Enigmailed: Puzzle Wrapping Paper | Review

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This is paper guaranteed to be recycled – as a seasonal puzzle game! What can you do for the loved one in your life who likes solving problems, adores a challenge, or even thinks they are the smartest in the room?

Completion Time: 1 – 2 hours
Date Played: November 2022
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Moderate

Well, my first present is wrapped and waiting to be placed under the Christmas Tree. You know what that means? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know Enigmailed is one of my favourite places for puzzles. From their individual games, wacky Kickstarter campaigns, to consistently fantastic Chocolateral series (puzzles, and chocolate? Um, yes please!). So, when I placed a large order before Christmas, I was surprised to find an extra goodie arrived in the package: A few sheets of wrapping paper.

In typical Enigmailed fashion, this is not ordinary wrapping paper. This wrapping paper is quite literally packed with puzzles. No, no, I don’t think you understand. Literally. Packed.

But with such excellent wrapping paper, I had to wrap equally excellent gifts up in it. So I suppose all those Chocolateral bars I’d just bought should probably now be sent off to friends instead of eating them all myself like a chocolate fiend… Ahh well!

 

 

Ho ho hope I can solve all these…

The first thing that struck me with each sheet of wrapping paper is how well the puzzles are laid out. Most wrapping papers print little pictures of snowmen or Christmas trees. This wrapping paper does as well, but hidden within each of those illustrations… A puzzle!

Some of the puzzles are spread out over multiple images hidden around and others are a little more self contained. For such a compact, A2 sheet of wrapping paper, there’s a lot of puzzle for your money. In fact, there are 12 puzzles to solve. They are:

  • The Hexagon Jigsaw
  • The Backwords
  • The Sphere String
  • The Buried Treasure
  • The Crossblock
  • The Net Maze
  • The Antlerbet
  • The Tree Gift
  • The Michael Bauble
  • The Star Crossed
  • The Holly Wood
  • The Poppers

Once solved, each of these puzzles gives a single word answer: A festive word, for a festive wrapping paper.

In terms of difficulty… Listen, I always find Enigmailed games err on the harder side. However, this wrapping paper broke that rule slightly in that I found each individual puzzle fairly straightforward to crack. A few easy wins, and a few which took longer to think through. I didn’t do them all in one go, but I did solve most of them solo – all in all, maybe an hour’s worth of puzzling? Maybe a little longer? It’s a ‘game’ best played dipping in and out of and tackling when you need a break from eating Mince Pies and playing Christmas music.

My favourite of the puzzles was probably “Buried Treasure” or “Poppers”, which were functionally similar to solve – and the two I attempted first! Several others ramp up in difficulty, but as you progress you’ll begin to see patterns and understand how the game flows.

 

 

Reuse & Regift this Puzzle Wrapping Paper

The second thing I was struck by is what good quality the wrapping paper is! It arrives neatly folded in a protective sleeve, and each sheet is A2 in size and 115gsm silk paper in quality. The colours are bright and poppy – even more so than I’ve been able to capture in these photos, making it a perfect paper to use with yellow or black ribbon. The first gift I tried to wrap with it (a large board game) the paper came in a little too small. I could have used two sheets, but then I pivoted to something more appropriately sized so I could use the one sheet per gift.

The wrapping paper comes in sheets say, rather than a whole roll, as you’ll need to use the entire sheet to solve the puzzles – some details might be hidden elsewhere on the sheet, so if you cut a sheet in half you risk it becoming unusable. For that reason, pick a gift that uses one sheet in it’s entirety for the best puzzling effect for your recipient!

Then of course, the best thing about this? It’s totally reusable. The paper is such good quality it’s unlikely it’ll tear between gifts, and after wrapping, it folds back down into a neat stack to be popped in a cupboard and used again next year. Whilst I’m giving my sheets away this year, wrapping up a set of lovely puzzley presents for friends… I’m quietly hoping those friends will save the paper and wrap their own gifts up in it next year too. Perhaps the sheets will make their way back to me by this time next year, who knows.

 

 

The Verdict

Given the Christmas theme of the puzzles, this wrapping paper is only really good for Christmas – but it’s incredibly good value. For at least one, if not two hours worth of puzzling fun for yourself and for your lucky recipient, it’s well worth elevating a fairly normal gift into something extraordinary. With your order, you receive 3 sheets of high quality, brilliantly reusable A2 wrapping paper. Christmas mornings won’t quite be the same again, not least of all because I’ll be instating the rule “all puzzles must be solved before you can open your gift”. So better get puzzling before you hit the Bucks Fizz this year.

All in all, I am so excited to give gifts wrapped up in this wrapping paper as gifts. In fact, I’m more excited for them to see the wrapping paper than unwrap what is inside. No wrapping paper has ever made me feel that way about gift giving, and honestly? I think this wrapping paper will be a regular feature of my gift giving for years to come.

I’d recommend buying the wrapping paper as part of the Chocmas Lucky Dip bundle presently priced at £19.50. In this bundle, you get:

  • Three sheets of wrapping paper in a protective sleeve
  • Three different puzzling bars
  • A handmade puzzle ornament for your tree

You can buy this, and more, by heading to Enigmailed’s 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.

Wacky Wheels: Longest Night in Bell-Ville | Review

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Longest Night in Bell-Ville Review | Winter is coming to Bell-Ville and the villagers are totally unprepared. Not only do they have to prepare the celebrations of The Longest Night, they also have to make sure that they safely cross ‘The Frozen Wastelands’. Can you help them get ready on time?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: December 2021
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: Families

A puzzle wrapped in a story between the pages of a magical book that arrived on my doorstep just before Christmas Eve… What could be more magical and festive? The Longest Night in Bell-Ville is the latest “Mystery Story” from Netherlands-based creators, Wacky Wheels. With their very highly rated play at home games finding a lot of popularity in the escape room industry, I was very excited to finally have my hands on a Wacky Wheels experience.

But how did it hold up? And what exactly is a mystery story?

Wacky Wheels Mystery Stories

To put it simply Wacky Wheels’ mystery stories series (this being the second, after The Fugitive’s Escape) are puzzle games in a book. If you’re familiar with play-at-home escape rooms in general, you’ll know that most can be printed at home, mailed to your home, or even bought in a box. There’s no reason Longest Night in Bell-Ville couldn’t have been any of those things, but the creator has made the choice to put this story in book format. And heck, it works so well.

The reason this works so well for this particular game is how the story is set up. It’s a linear experience where players read each page as they work their way through the game. The main character (in this case, you!) works their way through different locations in the fictional town of Bell-Ville and the story slowly unfolds across the 30 pages towards a conclusion.

Of course, there are puzzles along the way too – no puzzle game would be complete without them of course. These can be found at the bottom of every page and can be solved in any order. So if you’re stuck, you’re encouraged to come back to a puzzle later. To validate your answers along the way, you’re given a QR code and will need to create an account on the website to log your answers as you go. In all honesty, you can still play the game without doing this… But more on that later!

Welcome to Bell-Ville

The story of The Longest Night at Bell-Ville is an excitingly festive one. You play a resident of Bell-Ville, a floating world travelling the world from within a giant snow globe. One of the biggest annual celebrations – the longest night – is nearing, but the town is woefully underprepared. What’s more the town is about to pass over the Frozen Wastelands – a dangerous place! No wonder everyone in this town is panicking!

And yet despite that, your job isn’t easy. One quote in particular around mid-way through the book sums up my thoughts exactly:

Why is everybody in Bell-Ville always communicating in riddles?!

To ‘save the day’, you must complete 11 tasks, and each task comes with it’s own puzzle to solve. These tasks range from finding food, music, activities, lighting the lights, and so on. Typical party preparation stuff.

But despite the drudgery of running around and doing everyone else’s jobs for them, the story is so light hearted and fun it’s a joy to read-or should we say, play? The Longest Night in Bell-Ville perfectly plugs that post-Christmas, pre-New Years Eve week when you lose track of what day of the week it is anymore. The characters are written well, the illustrations across the book are absolutely gorgeous, the dialogue is fun, and the puzzles are enjoyable too!

So, how did I get on?

In terms of puzzle difficulty, we’d put this at around ‘medium’. A few took just minutes to solve, and others had me scratching my head for a while – and roping in family members to take a second look over my shoulder.

I chose to play The Longest Night in Bell-Ville as a solo puzzler, and did so whilst on a family break with almost no access to the internet. Which in hind-sight was possibly a mistake. On the one hand, I had a great time reading and playing through he book curled up in front of a fireplace with a mug of mulled wine at my side. On the other hand, I missed out on some of the competitive, leader board fun.

When I later did gain access, I’d forgotten most answers and one of those I did remember my phone’s auto-correct unhelpfully corrected into an incorrect answer. Or so I think? The online element doesn’t provide correct answers, simply logs your score on the leaderboard. So it’s hard to tell!

In the end I decided to skip on the online- part altogether and simple enjoy the game as a fun, book-based analogue experience. The truth? I kinda prefer it that way! I like my books more when I don’t have my phone with me and it would have been nice to be able to check my answers too – but that’s just my humble opinion! The Longest Night in Bell-Ville can be played in any way you like and is just as fun.

The Verdict

The Longest Night in Bell-Ville is a fantastically fun little festive themed puzzle book that we think would have a perfect Christmas gift for families or solo puzzlers of all ages. Despite some tech issues (my fault), playing the game was a real highlight of my Christmas break and I’d be sure to recommend this. It’s very well-priced at £8.50 and is available in both English and Dutch.

To purchase The Longest Night in Bell-Ville, head to Wacky Wheels’ website here.

Play Dead London: The Elf Who Stole Christmas | Review

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The Elf Who Stole Christmas Review | In the run up to Christmas, Santa’s workshop is in chaos! There’s so much to do and to make matters worse… SOMEONE has stolen Santa’s Naughty and Nice List! Can you solve the mystery and work out which Elf it was?! This family friendly mystery will be great fun and a way of our detectives young and old to test their interrogation skills!

Date Played: November 2021
Time Taken: 60 minutes
Number of Players: 1 (with 12 random online strangers!)
Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Who, who, who not Ho Ho Ho!

I’ll start this review of with a bit of a disclaimer! – I have never actually played an online zoom “murder mystery” style game before, so had no idea what to expect. When I say I was blown away, I mean I really was BLOWN AWAY!

First thing to mention is the storyline; a really simple affair – someone has stolen Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. It is for you and your team of detectives to work out who did it! Now, Line of Duty this isn’t BUT it pitches perfectly at the target audience – families, work get togethers etc. You don’t want something too taxing – this storyline certainly made the whole thing massively fun!

A photo of the cast pre-lockdown!

So, “how does it work?!” I hear you cry

Simple! You and your team will each be given a specific Zoom login via email which will take you directly to Santa’s grotto in the North Pole. (Ok, well maybe not his actual grotto, but the Zoom backgrounds looked fantastic!). Here you will be joined by Detective Sleigh Bells who will assist you on your mystery!

Detective Sleigh Bells is on hand throughout the game to give you subtle hints to the identity of the culprit and provide additional evidence which has been supplied as you get into the depths of this ever-evolving mystery. The awesome actor who plays Detective Sleigh Bells certainly has a challenge on her hands in being able to manage the game, the numerous players (I believe I was playing with 12 other strangers!), plus the team of naughty elves, who are our suspects! She done an amazing job in juggling all this at the same time plus staying in character.

The Naughty Elves – I Tip My Hat To You!

Speaking of staying in character, this is where the game excels! How the ladies managed to carry this out was beyond me, however you are also joined by a team of naughty elves within your zoom call. Each has a very unique personality and specific job role within the North Pole (I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you their names, but needless to say, they are just as creative as the rest of the game!).

Evidence is mainly provided by Detective Sleigh Bells within the main forum of the game, however cleverly, the Zoom chat is then taken into breakout sessions where you have direct conversation with the elves and have the chance to really interrogate them about their whereabouts, their relationships and their roles. Each actor was phenomenal in staying wholly in character (despite my best efforts to put them off, or tell silly jokes to take them off their stride!). Even though the game is aimed on the humorous side, this hasn’t affected the depth of each individual characters back story – and their improv game was off the scale! Quick wit, on point, clearly not scripted, I tip my hat to each of these ladies in being able to make comedy characters fully believable and allow me to spend an hour just generally being silly and forgetting about the world!

There’s no need to be a Sherlock!

Of course, in spite of this being a comedic online adventure, you still do have to pay attention to what is going on! There are subtle hints here and there which you should jot down in case you need them to build up your case. You certainly don’t need to be the next Sherlock Holmes however! The evidence is quirky, including some cool audio and visual clues, the occasion sing song (which clearly I sung at the top of my lungs!), however make sure to listen closely when discussing directly with the elves. The massive benefit of playing as a large team (even though I knew no one I was playing with), is that you all build up your file of evidence and then collectively come up with your final suspect. There’s no pressure to succeed but you’ll certainly be fully invested after just five minutes of playing this game!

Sooooo much fun!

I’m often sceptical about things that portray themselves to be “humorous or hilarious” but this game certainly succeeded! I’m never the best on video chats, and despite having almost 2 years of non-stop video chats at my office, I’ve always found myself to be a little self-conscious in front of the camera – not here however! Within minutes, I was happily talking to the other players, liaising with the detective and the elves and generally having an absolutely fabulous time. At no point did I feel embarrassed and I came away from playing the game with a massive smile on my face.

Our game finale was suitably fun and we were pitched off into breakout rooms to divulge our evidence before coming all back together to present it, and acknowledge who we felt was the culprit. And between us, I’m happy to say – we succeeded!

There are very few games that I have played within the last three years of reviewing, that leave a lasting impression. This however is one of them. A proper murder-mystery style game, with a brilliant level of immersion, impressive acting, some cool tech elements with audio and visuals and generally just an overwhelming level of fun. I’d urge families, friends and work colleagues to all come together to play this game. It gave me the festive cheer I didn’t realise I was missing!

To book this experience and see what other experiences Play Dead London are running, head to Design My Night

Ratings

Sara Lee Trust: The Detectives That Saved Christmas! | Review

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The Detectives That Saved Christmas Review | The elves radio beacon is in the shape of a star and when the time has come, they climb the tallest Christmas tree they can find, place the star at the top and await the reindeer. The elves stored the star in the community centre but when, after the twelfth week in Great Snoring they went to pick it up it was gone. Only a dozen people have a key to the community center and as there were no signs of a break in it must have been taken by one of them.

After comparing the naughty list with the list of key holders the elves have made a list of the 6 suspects. Can you help the elves find their star? Pull yourselves together and walk a mile in their pointy shoes!

Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 28th November 2021
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Easy

This time last year Play Helps in partnership with the Sara Lee Trust released a charity escape game for Christmas: The Detectives that Saved Christmas! I was slightly gutted to have missed it- I mean, I’m a little bit obsessed with Christmas. It’s totally normal to be updating The Escape Roomer in a Santa hat in November, right? Anyway…

I was very excited to hear that this game is making a comeback this year – bigger and better than ever, 100% of the proceeds for the game go directly to charity. Wahey! Take my money!

There’s something a little magical about doing what I love – playing escape rooms – and knowing you’re doing it for good and the money you spent is going to a really, really good cause. The Sara Lee Trust are a local charity in Hastings that look after those affected by cancer. The charity was chosen after the game’s designer (Shaun Shrubsall) was helped by them, and it’s his way of giving back!

For this reason, we are generally very favourable about the game because we believe as many people as possible should go out and purchase it. For sure, your average enthusiast will not be challenged by it – as it’s not a difficult game at all – but look at it this way: Since it’s got such a family focus and a wide market appeal, this could be just the game to introduce to your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends to get them hooked on whodunnits.

About The Detectives That Saved Christmas

The Detectives That Saved Christmas is a classic whodunnit game. Rather than being in a physical room, the game is played looking top-down at a table with all the suspects and the evidence spilled out upon it. Since the game was built in Telescape, I’m used to 360 views of rooms, so it was really creative to see the escape game platform used in a different way.

Your goal is simple: find the elf that did the crime. This can be done by eliminating each of the elves’ alibis. Six elves and one crime committed in the sleepy town of Great Snoring. You start the game with just the descriptions of the elves, and as time ticks along more and more evidence appears on your desk. Each time a new piece of evidence appears, a little jingle bell sounds. The first time this happened I had my volume set to maximum and nearly screamed. The second and third time was a lot more gentle and festive! As each piece of evidence appears, you can click and drag them to each relevant elf and mark their portraits with a cross to eliminate them or a tick if you think they’re the culprits.

A Winter Whodunnit

In terms of pure puzzles – there aren’t a lot, as this game’s beauty is in logical deduction. If this, then that, which means that elf could not have done it. However I did particularly enjoy using a lot of maths to calculate the exact timings to figure out whether it was technically possible if an elf could have driven to the crime scene in time. Thankfully you’re provided with Google maps, but I like to whip out the calculator too!

It’s not particularly challenging, but I reckon that in a bigger group there’d be a lot of fun debate. This game is nothing if not fun, and when it’s not packed with hilarious elf puns and light hearted jokes, it causes you to question and chat out loud about what you’re solving. In short: making it a perfect family game to get everyone involved in.

Another of my favourite parts was at the very end of the game. once you’ve made your choice, the time skips forward and the credits roll with a funny “where are they now” montage of all the suspects you didn’t chose as the criminals. In a silly kind of way, I was very emotionally invested in these elves and was glad to see they all lived happily ever after… Well, perhaps not all of them.

The Verdict

The Detectives That Saved Christmas is fun, but don’t expect the world of it. After all, its’s a game designed for mass market appeal, to bring the family together – wherever they are in the world – to solve a Christmas mystery. Any game where the proceeds go towards charity is worth grabbing a ticket for!

Play The Detectives That Saved Christmas here.

Ratings

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: Santa’s Sleighcation | Review

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Santa’s Sleighcation Review | Everyone needs a break from time to time, and Santa is no exception. It has been a very busy year, and Santa is taking a little holiday to restore his energy for Christmas Eve. But Santa enjoyed the sunshine so much, that he decided not to return to the North Pole for Christmas! He told the elves to deliver the presents themselves this year. But… Santa has the keys to the Magic Sleigh with him! No one can deliver that many presents on Christmas Eve without the Magic Sleigh!​

Completion Time: 30 minutes
Date Played: 27th November 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easier

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Oh yes! One of my favourite times of the year. Made all the better for all the festive escape rooms that pop up around this time. Which is why when we heard Online Escape Rooms Ireland had made a Christmas game, we couldn’t wait to get cracking on it!

With the Christmas tree up earlier in the day, Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha and myself logged in to try and see if we could save Christmas.

A Summer Santa

Santa’s Sleighcation isn’t your typical Christmas game. There’s no snow in sight. Instead it’s set in somewhere hot and tropical like Barbados. Santa has been on holiday and doesn’t want to return, so it was up to us to find the keys to the sleigh. I think a fair few of the decorations may have been borrowed from Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s other room, Beach Bar, but it worked so well! More margaritas anyone?

As with many of the company’s other escape room experiences, Santa’s Sleighcation is based on a real life physical space at their site. With the use of a 360 camera, the creators have digitalised the space so that anyone from anywhere in the world can play it. The best part is it’s built in Telescape so you’ve got a 360 degree view of all the rooms, can see all your fellow player’s mouse points on the screen, and work together collaboratively.

Since the theme of the game is Christmas in a hot tropical climate, there’s a real mix to the decor. Tiki bars decorated with tinsel and baubles and a shining tree in the corner next to a couple of flamingos and talking parrots. I was also particularly tickled to find that Santa would be wearing a brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt!

Crack the Codes, not the Coconuts

Santa’s Sleighcation is adapted from a real life room and therefore those playing the digital version can enjoy a very tactile feel to the game. There’s plenty for a large team to get on with – we felt that us at 4 players was the sweet spot for everyone to be busy. You’ll encounter padlocks and 3 and 4 digit codes, and plenty of times will find yourself running- I mean, clicking your way across the room to cross-reference objects. There’s a handy inventory system to keep track of what items you still need to use. And, conveniently, objects will disappear when you’ve completed them.

Our favourite thing about digital games from Online Escape Rooms Ireland has to be the intro and outro video however. They are simple videos, but the stock videos of different Santa’s doing increasingly bizarre things always makes us laugh. It’s also always nice to be reminded, with a message from the creators, that by playing their games you are supporting local businesses. Dare I say it one of the only good things to come out of lockdown is the emergence of digital escape games – I can now enjoy real life rooms from exciting places around the world from my rainy flat in London (thanks lockdown travel ban!).

The Verdict

Overall, Santa’s Sleighcation is a really fun, lighthearted game. We completed it in just under 30 minutes and found it on the slightly easier side, compared to for example Spirit Seekers Ireland but I’m a big believer in not overdoing it at Christmas. So, I like it a lot. If you’re three boozy hot chocolates in and there’s a festive film in the background, this game would be a fantastic respite that’ll scratch that escape room itch over the festive period but not leave you bamboozled hours.

Santa’s Sleighcation can be booked from Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s website here.

Ratings

Top Christmas Gift Ideas for Escape Room Enthusiasts

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Hey, what would you like for Christmas?” my friends, partner and family asks me.
“Oh I dunno, just escape room stuff!” I reply.

So how on earth do you shop for that escape room fan in your life? Here’s my definitive guide to what’s new on the UK (and further afield!) market this year, everything and anything Christmas themed, and the down low on what your escape room playing friend really wants in their stocking*

*Santa if you’re reading this, you know what to do.

Escape Room Gifts

My first category is “Escape Room Gifts”, this covers just about anything that isn’t an actual, playable escape room! Advent Calendars, stocking fillers and more!

Escape Room Advent Calendar | £15 – £20

For the second year running, the Kickstarter smash hit is BACK with 2 Advent Calendar themes to choose from. Not a single number to be found, the correct door to open next is carefully hidden behind a clue in the previous door. Get it right and you’re in for a very satisfying Christmas morning!

www.escapeadventcalendar.com

Flatpak 2021 Calendar | Under £10

If you’re unfamiliar with Flatpak, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m just linking the hardware department of a Scandinavian furniture shop. The brilliant team behind Escapages have put together a puzzle calendar for 2021. Each month opens to a double-page, full colour glossy A4 landscape spread with product pictures and month to view calendar page. There 48 puzzles with hints included, find out what we thought when we ‘played’ it here.

www.flatpak2020.com

P.S. The Escape Roomer readers can enjoy 10% with promocode ROOMER10OFF

Family Fun Box | £30 +

In response to the UK’s lockdown likely carrying on all the way through to Christmas, Escape Game has come up with a fabulous idea for the whole family to unwrap. Their ‘Festive Family Fun Box’ contains a box locked with a 6 digit padlock, a Christmas card packed with clues to unlock, and once in, a play at home game, a limited edition bauble, and a jigsaw! There’s also a mystery discount for a live game – a nice touch! It gives you something to look forward to in the new year.

www.escape.game

Escape Game Achievements – A2 Scratch Off Poster | £10 – £15

Okay, I have seen SO MUCH buzz about this on various escape room forums about the A2 Scratch Off Poster. That’s why I’m so excited to put this on my list this year! Where the video game world meets the escape room world, this poster gives you a series of unlockable achievements… For the real world! The perfect gift for escape room veterans and ‘just getting started’ players alike!

www.thepanicroomonline.net

Don’t Get Locked Gin! | £30 +

So this one is a little close to my heart *swigs another cocktail*. The fabulous folks at Don’t Get Locked In has been distilled at a local distillery and is the perfect accompaniment to their Gin & Panic distillery escape room. Supporting a local distillery, an escape room AND fuelling your friend’s gin habit? Yes please. Jokes aside, this is a LOVELY little gift and you can pick up a bottle here. PLUS if you purchase before the 18th of December, you’ll get a £10 voucher towards you next escape room with Don’t Get Locked In!

www.dontgetlockedin.com

Wine Stopper Lock Puzzle | £30 +

Genius? Or fiendishly cruel? You decide. If a fancy bottle of wine is your go-to Christmas gift, why not take the experience up a notch buy encasing it in a wooden puzzle. Kubiya games also have a selection of mini games, boxes, and even one of these for beer bottles!

www.kubiyagames.com

Scream Pretty Padlock Necklace | £30 +

This entry is inspired by an item of jewellery I own myself – its a little gold padlock necklace. A declaration of love, or a declaration of “I really enjoy escape rooms” it serves both purposes well. I’ve listed Scream Pretty, but plenty of local shops and Etsy sellers make similar, custom pieces.

www.screampretty.com

Lock & Key Chocolate | £10 – £15

It’s not Christmas until you eat a large quantity of chocolate and pass out on the sofa in front of Home Alone 2. Give the gift of chocolate this year – there’s no puzzle in this delicious box, so your lucky recipient can tuck in immediately. The Chocolate Workshop also do a range of other chocolate sculptures. I bought my mum a pair of chocolate scissors one year. Why not?

www.thechocolateworkshop.co.uk

Puzzles by Post

2020 has been a next level apocalyptic year – but even if you can’t travel to see your friends right now, you can still send them a letter! I’m super excited to be including this category in my gift list – it’s puzzles by post!

The concept is simple – your friend receives a mysterious envelope filled with puzzles to solve. When they do, they’ll get a code to log into a secret portal and find the message you’ve left for them! Write, record or snap something fun for your recipient to find. It’s something a little different for Christmas Day! Here are a few companies that do this really, really well:

Puzzle Post | £10 – £15

Puzzle Post are a UK based company that ships worldwide. We’ve played both their titles: The Missed Flight and their game specifically for kids, The Secret Service and loved them!

www.puzzlepost.uk

Post-a-Puzzle | £10 – £15

From the makers of Escape Rooms Cardiff here in the UK comes their very own Post-a-Puzzle service. This one is bright, fun and exciting – we played it last week!

www.post-a-puzzle.com

Mystery Mail | Under £10

Mystery Mail is about as mysterious as it gets! With this, your recipient will receive a large envelope and very slick graphics. We’ve played School of Witchcraft and Catch Me if You Can and loved both! Rumour has it there’s a Christmas edition launching very soon!

www.mystery-mail.co.uk

Escape Mail | Under £10

This one’s a little different – there’s no message waiting for your friend at the end. But, as the whole game fits inside one very intriguing looking envelope, it deserves a place on this list. Mobile Escape are a Canadian based company with a seasonal puzzle game. You can sign your friend up for a subscription, or buy a one off (I’d recommend starting with episode 1!). We played Episode 1 and Episode 2 and cannot wait to play more.

www.mobileescape.ca

Books

I bet you didn’t expect to see this category here but yes! There are many escape room books out there. Here are a list of some (hopefully!) surprising books you may wish to consider for the escape room fan out there.

Journal 29 | £10 – £15

A classic! Ask any escape room fan out there, it deserves all the praise in the world too. Journal29 has over 63 riddles and puzzles contained within it’s pages, and each one is solved by inputting the answer into their website. You can write, draw, search, fold pages, combine different methods and try to get those riddles right. But did you know they also have a brand new book The Cypher Files out too? That’s Christmas morning sorted!

www.journal29.com

Sherlock Holmes Escape Room Puzzles | £10 – £15

This one gets a huge mention on this list because (at the time of writing) it’s just come out! I enjoyed playing James Hamer-Morton’s first book (The Escape Room Puzzle Book) so much, and the timing of the Sherlock Holmes Museum endorsed “sequel” could not come at a perfect time for Christmas. It’s a guaranteed big hit and with those warm, Victorian vibes, I personally cannot wait to crack this one open on Christmas Day.

www.waterstones.com

Codex Seraphinianus | £30 +

Photo (c) Mark Riechters @ TTBook

Often called “the world’s strangest book”, this is an Encyclopedia of an imaginary world written in an imaginary language. True, there are no puzzles to be solved. But it’s gorgeous, mysterious and excites all my “I must try and decipher this” senses. Whilst you’re at it, you might want to purchase a copy of the Voynich Manuscript too.

www.365games.co.uk

Party Games

What even is Christmas if not a time for getting together with your loved ones and playing silly games? Whether you’re a fan of board games or videogames, giving one as a gift is something you can enjoy too! Whenever I’m showing up at my parent’s house for Christmas, I’m bringing a game for us to play.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes | £10 – £15

All you need to play this one is a printer and a console (yes, your mobile phone counts!). In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, one players is the ‘bomb disposal’ person, and the rest of the players have an elaborate defusal manual. Print ahead and pack this one in your overnight bag for Christmas, it’s an absolute crowd pleaser!

www.keeptalkinggame.com

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective | £30 +

Okay, yes. I did just write a review and said “don’t play this drunk”, but I’m suggesting this one as a gift, not necessarily a party game over the mulled wine. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games easily give the player over 20 hours of play time, and they’re packed with puzzles and cerebral challenges that even the great Sherlock himself would be challenged by. It’s a great gift for the price!

www.board-game.co.uk

Decrypto | £15 – £20

This is it! This is the ultimate escape room style board game and I will die on this hill if anyone disagrees! Two teams go head to head to decipher the other team’s code. Fastest wins. It’s really that simple, but oh so much fun. If your escape room friend doesn’t already own this game, immediately buy it for them. They need it. In fact, I’ve just put 3 in my shopping basket now.

www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Mysterium | £30 +

I’ve never seen a board game get such glowing reviews from escape room fans, so you bet it’s on this year’s gift list! One player plays the role of the ghost, the others take the role of mediums, as you work together to reconstruct a murder. It’s exciting, engaging, and whats more a great game to play after Christmas dinner with those escape room fans in your life!

Just for Fun

Still stuck? How about this:

A Rubix Cube | £10 – £15

If you’ve read this far and haven’t already rushed off to buy your Christmas gifts – I can’t help you! But hey, this last item on the list might actually be the perfect stocking filler? And why not? It’s a classic since the 1970s. Why improve on perfection?

www.rubiks.com

Vouchers

If you’re still in doubt – why not buy a voucher for their local escape room? The escape room industry has suffered A LOT in 2020, so supporting them with vouchers is more important than ever! Plus, your friend will enjoy having something to look forward to in 2021.

I haven’t got a list for this particular category, as it will completely depend on where your gift recipient lives in the world. But likely has it they’ve got their eyes on their next escape room just as soon as lockdown eases. Why not ask them where they’re headed and pick up a voucher for an experience?

Trust me on this one! It’s a win-win gift.

Did I miss something? Send me an email at mairi@theescaperoomer.com or @ me on Twitter and Instagram with your top gifts and I’ll add them in!

Please note, I get absolutely no financial gain from any of the links in this post! Just my opinion! No ulterior motive! 🙂

Christmas Comes Early – The Puzzle Bundle UK is Here for 7 Days!

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It’s an exciting day for puzzle enthusiasts across the country!

The long awaited Puzzle Bundle UK is now available for sale at eight online puzzle stores. In this special Christmas exclusive, eight British puzzle game creators have come together to create a unique puzzle bundle hamper… Just in time for Christmas!

Included within the bundle are a range of puzzles lasting between 30 minutes to well over an hour each. All the puzzles are self contained, and the best part? There’s a mix of completely original puzzles to the bundle and some well-loved favourites at a discounted rate too!

The bundle comes priced at £60 GBP with UK shipping included, or £65 with international shipping. You an find it on any of the providers websites and channels for the same price.

Image (c) Puzzle Bundle UK

Limited to 100 Puzzle Bundles, for 7 Days Only!

Whether buying a treat for yourself to play over the festive season, or picking up 8 fantastic presents for the puzzle enthusiast in your life – you’d better hurry! To begin with, there will only be 100 Puzzle Bundles up for sale and, once the 7 day sale period ends, the bundle won’t be on sale again.

You an find it on any of the providers websites and channels below for the same price. The bundle altogether costs £60 including postage within the UK, and £65 outside the UK.

What is included in your Puzzle Bundle UK?

Show me the Puzzles!

The Puzzle Bundle UK contains a mix of completely unique puzzles and a few existing puzzle games you may recognise from your favourite British creators!

Image (c) Puzzle Bundle

Enigmailed: Season’s Eatings

A delicious chocolate bar with themed puzzle wrapper.

So far, we’ve absolutely loved Enigmailed’s Chocolateral series! It’s a monthly subscription of tasty chocolate wrapped up in an enigma you must solve before you can tuck in! You can read our full review of the Chocolateral bars so far to find out what to expect.

Lock Paper Escape: Wizard Escape

Grab your wand and discover if you have what it takes to join the secret wizarding society.

Lock Paper Escape is the home of exciting treasure hunts and purveyors of brilliant printable experiences aimed at a family audience! (And also one of the nicest people you’ll meet!)

Morgan’s Escapes: Mystery Times

Unlock the secrets of William Kidd’s lost treasure.

Based in Chester, England, Morgan’s Escapes creates classic escape games, special gift wrap to lock away presents, and murder mysteries too!

Photo (c) Puzzle Bundle UK

Code Bakers: Fudge Fiasco

Decipher the puzzles and discover what flavour fudge you’ve been sent to enjoy!

We’re drooling just thinking about this one already! Code Bakers are creators of delicious cakes that you’ll have to solve puzzles to unlock and eat. Earlier this year we played Code Bake – their original experience and we loved it. Here’s what to expect.

Don’t Eat Puzzles: Griddle

Combine the ingredients in the correct order to work out what’s cooking.

The creator of Don’t Eat Puzzles is an engineer with a laser cutter and a big imagination! If you enjoy tactile, wooden puzzles that make fantastic keepsakes – look no further than Don’t Eat Puzzles.

The White Tent Company: The Snowflake Snatcher Advent Mystery

Jack Frosts magical snowflake staff has been stolen. Without it there will be no snow this winter. Uncover a clue a day to crack the case before Christmas is cancelled!⁣

Wales-based The White Tent Company is a company specialising in live, immersive murder mysteries. They also have a range of at-home mysteries for armchair detectives to solve from the comfort of their own home.

Photo (c) Puzzle Bundle UK

Within the Story: The Vanishing Bride

Lady Calliope is missing; a killer has confessed, but something stranger is afoot. Solve the clues, discover the hidden endings, and find the vanishing bride!⁣

Within the Story are best known for creating Lost in the Machine – an escape room in a box with a delightful memento you can keep once you’ve completed the game.

Curious Cats UK: At the Movies

Journey through puzzles, clues and riddles to test your movie knowledge and lateral thinking.

If you like murder mysteries and deduction escape room games in a box… Then you’ll love Curious Cats UK! They have three games available, and we’re super excited about At the Movies!

The Puzzle Bundle UK can be purchased at any of the links in this article! But hurry – there’s a limited quantity and it’ll only be available until the end of the week.

Hysteria Escape Rooms: Advent Avenue | Review

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A life-size advent calendar for all the family, 24 puzzle doors and windows to open, can you help save ADVENT AVENUE?

Completion Time: 60 minutes
Date Played: 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Hysteria Escape Rooms based in Rochester is a small, yet perfectly formed escape room location. Based between Rochester and Chatham, the exterior of the building with its blacked out windows and dark paint work, sets the scene for the adventure that is about to follow. 

Opening the door, you are met with a warm welcome with a small, yet practical reception area with comfortable seating, toilets and a handful of lockers. 

All games commence with a briefing from a member of the team, who are very clearly passionate about their customer service and the experience that is about to begin.

The entrance doors to all rooms are within the reception area – particularly impressive here, is the fact that even the entrances to each of the rooms have also been lovingly decorated to give you a taste of what to expect inside. These also provide for a good photo opportunity after your escape, without giving any hint of a spoiler. 

ADVENT AVENUE

Feeling the need for a little Christmas cheer?! Doing this room in the middle of February might not be everyones idea of fun, however this room really hits all the right spots when it comes to seasonal entertainment! In terms of story line, the magic of Christmas has been lost and releasing the magic held only in Advent Avenue will send magic around the world! 

Walking through the door of this room, hits you with overwhelming festive cheer. The theme is brilliant and although clearly evident of what tasks lie ahead of you, this non-linear room can send you down multiple different avenues! (pun intended). Festive music, snow, robins, presents, candy canes, gingerbread men. You name it, its inside! For what is a small play area, the volume of puzzles contained within the room is phenomenal. Every puzzle is strong and varied, and a few puzzles we certainly hadn’t seen before. Most puzzles were relatively easy to appreciate with a couple that had some well placed curve balls. Im a big fan of more physical challenges within a room and this room has some really good ones. 

The room is highly entertaining and you wont stop smiling from beginning to end (even when you are hit with a few slightly more frustrating puzzles!). All in all, this is a great room, with brilliant use of space, masses of puzzles and a real sense of enjoyment. This is guaranteed to be an experience you wont forget – particularly the room finale which is a great addition, rarely seen at other escape rooms. 

Would I recommend this room?

Yes. Brilliant room. Great theme which is different to any other “seasonal” room, which are often too similar in nature

Who would I recommend it to? 

Beginners and experienced player alike would all love it.

How many players would I recommend?

I would recommend this to be a 4 player game for optimum game play. 

Suitable for Children?

Yes. From around age 6 would love the theme, however some of the puzzles would not suit that age range so I would suggest from age 8/9 would really enjoy this. 

Unfortunately Advent Avenue has now retired, but you can check out and support Hysteria Escape Rooms here.

Ratings

Clue Cards: The Forgetful Elf | Review

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10/12/2020 UPDATE: Please note, the Kickstarter was cancelled and all pledges refunded. We are well aware of all the controversy around the game, the company and the production. We’ve kept this review up as a snapshot of the game, at the time we played it, in late 2020, although information may no longer be accurate.

 


 

It’s Christmas eve and Santa has just finished delivering the presents to the Franklin family. As he was unloading he noticed that Francois the forgetful elf has forgotten to label the presents! Santa needs your help! Jump down the chimney and figure out how to label all 6 names, but be quick -it’s almost Christmas morning!

Rating: Fun!
Completion Time: ~25 Minutes* DNF
Date Played: 28th November 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: A Christmas Gift

Even though I marked this as DNF (Did Not Finish), I LOVE the idea and am so excited to have been sent an early copy of The Forgetful Elf to play. A refreshing concept, surprising and absolutely charming. In short, a lot of fun on a Saturday night over a cup of mulled wine, which is exactly how a festive game like this is meant to be digested. Oh yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

 

At the time of writing, the clue system isn’t yet live on Clue Cards’ website. So whilst I’m 99% sure I’ve got 5/6 of the names correct, I can’t realistically say I finished *nervous sweating*. In all likelihood, I’ll come back and update this review once I’ve checked my answers. But for now I’ve popped the card in centre place on my mantelpiece among my other Christmas cards for all to admire in December, pretty as it is!

 

 

Clue Cards: The Forgetful Elf is a well thought out experience that I’d be excited to send to just about anyone for Christmas – veteran escapist and casual player both! It’s sturdy and easy to write on card stock, with a space for your stamp and your personalised letter too. At it’s core, this is what the game is designed for – a card you can send. But it’s so much more than a card. It’s a card packed with puzzles.

One of the my favourite things to highlight are the illustrations. When I hear the suggestion of a “Puzzle Christmas Card”, I immediately assume that it’s going to look… Well… Puzzle-y! Design sacrifices a lot to fit puzzles in (believe me, I’m a game designer myself). But Clue Cards pull this off flawlessly with what looks like a regular Christmas card until you take a closer look. Yes, I might have scribbled all over my copy right after I took these photos – but scribbles aside, it looks PERFECT with my other Christmas cards. Nobody will be able to tell that there’s more than what meets the eye.

In terms of content of puzzles, Clue Cards recommends The Forgetful Elf as a 2/5 difficulty experience. My experience was that there was a very good mix of puzzles in there, with some solid logical deduction. A few I picked up immediately, spotting what to do and how. Other puzzles I had to think over a few times, flipping back and forth between the instructions and the card’s front. But once you’ve figured it out – you’ve got it. There’s a strong “OH! YES!” moment to each of them, fuelling the positive reinforcement of solving a game.

 

 

Overall, to end with my opinion – I only played the one from Clue Card’s series but I can confidently say I had a fun, festive time with the game. At the time of writing there is a Kickstarter live for other cards, and I hope that these get released and are just as enjoyable! I’m excited to see what Clue Cards will come up with next.

Clue Cards cards can currently be purchased on their website here.

Ratings