have to walk the walk and – especially – talk the talk if you want to stand a chance of solving some of these pages.

On the subject of solving, as the weight of the book suggests, there’s a lot to mull over here. Depending on exactly what you count as a puzzle, you’re facing roughly 75 total and they come in wealth of forms with surprisingly little true repetition. Structure-wise, the book is divided into 15 shortish sections of five/six puzzle chunks. Each individual teaser provides you with a number, word or phrase that ultimately combine to help with the gatekeeping puzzle at the end of each chapter. It’s perfect for tackling piecemeal and 45 minutes an evening over the course of a week saw our team of two track down Shultz’s cash using only a couple of clues to help us over some of the less logical obstacles.

The Verdict

Mob Treasure is stuffed with of a lot of solid, creative puzzles and a few outstanding ones. It’s the hope of more of the latter that ultimately pulls you forward into the next chapter. While clearly different from each other in terms of presentation, the more plentiful standard conundrums can occasionally end up feeling a little samey if you try to consume too much in one sitting. That’s only natural with so many puzzles crammed in, of course, but taking the book a chapter or two at a time is the recommendation.

The team at Crux Club have committed to the theme totally which offers an impressive level of immersion. While delving into the places, people and lingo of the New York mob is required for some puzzles, we ended up reading a fair number of unrelated articles about Mr Shultz and his antics wholly unprompted. It didn’t necessarily help us with the completion of puzzles, but it was a welcome novelty to have interesting real-world events already pre-built around the mystery we were trying to solve.

 

Head to the Crux Club website to support the team and purchase the game for yourself.

Christopher Edge: Escape Room | Review

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Christopher Edge: Escape Room Review | When twelve-year-old Ami arrives at The Escape, she thinks it’s just a game – the ultimate escape room with puzzles and challenges to beat before time runs out. Meeting her teammates, Adjoa, Ibrahim, Oscar and Min, Ami learns from the Host that they have been chosen to save the world and they must work together to find the Answer. But as he locks them inside the first room, they quickly realise this is no ordinary game. From a cavernous library of dust to an ancient Mayan tomb, a deserted shopping mall stalked by extinct animals to the command module of a spaceship heading to Mars, the perils of The Escape seem endless. Can Ami and her friends find the Answer before it’s too late?

Read Time: 1.5 hours
Date Played: Early 2022
Recommended For: Children Aged 9 – 12

 

 

Now, here is the deal. Would I call myself much of a reader? Nope. Would I say I’m the kind of guy who has a few quiet evenings in and loves nothing more than getting lost in a good book? Nope. Has this book changed my perspective somewhat?! Yep!

In a very different approach to the content I normally cover, here I find myself reviewing a book. Not just any book of course, but a book by Christopher Edge aptly titled “Escape Room”. Clearly something definitely worth us checking out at The Escape Roomer. Since the target audience is younger folks and kids, I quickly put my hand up to volunteer myself and I’m very glad I did!

As ever, with every review I will try desperately to not give any spoilers. If you’re still unsure after reading our summary, you can also head to this link to read the first chapter of the book and find out if it’s for you.

 

 This is The Escape…

 

The main focus for me when taking a look at a book, much like in a physical escape room, is immersion. I’m looking for whether I can get a real feel for the atmosphere, the characters, the tension, and so on. With Escape Room, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! For sure, I’m always a little sceptical about genres of books which place you into a wholly unfamiliar environment. However Escape Room manages to hook you in very quickly. Literally after the first few pages of this one, you find yourself drawn towards Ami, the lead character, who this fantastic story revolves around. Slowly but surely, the remaining escape room team are introduced to you. Each given a fitting explanation of their look and personality.

The peril of this book is evident from beginning to end.  Those continual cliff hanger moments when you just cannot put it down. Whilst I’d say this book is aimed towards children in later primary or early secondary years, I found myself personally engrossed in the ever evolving plot with real curve balls thrown in from time to time.

 

 

Don’t Think of this Book in Terms of Escaping from a Room

Speaking of the curve balls, one part of the book really stood out to me. Don’t just think about this as being a book solely based on escaping a room. Closing one chapter, turning the page, opening the next door within the “room” brings a completely new environment each time. Honestly, this book has all the makings of being developed into one of them escape room movie franchises – think big budget, think danger, think excitement!

Whilst this isn’t an escape room puzzle book per se, it certainly has a little sprinkling of clues which the reader can pick up on and appreciate how “rooms” within the storyline can be escaped from.

Be prepared for the heart strings to be pulled at from time to time. The amount of peril our characters find themselves in is relentless, so be prepared for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Constantly escaping from danger, only to be thrust back into it again. There is really no let up for our band of escapees!

 

A Fitting Ending for a Puzzling Journey

The ending of this book is a fitting resolve to Ami’s journey. Clearly from my description above, this is certainly a book where nothing is quite as it seems; so be prepared! My only hope is that there is more to come on this escape room journey. A sequel perhaps? Nudge nudge.

Christopher Edge has a whole host of brilliant books for children, including The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, and the Longest Night of Charlie Noon. Each of these are equal parts curious and quizzical, transporting kids into magical worlds. We think that any book aimed at the younger audience that introduces them to escape rooms is a double thumbs up in our book. We’d definitely recommend this book for a younger audience, and especially as a birthday or Christmas gift (perhaps tie it into a voucher for an escape room or two and really get them hooked!) But don’t let the target audience put you off if you’re past-teenage years either, because it’s got buckets of charm and I, as an adult, thoroughly enjoyed reading it too.

All in all, a book where your sucked into the environment, thrust into a wonderful world of intrigue with the hope that this endearing gang of strangers can hopefully save the world!

 

 

Click here to get started with Escape Room:

https://www.welcome-to-the-escape.com/

Bring Me The Head Of The Taskmaster – Part Treasure Hunt, Part Game Launches Today

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Today’s launch day for a fantastic new treasure hunt from the creators of BAFTA winning TV show, Taskmaster. Bring Me the Head of the Taskmaster is a fun new book from the show’s writers, but that’s not all! Packed into the pages alongside a shedload of fun Taskmaster challenges is a treasure hunt with one goal to complete:

Bring me the Taskmaster’s Head. Your time starts now.

Alex Horne

The book contains 101 ‘next level’ tasks (and clues) to lead players to the treasure, and requires them to think outside the box… Quite literally! To succeed, players will need to draw, jump, act, and go above and beyond to complete the game. Rivalry is encouraged, dodgy tactics rewarded, and bribes most definitely accepted.

Written by one of the show’s stars ‘Little’ Alex Horne, his instructions go on to explain that some tasks will require multiple participants, such as friends, families, and perhaps even bigger groups!

If you want to pick up your a copy of Bring Me the Head of the Taskmaster, you can order one online from the Taskmaster store, Waterstones or all major UK book retailers. The book launch coincides with the 12th series airing, which pits Alan Davies, Desiree Burch, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson and Victoria Coren Mitchell against each other in a series of brilliant and baffling tasks.

Are you up for the challenge?

Don’t forget… All the information you need is on the task!

“Planning Your Escape” by Laura E. Hall Launches Today

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The past year may have been a difficult one for the escape room industry, but just as escape rooms are reopening around the world, Laura E. Hall’s new book Planning Your Escape: Strategy Secrets to Make You an Escape Room Superstar launches to fanfare today on the 3rd of August 2021.

The new book, written for escape room enthusiasts and new players alike, arrives on our shelves just as teams around the world are returning to the hobby. After a year of being locked inside, Planning Your Escape‘s launch feels like a huge landmark for the industry, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Unfortunately, UK readers may have to wait another month until September 16th before getting their hands on the physical copy – but by the looks of early reviews, it’ll be worth the wait!

Publisher Simon & Schuster describes Planning Your Escape as

“The perfect guide to making sure you never get stuck in another escape room again.”

Simon & Schuster

It’s an all-in-one guide to escape room success. One thing’s for sure… We’ll be memorising every word of the book, to get in the game for the Escape Room Championship this September!

About Planning Your Escape

Planning your Escape covers a range of topics, from the history of experiential entertainment, including escape rooms all the way through to what this looks like today in 2021 with the likes of Secret Cinema, Meow Wolf and Sleep No More.

When you’ve played as many escape rooms as the author has, you get to know the different kinds of escape rooms and solvable examples of puzzles they often employ. Whilst no two puzzles are the same (or we hope not at least!) there are certain tricks and tips that can be used to quickly identify and solve the most common.

That’s not all! The author brings a wealth of game design knowledge to the table and offers useful advice to constructing your own escape rooms and puzzle hunts in the future too.

It’s a must read for anyone even remotely interested in solving puzzles.

About Laura E. Hall

Photo (c) Chris Hartman

This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned Laura E. Hall, the escape room extraordinaire from Portland on The Escape Roomer…

Earlier this year Laura made headlines for playing an integral part in the solving of ‘Find Satoshi’, a 14 year old ARG puzzle part of an early internet puzzle hunt, Perplex City. We interviewed Ms. Hall for our article and we’re very pleased to see she continues making huge waves in the escape room industry!

Laura designs escape the room puzzle games with Meridian Adventure Co. in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of Katamari Damacy for Boss Fight Books. She sits on the boards of the nonprofits Portland Indie Game Squad and the Enthusiasm Collective, a not-for-profit creative coworking space for artists and activists in Portland. She has spoken about escape room games, puzzle design, player behavior, and environmental storytelling at conferences, festivals, and workshops around the world. (source)

Where to Buy Planning Your Escape in the UK

Whilst it’ll be a few more weeks before you can get your hand on a physical copy here in the UK, Planning Your Escape can be pre-ordered online and in-person in the UK from:

Alternatively, you can pick up the e-book version immediately!

You can also find out more and support Laura on her website lauraehall.com or on Twitter at @lauraehall

Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File

A missing investigator … A lost treasure … A sinister conspiracy.

Rating: Educational
Completion Time: 3 Days
Date Played: 26th of July 2020
Party Size: 1 (+2)

Before I begin the review, I want to issue a quick content trigger warning! This game is set in the immediate post-WWII era and uses real historical people in it’s narrative including senior Nazi officials. You, as the player are retracing the steps of a missing treasure hunter searching for lost Nazi Gold. Gameplay involves researching and studying real life articles from, of, and about Nazi Germany. Players will also encounter references to “torture”, “assassination” and “death squads”. Some players may find these topics distressing.

Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File is super realistic! For sure, it’s called a ‘Puzzle Novel’, but I’m not sure where the history ends and the fictional ‘novel’ begins? Which feels so refreshing! I love learning new things whilst I play and The Morgan File strikes that balance that very well.

You, the latest recruit to the XIU (Extraordinary Investigations Unit) are given an exciting cold case. A treasure hunter gone missing and a peculiar trail left behind in his wake. All you’ve got to help you is the collection of evidence in each chapter of the book and an online portal where you can document your findings.

As someone who has worked in investigative roles, I cannot emphasise the ‘realisticness’ enough. Yes, this is exactly how it works in real life. You have to use google, a LOT. You don’t get given the correct answer, you need to figure it out. Wikipedia will become your new best friend. This book gives you all that. Can’t figure something out from the evidence? Well, you’d better be prepared to go into the internet archives and find what you need there.

It’s really unique in that way. Yes, I am aware of the arguments in the escape room / escape game world to “keep all knowledge needed contained within the game”. But I’m also aware of the opposite, “be realistic, let players research themselves.” Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File is a great example of the latter.

Since it’s an escape room ‘novel’, don’t be daunted by my long time spent on the game. It’s the kind of thing you can pick up and put down again with absolutely no obligation to complete in one go. In fact, some of the puzzles will definitely be better solved once you’ve slept on it. After all, Extraordinary Investigations doesn’t offer any answers, only clues. If you get stuck, you just need to keep at it!

I’ve marked the game as a DNF because well, I got stuck! There were 3 puzzles throughout which I found fiendishly difficult. One of them I emailed the creator to ask for help, the other 2 had a finite number of possible answers, so easy enough to guess. I know… I know! It’s not in the spirit of things, but sometimes you have to think outside the box. I wanted to see the game through, by any means! 😉

At some point in the future, I’m going to return to the game and try to crack those last few puzzles, but for now I had enough to write for the review and wanted to get this post out to celebrate it’s recent launch. In particular, I reckon this is a good gift for all the ‘dads’ out there. So I might just rope my old man in, with his superior knowledge of WWII history!

Extraordinary Investigations can be purchased for £14.71 on Amazon, the website can be found here.