Crux Club: Puzzle Rap Star | Review

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Puzzle Rap Star Review | Crank that beat up, grab the mic and show em’ whatcha got! Puzzle Rap Star is a new puzzle book that will challenge you to prove you got what it takes to level up in the rap game. To play, examine the images and text on each page then bend your mind to crack the codes. You’ll use what you learned to crush your competition in complex meta puzzle rap battles. 

Completion Time: ~4 hours
Date Played: May 2022
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium

“Rapping” is not a theme I ever thought I’d encounter here at The Escape Roomer. In fact, I don’t know what category to place this in. It’s also not really a genre I would ever go for myself. For this article I tried to come up with some names of rappers in order to make rap-based-puns, but I got as far as “Eminem” then dismissed him as someone whose peak in the rap industry was a decade before I was born…

…All this to say, I know nothing about rap. But what I do know about is puzzles!

 

 

About the Puzzle Rap Star Book

What began as a Kickstarter by Jan-Luc of Crux Club earlier this year has now come to life in the form of a satisfyingly weighty puzzle book. That’s no joke on the ‘weightiness’, for this puzzle book contains well over sixty puzzles in it spread across six chapters.

The book has a compelling brightly coloured front cover, but is black and white inside. On the one hand, this is great for accessibility (not a colour-puzzle to be found), but on the other hand makes for grey-reading in an otherwise usually quite colourful genre.

At the start of the book you’re offered a QR code with music to listen along to. It’s just the one song with a general hip-hop beat that does help with some of the rhythm based puzzles, but not my cup of tea so I didn’t keep it on long. At the end of the book, you have your hints. This meant that (besides the QR code) the entire experience was self contained. This worked very well, meaning it’s exactly the sort of book you could bring with you on a long trip without internet connection.

 

 

Nothing Rhymes with Puzzle…

The story of the game is told through rhyming couplets- sorry, ‘rap song’. The first few times I encountered this, including in things like the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy, this was novel. Later the style felt more cringe and hard to follow along. For a medium (rap) designed to be spoken aloud, I’m unfamiliar with seeing it written down. Sure, I read poetry, but rap is spoken word, so be prepared to have to say things out loud before they make sense.

I would also say that the language in this book is very much for the American audience. For starters it’s set in Brooklyn, but just the cultural symbols of things like “tater tots” which we just don’t have over here. This proves a problem in a puzzle book as you’re never quite sure what is stylistic rap music language and what is an actual puzzle. Was “tater tot” some kind of cryptic clue I needed to solve? An anagram? A rhyme? Nope, just a processed potato based dish. Whoops! Who knew? Typos aside (for which there were a few I was sure were deliberate, like palendrome instead of palindrome), the language proved exhausting.

The language was a problem for sure, but it raises a bigger problem since most of the book was reliant on specifically slang from a very specific region and era of slang in Brooklyn. If I know one thing about slang it’s that it goes out of date fast. There’s just a few years between my brother and I and the slang we use is very different. I worry that in 5-10 years the sentences in this book I found difficult may become even more so, as they’re removed from the era they were formed in. Or maybe they’ll have a timeless confusion:

“baby-bat saw this bee when taking a spookie dookie. Gotta stay careful cause he couldn’t see, k?”

Whether ten years in the past, the future, or the present, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that that phrase from the book means.

But linguistic quirks aside, the story follows you, a young rap star keen to make their name in the rap scene. Along the way you meet weird and wonderful characters like “Craz” and “Shotz Doc Menace” ** (whose name flipped between the spelling Shots and Shotz interchangably) and “Buttah Thug” who join you on your quest to find the mystical Book of Rhymes which is the holy grail of rap music – a list of perfect rhymes so that you may “spit good bars” (another amusing linguistic quirk I had to google and I’m sure I’m still misusing it).

Your journey goes through the stages from “Sick Flow”, to “Street Cred” through to “Top Player”, “Dope Hooks” and so on, as you climb the ranks in your own personal rags to riches story. All to culminate in a very sweet ending – one I literally said “Aww” out loud when I finally got to.

 

Puzzle Your Way to the Top

I’ve said all I can say about the problems of language in Puzzle Rap Star, but now onto the positives – the puzzles! Where this book really shines is in it’s puzzles.

Being set in the rap music world, there’s an abundance of language puzzles – as there should be. I’m a sucker for good ones that revolve around beats and rhythm, and this experience had buckets of them. But it wasn’t all language, there were spatial reasoning puzzles, logic grid puzzles, mathematical puzzles, creative ciphers, and even puzzles that involved some fun physical manipulation of the book. Each puzzle felt well balanced and fit in it’s respective universe. In short, it made sense why I was solving each puzzle, to what ends, and most importantly: it was fun!

With such a varied range, I never once found myself bored. The best thing about the format is how it’s possible to pick it up and put it down whenever you please with easy breaks in the form of puzzle chapters.

One of my favourite puzzles (and this is no surprise if you’re a regular reader) was the “Murdah Board”. Cringe spelling aside, this was your classic logic grid puzzle but was complex enough to be packing a few delightful surprises in it, and long enough to last one evening’s session as I sat cross legged on my sofa, pencil in hand, puzzling through the whodunnit.

 

 

The Verdict

Puzzle Rap Star is a puzzle book with a very niche theme, but the creators have managed to pull it off with an enjoyable puzzle game. As I say, it’s never a theme I would personally go for and I can’t imagine that the “escape room enthusiast” and “rap music enthusiast” Venn diagram is larger than a handful of people. Add in the hyper-specific “Brooklyn” rap world into the Venn diagram and your target audience is single figures.

But I commend the creator for doing something that had never been done before!

For me personally, sitting in my apartment on the other side of the world in London, UK with a google search history packed with bizarre slang terms, American cultural icons from the last few days, playing Puzzle Rap Star was… Really weird. I learnt a lot about the culture of rap music.

But the puzzles were a lot of fun. Like, a lot of fun! They were creative and delightful and there were some brilliant moments of “a-ha!”. In particular I loved the use of beats and rhythm. I would absolutely love to see the creators apply the same level of puzzle creativity to a different, more universally accessible theme. Which, apparently the have already with the “Mob Treasure” game I’m very, very much looking forward to.

As a final note, the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon US. Shipping to the UK incurs an additional VAT and Shipping Fee.

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

Escape Plan: Battle For Britain | Review

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Escape Plan Battle for Britain Review | The day is 18th August 1940 and the Luftwaffe have launched a resurgent attack on Britain, where your air base has been hit by the first wave of heavy bombing. As the only survivors, you must access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain. But with a second attack imminent, can you also save yourselves?

Date Played: April 2022
Time Taken: 34 mins 55 secs

Planes shot down: 70 out of 71
Number of Players: 5
Difficulty: Medium

Whenever that age-old question “What’s the best escape room in London” comes up in ER enthusiast forums, there are a few company names you can guarantee will feature in the answers. Escape Plan is one of them. Currently housed in the Rich Mix arts complex in Shoreditch, Escape Plan have been on the London scene since at least 2015. And their reputation as one of the best in London is well deserved based on their consistent theming, the attention to detail and the sheer number of puzzles their rooms contained.  You can tell from the moment you enter their basement space that people at Escape Plan love what they do.

 

I’d played both of Escape Plans other games, The Adventure Begins and Roll Out the Barrel (which has been hanging onto my top game spot for a while now) previously so it was with a lot of excited anticipation that I arrived with my team of fellow ER nerds to take on Battle for Britain.  Only recently reopened in Shoreditch, the game is already the rave of the ER scene, with glowing reviews and promises of an extraordinary and nail-biting finale.  So with expectation piled up on top of my anticipation could it possibly live up to the hype?

 

Top Secret Mission Briefing 

All of Escape Plan’s games are set during or shortly after World War II and the narrative for Battle for Britain takes place on one very specific date, 18th August 1940.  The Battle of Britain has been raging for a month and on this date, known as ‘the Hardest Day’, the German Luftwaffe made an all out effort to completely destroy Britain’s Fighter Command.  With that historic backdrop, the game makes you members of the RAF and the only survivors of a bombing raid on your airbase.  Under continuing enemy fire your first task is to gain access to the strategic ops room.  Once inside you must then take control of the full force of all available RAF squadrons and push the German planes back out of British airspace.  Your final aim is not to escape, but to shoot down as many aircraft as you can before your time runs out.  It is this last angle that makes Battle for Britain stand out as different to most trad ERs.  You are told from the very start that your goal is not to escape from the room in under 60 mins but to bring down as many of the German planes as possible.  The maximum it is possible to shoot down is 71 – the real number of German losses inflicted on that day in August 1940.

 

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

The game is effectively in two parts, although they aren’t equal in complexity or time needed.  The first part is closer in style to a ‘normal’ ER in that involves solving several puzzles that will allow you to open the door to the strategic ops room.  Escape Plan love a good meaty, physical prop repurposed into a puzzle and this room has you tackling challenges involving bikes, barrels and road signs.  Logic, spatial awareness and code breaking all come into play in this room and every puzzle is substantial and satisfying.

So far so linear.  But once you’re in the Ops room the game becomes much less of a straight line from one puzzle to the next and it’s very easy to split up and figure out several puzzles at the same time.  As in Escape Plan’s other games, the physical puzzles are a real joy.  The set design and build are probably the best in London (IMHO) with the clear love for both puzzles and crafting evident in the high quality, hand built nature of the props.  Why buy in an everyday padlock when you can build your own miniature puzzle boxes?  And as with the first room, there are lots of period props and objects that have been converted into puzzles, some of which are beautifully novel and unlike anything I’ve seen in other ERs.

The puzzles aren’t just beautiful, they are myriad.  There is a lot to do in this second room, with each individual puzzle helping you towards the meta puzzle that is the game’s climax.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  The sheer number of puzzles means that even a big team can split up and work on separate elements, feeding their results back into the bigger picture of the final puzzle.  But it does also mean that you can feel like you’ve only played a fraction of the room.  My team of 5 ER regulars and enthusiasts all left saying that we felt we’d only seen a small proportion of the puzzles.  What we had solved was very satisfying but we felt we’d missed out on quite a lot.  That, however, is the fault of our decision to put five puzzle-addict, ER geeks in the same room at the same time, not a fault of the game itself.

Once the individual puzzles are solved, you are ready to complete the final challenge.  I won’t give away details as part of the joy of the game is the discovery of how the climax happens.  But it is a nail-biting, nerve-jingling conclusion to the game that will make even the most cynical player feel patriotic and proud to have served in RAF colours.  It is inevitable that whoever plays, there will be cheering.


Our Verdict

While Roll Out the Barrel still remains my favourite of their games, Battle for Britain is another string in Escape Plan’s ‘one of the best ERs in London’ bow.  It has all the same loving attention to detail, hand crafted props and vast range of puzzle styles and challenges that have made their other games so popular.  The slight twist on a traditional ER structure makes for an interesting change to the norm, while there’s also enough satisfying individual puzzles to keep even the most experienced of players entertained.  To make the most of the room, I’d advise any ER enthusiasts to play with a max of 2-3 people so you get to see and play as many of the puzzles as possible, while for less experienced players, around 4-6 would make it easier to get everything done.  And as a final piece of advice from a team that managed to shoot down 70 of the 71 planes – double check your workings before committing to the final challenge or that last Luftwaffe bomber might just escape to raid another day.

Battle for Britain can be booked by heading to Escape Plan’s website here.

Eleven Puzzles: Parallel Lab | Review

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Parallel Lab Review | The detectives are following Cryptic Killer’s trail. After escaping Cryptic Killer’s trap, the detectives thoroughly investigated the area where they had been held. Sadly they have found nothing that could move their case closer to catching the killer… Or so they thought.

Date Played: May 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 2 hours
Difficulty: Medium

 

Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

 

Over the past 2 years, we’ve all become quite familiar with digital escape rooms, and I personally have had hit or miss experiences with them. After a few disappointing experiences, I decided to give virtual rooms a miss unless I was playing by myself, which means I didn’t play the first instalment of this series by Eleven Puzzles (that said, you can read what Rebecca and Mairi thought about the first instalment over in our review).

Fortunately for me, Eleven Puzzles reached out and invited us to play their latest digital escape room-style experience in exchange for a review (this review, in fact), and I was definitely intrigued by the premise and drawn in by the art style!

 

A very friendly parrot! | Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

The Premise

If the name hasn’t quite given it away yet, this virtual room requires at least two players, on separate devices. This is because you will each be exploring a slightly different version of the same room, and communicating to solve various puzzles. As you are independent, you are free to explore without being tied to the other person’s screen which was my main bugbear of other digital games. I loved the free roam aspect, but reliance on communication as there is no way to complete the puzzles otherwise. I assume this would be the same for any number of players and is definitely a huge positive.

 

The Puzzles

“Parallel Lab” is based in a series of rooms as you progress further into the lab and dive deeper into the story. There are 3 or 4 puzzles in each room, and it’s pretty clear where they are. By working together methodically we were able to get through each of them, but the answers aren’t always straightforward. Eleven Puzzles did a great job of presenting unique and interesting puzzles that were at the perfect level of difficulty – no hand-holding, no super obvious puzzles, and no tenuous leaps in logic. However, they’re also very supportive – allowing you to use hints with no penalties, and offering you a number of hints and nudges before revealing the answer – very similar to the increase in hints you’d get in a ‘real’ escape room!

I have to say I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. Although there were a couple which we struggled with, they also brought a great sense of satisfaction when we’d had that brain wave – most of the time we just weren’t communicating enough! They were all perfectly suited for the room they were in and addressed a number of different skills and techniques.

My only critique of the puzzles was that they felt a little imbalanced at times – I found myself waiting for my teammate to complete something tricky on their side, but were unable to do anything on my side in the meantime. Later on, this was reversed – I was working on something a little more in-depth, and my teammate had to wait.

 

One of the rooms | Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

The playability

Technology-wise this ran extremely smoothly and easily. The game is played in a browser, so we hopped on a Skype call and logged in fairly quickly. The initial instructions were brief but informative, and ultimately the technology provided no barrier to playing. My only qualm with the setup is that I would have loved to see some of the puzzles my partner did!

 

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I went in with fairly low expectations but was absolutely blown away. The interactivity and independence are a real positive, and the puzzles themselves were just as good as any physical room. I’m not sure how well this would work for a larger team, as you may end up talking over each other, but certainly paying £15 for 2 players is more than worth it.

 

Parallel Lab can be purchased by heading to Eleven Games’ website here.

Treasure Trails: Greenwich and the Time Machine | Review

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Greenwich and the Time Machine Review | Ahoy, me hearties! We need pirate adventurers for this self-guided treasure hunt around Greenwich. Hunt high and low through the riverside borough of Greenwich and reveal stories of its rich maritime history (including the famous Cutty Sark – the last remaining tea clipper)! There’s green, there’s mean, and there’s a time-travelling machine!

Completion Time: ~2 hours
Date Played: 23rd April 2022
Party Size: 2
Location: Greenwich
Difficulty: Easy

Looking for a family friendly outdoor puzzle trail in London (or even around the UK for that matter), look no further than Treasure Trails!

Once you’ve done a lot of the puzzle trails in London you’ll know a lot of the themes revolve around things like defusing bombs, catching a serial killer, busting international drug syndicates, or finding the antidote to a deadly poison in the waterways – which are all great in their own right, but sometimes you just want to go on a traditional pirate treasure hunt equipped with a map and eyepatch.

Enter: Greenwich and the Time Machine.

 

 

About Treasure Trails UK

Treasure Trails was founded in 2005 and is a company I have personally grown up with. In fact, no family holiday was complete without my mum downloading and printing a treasure trail booklet to the local town or countryside spot we were visiting. Despite the ever-obscure areas, Treasure Trails was reliably there.

But despite my fond memories, they’re not just for kids. On a sunny Saturday morning Georgie and I got together in Greenwich – a location a short boat ride away for the both of us, to take on one of London’s most popular Treasure Trail to find out what it was like playing ‘as a grown up’. And let me tell you, it was still just as brilliant as the first time, many years ago.

In London there are around 62 Treasure Trails available – either as a printed booklet shipped directly to you, or as a PDF download. One of the most popular London trails is Greenwich and the Time Machine. We opted for the print-at-home version and in just a few minutes, off we were!

 

 

Hunting for Pirate Treasure in Greenwich

Our mission began near the Cutty Sark, an old tea clipper moored in Greenwich. We needed to team up with a time travelling expert, Merri Deehan, to go back in time and rescue an historical ring from an evil, time travelling green witch. The ring, banished somewhere in time and space was our only key to ‘saving the world’ – or something like that anyway. The important thing to know was that we were on the search of treasure lost not only spatially, but temporally too. Along our way we’d be accosted by the green witch and her minions, but not to worry. Georgie and I were on the case!

The game requires a printed out piece of paper – or the booklet – and follows 18 clues around Greenwich, each split into “Directions” and “Clue”. At the end of each “Directions” we’d find ourselves at a new location, then had to solve the “Clues” to get a location. This location could be found on a map that was handily included at the back of our booklet. Every location you cross off is a location the treasure is definitely NOT buried at. Leaving you with the true location by the end of the trail. Don’t forget to bring a pen to cross off each location as you go!

 

Merri Deehan… Wait, why does that name sound significant?

Greenwich is famous for a lot of things but above all it’s famous for being the home to the Meridian Line. You know, Greenwich Mean Time, the solar time at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. I’m no historian, so I’ll let Wikipedia do the explaining on this one:

As the United Kingdom developed into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was considered to have longitude zero degrees, by a convention adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884. Synchronisation of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, led to GMT being used worldwide as a standard time independent of location.

Point being, if you’re interested in the history of time, then this is a fantastic place to explore. We spotted a lot of cool clocks and even got to stand on the meridian line itself, how fantastic?!

 

Georgie standing on the Meridian line in Greenwich

 

But beyond the historical significance, Greenwich is a really lovely area of London and one I’m not used to exploring. It was a beautiful sunny way with boats floating lazily up the river, and a fantastic view of London in all directions. The houses we passed were gothic and dramatic, and the food at the various markets and pubs delicious. Treasure Trails or not, visiting Greenwich is a must-do for anyone visiting London, and we can’t think of anything better than to spend your time there solving puzzles.

 

For Kids, or Adults?

The whole thing errs on the side of fairly easy, and definitely won’t challenge an escape room enthusiast – but the real joy to playing a Treasure Trail isn’t being stuck in with difficult puzzles and riddles, it’s being able to take the route in your own pace and see the sights. We particularly loved being able to stop at any cafe we liked along the route and even take a detour into some of the fantastic museums. In fact, if you wanted to you could break this walking trip up into several days. There’s nothing stopping you and that’s nice.

With that in mind, we’d definitely suggest this is a game more targeted towards young people. We both remarked that it would be good for kids aged 6 – 12. A great way to introduce little ones to the wonderful world of puzzling but definitely still fun enough to capture the interests of players up to 12. On the route we spotted several other teams also playing the game and most of those also had young kids with them. Between us we were mid-20s, and we loved it though, so it just goes to show!

 

 

Although to say it’s easy would also be slightly unfair as we did get a little stuck on a few moments. However this was largely on the “Directions” side rather than the “Clues”. We also finished the Treasure Trail with *gasp* two locations un-crossed-out on our treasure map, meaning we couldn’t definitively decide where the treasure was buried. Whoops – we’d missed a clue! But thankfully taking plenty of photos of all the spots got us back on track to the correct answer.

A word of advice to prospective players – the locations tend to be quite close together, so if you go too far down one route and don’t come to a solution, it may be worth doubling back on yourself!

 

The Verdict

Anything by Treasure Trails is pretty much guaranteed to be fun. You know exactly what you’re getting – several ours of exploring a fun location packed with puzzles and little clues that revolve around the local landmarks.

In playing the Greenwich trail, I see why it’s the most popular. Some of the sights it took us around were lovely – brilliant coffee shops, a bustling market, a fantastic view of the city, and even some stops for museums. It was quite literally a perfect day out. We’d never have walked that particular route together if not for the trail and for that I’m super grateful. It’s reliably good fun for kids and adults alike and I’d definitely recommend it.

 

 

The Greenwich Treasure Trail can be purchased as a PDF or booklet by heading to Treasure Trails’ website here.

Pressure Point: The Moonlit Wild | Review

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The Moonlight Wild Review | An ancient story is known that the god of wealth, Eltari, once hid a valuable treasure deep in the jungle. Eltari hid the treasure to protect human kind from the greed, hatred and self indulgence that will be consumed upon possession of this magical artefact. The story goes that those who possess this treasure will be given limitless wealth for eternity. Many explorers have attempted to seize this treasure but no-one has ever been able to solve Eltari’s mythological puzzles that pave the way to the infinite magic that he created.

Do you and your team believe you have what is necessary to take on a god? 

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken: 45 Mins 19 Secs
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

How often do you really get that wow factor from walking into a room? I mean honestly?!

The Moonlit Wild was one of the few escape rooms which really took my breath away! Here’s a summary of why…

 

Outstanding Set Design!

Without doubt, The Moonlit Wild is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing rooms I’ve ever played. The scenery really is that good. I’ve always had concerns over how authentic an escape room can really be when its meant to look like the great outdoors; but this really did tick the box…

Think deep dark forest, leaves, bark covered floors, perfectly set lighting. It is a certain ‘pinch yourself’ type room, where the creativity around the set demonstrates what is sure to be a fantastic room.

As the game evolves, the setting continues to grow more and more impressive, with trees, wildlife, water and so much more; I would question anyone who said that they weren’t blown away by it.

Immersion continues to be the name of the game with this room as (no pun intended) the whole scene is lit beautifully, which provides just an appropriate amount of light. Not too dark to actually read anything but also dim enough to make for a really well done atmospheric adventure.

Finally, the subtle soundtrack. What can I say? This really is a feast for the senses.

For this reason we’ve chosen to award the room our special “Diamond Badge

 

The Moonlit Wild Brings Out My Inner Child!

Of course, we then have the main feature of every escape room; the puzzles. Our team all agreed that the puzzles in this room are really well put together and sit within the theme really well. As opposed to the more obvious “here is a puzzle” stance taken in their other room Murder on the Dancefloor, here we find much more subtle puzzles that are really well disguised, so your search senses are really needed in this room. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Look high and low on this one – there really are puzzles everywhere. So try and question everything you see, and hear! Sure, there are a handful of more blatant games in this room but one of the huge positives is how they have thought long and hard about how the games integrate within the environment.

There are also a huge amount of puzzles within this room – its easy to sit back and think you are progressing at quite a pace in this room, however do not be fooled. The gameplay keeps you on your toes and you’ll find yourself doing both solo and team puzzles galore, so its a wise idea to keep communicating; there are some moments where communication is literally everything, so keep your wits about you!

Expect a real mix of puzzles here too – there’s nothing too physical, generally there is quite a lot of observational based bits going on here, which I personally adore. There a handful of lock bits, but predominately expect very well delivered puzzles, where the electronics have been superbly hidden so the game just flows without any “what the hell do I do now” moments.

In terms of difficultly, I would suggest that this is slightly harder than the Murder on the Dancefloor game, however still has the same level of accessibility – whereby anyone could really pick it up and enjoy a fantastic game.

 

A Game Which Flows as Beautifully as a Freshwater Stream!

Where this game excels over many others is the way in which the game flows. There is always something to do, always something to look at, and there aren’t any real “sticky” moments where things grind to a halt based on someone’s experience or understanding – this is also where having a strong games master came into play.

For this game, Vicky was our games master and she really was a delight. Having done a very thorough and engaging intro to the room (in a very cool looking Moonlit Wild briefing room), she also presented us with clues at just the right time. Clues were always subtle, didn’t give too much away, but often guided us to a potential location within the room where we might have missed something in the beautiful scenery.

As a really amazing side note, showing quite how engaged she was with our game, when we finished playing, she had discussed quite how impressed she was with my son and how good is appeared to be at rooms – so much so that she had written down all the puzzles he had completed himself within this game and listed them off to him – both a proud dad moment, and a smile through gritted jealous teeth from me!

 

What’s the Story?!

Now this might sound really odd, as normally I’m a sucker for having a really strong storyline within a game; but here the storyline really didn’t make that much odds to me. From beginning to end we all appreciated that we needed to locate the hidden golden artefact within the Moonlit Wild, and Vicky had done a great job in introducing the story during our briefing.

However when faced with the outstanding scenery, wealth of puzzles and brilliant immersion, the depth of the storyline feel into insignificance as we were all having far too much fun to really worry! That’s not to take away the great level of detail and depth that has gone into producing this experience  – I think we were just having too much fun to care!

 

Our Verdict

Bloody brilliant! Nothing much more to add than that. The Moonlight Wild ia really fun room, with one of the best sets I’ve ever played in, an array of puzzles which can be accessible to all, a fully engaged GM who clearly cared about our experience and a game play which flows better than most others could dream of. Great job Pressure Point!

 

If you want to book The Moonlight Wild at Pressure Point, head to their website here.

Pressure Point: Murder on the Dancefloor | Review

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Its 1978 and your evening at the 2P’s nightclub has ended in disaster! You hear rumours that the ‘King of Groove’ has been murdered!  With all your belongings inside, there is no way for you and your friends to get home. You find another way in and you can’t help but have a snoop around. Your curiosity gets the better of you. What you are about to find inside is not groovy…

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken:  47 Minutes 13 Seconds
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

 

It really was time to get our groove on with this 1970’s disco extravaganza. A team of four of us were feeling funky so we headed on down to Ashford to see what the noise was all about. Safe to say, we came away feeling as high as Simon Cowell’s waistband!

Greeted warmly by our host, we were first escorted to a funky little briefing room. This clearly is where the fun begins. Yep, there is the normal health and safety stuff and “here is how a padlock works”, however the briefing also had a certain comical charm about it. As ever, no spoilers, however the tongue in cheek aspect works a treat, with little disco references thrown in for good measure, plus a certainly little prop which made us all giggle. This was certainly one of the more memorable briefings we’ve had the pleasure of that’s for sure.

So, tick boxes completed, we strutted our stuff down to the room itself.

 

 

Time to Get Our Groove On

As ever, the first thing that I look at within a room are the aesthetics.  The initial room where you commence the game is a subtle understated affair which plays into the game perfectly. The puzzles are well hidden within the room, yet you have just enough to get you moving. But don’t be fooled – areas like this are often trickier than they appear. And this was one of them.

Worth knowing that there is a slightly different clue system within the first part of the game. Sadly we didn’t actually use it (insert my smug face here!), however I now wish we had, as it looked really cool, if a little disconcerting – but no spoilers, you’ll have to play the game itself to know what I mean here.

Something that we loved about this game in its entirety is the game play and flow of the room. At no point will you find yourself bunching up and having to all try and resolve a puzzle all together. There is a lot going on in this game and the designers have really cleverly been able to utilise this non-linear, multi-puzzle approach.  At no point did we get the dreaded escapees block, where you just look blankly at one another and have absolutely no idea what to do!

 

 

Give me that Night Fever, Night Fever…

As you’d expect from me, music plays a huge part in how I review a room – safe to say we were humming the tunes from this room all the way home! The audio set up works really well. All the time you aren’t in the “main room”, you can here the subtle thump thump of the disco music playing in the background. Once you reach the disco however, expect to be singing and dancing along. Luckily, I am reliably informed that a recording of my dodgy dad dancing hasn’t been kept for future reference/abuse, however, the three adults in the team embarrassed my son somewhat!

The feel in the main area of this game is a real feast for the senses both audibly and visually. Music, lights – this makes for a very happy Nick!

Time to get our Puzzle On!

Now onto the puzzles. Where to begin?! There a lot of them and they all fitted the theme really well. Clearly when designing, the creators have thought long and hard about how to integrate as many disco and 70s themed props into the game; and they’ve done a cracking job in doing this.

What really sets the game apart from others is the way in which the puzzles integrate with the room. The joys of being set in a 70s disco means that everything is big and flashy and in your face – and that’s exactly how the games worked too. Don’t expect subtle “where do I find this” search the room-style puzzles here. You’ll see a lot to start off with, although be warned, you might not be able to access it straight away!

And when it comes to difficulty, we all agreed that this is a game which would be accessible to new comers and experienced players alike. For the first timers, the user-friendly game play, coupled with fantastically light hearted theming (although there has been a murder), and some really enjoyable puzzles, is a winner. Likewise, those that are a little more experienced would enjoy a room which doesn’t take itself too seriously. (There are also a few little Easter eggs to keep your eyes peeled for, which may reference a few other escape rooms!)

 

But Who Was the Murderer?!

Obviously I’m not going to tell you that! I can sort of tell you how we worked it out though; a number of the puzzles reveal specific traits about the murder. As you build an understanding of the suspects and their motives, slowly but surely you get to eliminate some until you reach your final verdict.

Having played murder style games before, you can often get to a verdict quite quickly – this wasn’t the case here – and in fact, you don’t know how to pin point and announce the murderer until you have solved the very final puzzle.

The game builds into a strong crescendo and this is where the team work really comes into play. Where the game play for this room allows you to separate for much of the game, paying attention to your team mates is imperative. Its easy to miss a clue so communication is key!

 

So did this Game Strut our Stuff – Yeah Baby!

(Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Austin Powers there!)

We all really enjoyed this one. A combination of strong theme, varied and well planned games, a solid flow and of course the light-hearted tongue in cheek approach, makes this a solid option for puzzlers new and experienced, young and old.

 

You wanna get your groove on?! Click the link below to book it for yourself… Pressure Point Escape Rooms, Ashford, Kent

 

Edaqa’s Room: Office | Review

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Edaqa’s Room Office Review | As a long day draws to a close, you look forward to going home. Just submit your work report and you’ll be done. Maybe one last cup of coffee is on order.

Date Played: April 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Here at The Escape Roomer we absolutely love Edaqa’s Room. Just like many other people in the world have spent their lockdown making sourdough starters, or playing Wordle – we’ve been getting together regularly and diving into the wonderful world of Edaqa’s Room. Each time a new game is released, team The Escape Roomer made up of Mairi, Al, Ash and our friend Tasha get together to puzzle it out of a Sunday night. Playing the latest game, Office, was no exception!

If the name weren’t a giveaway, this time Edaqa’s Room has created an escape room throw back to office life. It’s been years since I’ve personally been in an office and I won’t be going back to one any time soon, so it was extra curious playing a digital puzzle game set in one where your sole goal is to make a cup of coffee. Like technology of bygone days, stepping foot into a virtual office felt like foreign territory. Equal parts nostalgic and curious “hey, what is this machine? a photocopier? what’s that?!”

In short, the perfect environment for an escape room. Here’s how we got on…

 

 

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy the Coffee!

Office by Edaqa’s Room takes place inside an office setting. As I’ve come to really enjoy about all of this company’s games, there’s a charming cartoon style of artwork that accompanies the point-and-click gameplay mechanic. Tap around the environment to poke, point and prod at the decor and in real-time you’ll see your other team members doing the same.

At first players spawn in front of their office desk, complete with pots of pens and pencils, your computer monitor, and very cryptic notes in front of you and on the pin-board. As you progress through the game you can explore other areas of your office and come up against other office-y quirks. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in this experience, just like 90s point-and-click video games (a comparison I’ve made more than once about Edaqa’s Room), you often find yourself clicking random things just for the amusement of seeing the reaction.

From it’s consistently fun graphics, to reliably upbeat humour, to simple story that doesn’t leave too much to the imagination… You always know what you’re getting with Edaqa’s Room an I absolutely love that! It was a well-deserved puzzlingly good evening after a long week, ironically, at work.

 

 

Puzzling Through the Office

But one of the things that really stood out to me about this game however was the puzzles. It’s not often our team of four take a full hour to complete a game but really – there was just so much to do and each puzzle was so challenging! Whilst you can solve the game solo, it’s a lot more fun in a team. Occasionally the game will require you checking between two disparate pieces of information which is where having a team comes into play.

Thankfully, no matter how big sized your team is, everyone is on the same page. Throughout the game pop ups will appear at the top of your screen letting you know what your team mates are up to.

“Alice has solved the post-it note puzzle” and “Tasha has added a cup to the inventory” and so on. Great for keeping on track, and eliminates the oh-so-common “hey has anyone solved this thing yet?” question.

One of my favourite puzzles I’ve ever played in an Edaqa’s Room game also occurred in Office, and I’m still grinning thinking about it as I write up this review days later. Amusing then that this was the puzzle I personally spent the longest on throughout the whole game, and it was eventually solved by Ash not me! This was the post-it note puzzle, and when you know, you’ll know!

 

 

The Verdict

I can’t compliment the creators enough, they’ve got a formula to make ‘good escape room games’ and they consistently nail it every single time. Above everything, what I loved about Office was how fun it was. Office is light-hearted, silly, humorous and… FUN! From a carnival, to your first day on the job, to a curious old lady, to a quest to make a cup of coffee… I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

I’d recommend this game for anybody reeling from spending too much time in their office, friends, family, or even co-workers will enjoy playing this together.

 

Office by Edaqa’s Room can be booked and played by heading to this link here.

Urban Missions: Bomb Disposal Lambeth | Review

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Bomb Disposal Lambeth Review | The Agency has got wind of a possible plot to detonate an explosive in central London. They have identified some suspects and need your help to interrogate them, find the criminal mastermind behind the plot and dismantle the bomb.

Completion Time: 1hr 30
Date Played: 16th April 2022
Party Size: 4 + a dog!
Location: Lambeth, Parliament
Difficulty: Easy

At this point I’ve done so many outdoor puzzle games in London, yet I still love them to bits. Most of us here at The Escape Roomer each have a particular sector in the puzzle game world they specialise in and for me, I cannot get enough of anything that gets me in my walking shoes and exploring quaint and curious alleyways around London. I mention it as this point I feel like I can quickly recognise a good outdoor puzzle game when I see one! For me, Urban Missions hooked me from the very first clue in the game, and I knew this was something special.

 

You have 45 minutes to defuse the bomb…

Eek! No pressure!

Bomb Disposal: Lambeth starts at the iconic Leake Street Arches – a place where artists from all over the UK come to celebrate street art, eat fantastic food, and take part in indie immersive festivals. This is the perfect place to start an exciting puzzle hunt like this, and a place I was equally surprised to learn my co-players (my parents, brother, and our family dog, Shovell) had never visited before. But we had no time to stop off and take in the sights, as we had a bomb threat to track down and (hopefully) defuse!

Once you meet at the start location, each of us had to text a number to join our team. From there, each member of the team received updates and texts as the game progressed meaning we were all on the same page at the same time. To begin with, the puzzles started slightly more deductive. Actually, the very first puzzle was one of my favourites I’ve ever experienced in an outdoor walking tour, as we were encouraged to retrace the steps of several suspects in order to identify any inconsistencies. Afterwards, the route took on slightly more of a traditional take, giving a series of cryptic clues that we had to follow to each new location. At each location, we had details to look for and hidden codes to decipher, as well as a number of video and audio segments to keep the story on track.

As a team, we all remarked that we found the game to be slightly on the easier side. That said, we still did rack up a fair few penalties at the end for incorrect answers and almost ran out of time. So I suppose, not that easy! The puzzles themselves weren’t too tricky – it’s the type of thing where you receive a clue and it doesn’t quite make sense until you turn a corner and easily spot what it’s referring to. We didn’t get lost at any time and didn’t trip up. That is until the final segment of the game. At the end, there’s a dramatic timer counting down and each incorrect answer knocks more time off it. This time it became less about the location and more about finding numerical codes, which was very exciting. Here the difficulty also ramped up, resulting in a fair few incorrect answers from us as that ever-present clock ticked down.

 

A Modern Whodunnit

In terms of the story, Bomb Disposal Lambeth was fun and full of tension. There is a bomber on the loose hell bent on destroying a particular London landmark and it’s up to you – the eyes and the ears on the ground – to track down the individual and stop them before they can hit the trigger button! The story is told via the texts, but most importantly through a series of video and audio messages, which was a nice touch. There are at least two characters to encounter and it was always fun to see a new video message pop through from one or the other.

It was a simple story, for sure, but why improve up on “there’s a bomb and you’ve gotta stop it”. It’s tried and tested and leaves nothing to the imagination, allowing us to take in the sights and enjoy ourselves with the puzzle rather than thinking about a complex plot.

 

 

Lambeth, Houses of Parliament… And Beyond!

Conveniently the start location for this game is very centrally located, just a stone’s throw from Waterloo and the River Thames. It’s also fully accessible for wheelchair or buggy users, as we never once encountered any steps. Similarly, since all locations are outdoors and even includes a few walks through green spaces, we found the trip to be dog friendly too. All important considerations when picking a walking trail in London!

One thing I would say when playing this game however is to use discretion. No, seriously. If you’re like our team- loud and enthusiastic- you’ll be walking around watching the video content and listening to the audio content on full volume. The theme of the game is defusing a bomb. Well, in Central London saying the word “bomb” out loud is a big no no and we got a lot of looks from police, especially when the route took us near Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. I’d recommend using a code word, like Ice Cream… Quick everyone, we’ve got to get to the ice cream before it melts. Works just as well especially on a sunny day, and you’ll get a lot fewer funny looks.

If you choose to meet for food before you start, I’d recommend wandering down Lower Marsh street for some food. In particular, Balance Cafe is a fantastic spot for salads, cakes, and absolutely gorgeous coffee. Vaulty Towers is another brilliant spot for a drink or a bite to eat, as you can hang out in the treehouse. Though Note: Hidden City’s Cheshire Cat also takes players to this location, so you’ll bump into more than a few other teams on the mobile phones playing a different game. If you prefer to eat afterward, the route ends near the Houses of Parliament. I know this area less, but I would say that there are some lovely sunny parks round there – so perhaps packing a picnic to share on Big Ben’s lawn in front of the river is the way to go. Apparently players can stop the game at any time and take a break, but we weren’t aware and didn’t utilise this feature.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, we enjoyed the game a lot! In particular, I loved how the route took us through some parts of London I’d never, ever been to before, and pushed me to notice details about my surroundings that I’d normally pass by without a second’s glance. It’s reasonably priced for London, and even better when you consider you’re going to get up to 2 hours worth of fun, wandering around this gorgeous city solving puzzles out of it. We played on a very sunny bank holiday weekend, clocked in a comfortable 12,000 steps, and at the end of the day after enjoying an ice cold drink and a slice of cake, I remarked that it has easily been one of the nicest days of 2022 so far.

If you’re looking for a reliably good outdoor puzzle trail, Urban Missions is a great choice. It might not be the most challenging for hardcore enthusiasts, but I guarantee there isn’t anything quite like it, nor on that particular route. Just don’t say anything about a bomb too loudly next to the local police, and you’ll be golden.

 

If you’d like to book Bomb Disposal: Lambeth for yourself, head to Urban Mission’s website here to get started.

Mission: Breakout: Underground 2099 | Review

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Underground 2099 Review | May 2027, the world was turned into a blazing hell. Nuclear weapons launched by our national leaders set all cities aflame in minutes. There were no winners, only losers. Humanity was plunged into chaos in which morality, solidarity and dignity burned. London 2099, 72 years have passed since the Great Fire; among the radioactive debris of this once-great city, rats have survived and transformed, trying to take the lead in this new disfigured world. Your mission is to thwart the plot of their leader, King Rat, hidden within the depths of the London Underground.

Date Played: 7th April 2022
Number of Player: 4
Time Taken: ~60 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium

How better to welcome a new player to The Escape Roomer team by taking on an escape room together!? No sooner than we brought the lovely Karen onboard, we all headed down to Mission: Breakout’s brand new room – Underground 2099. In this case, we were joined by two friends. On a previous visit Mairi had enviously noticed other players in the briefing room getting kitted out with very cool looking futuristic backpacks and neon green glasses, but other than that we weren’t sure what to expect.

So, without further adieu, here is Karen and Mairi to talk about the exciting new escape room, Underground 2099…

 

Team The Escape Roomer

 

Karen: If nothing else Mission: Breakout can certainly lay claim to having one of the quirkiest and most original locations for an escape room in London.   Based in an actual, real life, genuine, honest to god abandoned tube station, to play their games you must head into the underground bowels of the old South Kentish Town Station.  Trains only ran from this ghost station between 1907 and 1924 but there is still much of the old station’s infrastructure in place and built directly into their games.  Transport fans (I’m looking at Mairi here) will love it.  Those of a more claustrophobic nature might be a little less enthusiastic although I’m honestly not a lover of confined spaces and I didn’t find it a problem because it’s just so much darned fun.

 

Mairi: Yep! If anyone spotted in an earlier review for The Lost Passenger, you’ll know the thing I love the most about Mission: Breakout is the environment. An old disused train station? SIGN… ME… UP! It makes it the perfect location for an escape room like The Lost Passenger about descending into the bowels of an old train station in search of a missing person (and finding ghosts instead). But this new room, Underground 2099, has a completely different theme. It’s sci-fi with a little dash of time travel in it. But this isn’t your “mom and pop” time travel escape room, as the future that awaited us was dystopian and depressing. In other words, the dark vaulted caverns of the train station made it a perfect place to travel to.

 

Karen: Mission: Breakout’s other games definitely trade in on the historic setting – Lost Passenger tells the spooky story of a missing commuter doomed to wander the tunnels forever, while Codebreakers recalls the station’s use as an air raid shelter during World War 2.  Underground 2099 heads in totally the other direction.  To the future.  A future in which a nuclear winter has devastated most of the world and a time-travelling scientist needs help to stop a race of irradiated mega-sized mutant rats overrunning London through the tube network.  Imagine a nightmare version of ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh’.  It’s like that.  But with puzzles.

 

Photo (c) Mission: Breakout

 

Karen: Once the team have been kitted out with energy back packs which are needed to trigger the start of the game (no spoiler – your GM tells you this right from the start), it’s off to your time-travelling shuttle where, ensconced under what is obviously one of those 1960s old fashioned hair dryer hoods, your puzzling begins.  From the start the game is fairly linear with the team passing from one game space to another as puzzle solutions open doors, but in most cases there are enough elements to figure out that the team can split up to work on different puzzles simultaneously.  I say in most cases because there were a couple of points where a team member or two was left spinning their wheels while others worked on the main puzzle.  As a team of four that didn’t happen often enough to be a major annoyance, but a bigger group, especially of enthusiasts, might find it more of an issue.

 

Karen: Mission: Breakout’s use of the limited space amidst the existing tube station infrastructure is impressive.  This game takes place mostly in the old elevator shafts, with satisfyingly curvy walls, and although there are a couple of pinch points where a bigger team might find it a bit of a squeeze (or an opportunity to get to know each other better) for an underground bunker it’s surprisingly roomy and Mission:Breakout have even managed to build in some larger scale physical puzzling.

 

Mairi: I agree, in terms of space, Underground 2099 felt simultaneously a huge escape room and sometimes a very cramped space. This is due to the limitations of the physical space – taking place in the old engineering tunnels and lift shaft, the designers are limited by the physical space. But by contrast, there are a LOT of rooms to discover in this escape room. I counted at least 8 distinct and unique spaces in this whole experience. In some of those, we split up, but most of the time we were all together and with so much stuff to do we almost ran out of time!

 

 

Karen: Just as Mission Breakout blends old and new, history and future, into the themes of their games, they manage the same blend with their actual puzzles.  While some feature nicely modern tech which will satisfy the gamers and the lovers of little shiny lights (or is that just me?), others offer more old school, practical, hand built puzzles, including one particularly tactile game that I had never seen before and found particularly joyful to complete.

 

Mairi: Post-game, we all remarked as a team that there were several puzzles in this escape room that we’d never seen before. Between us, we’ve probably played in the region of 400 escape rooms, so that’s no small praise to say we encountered very unique puzzles. Otherwise the types of things players can expect to encounter include plenty of physical puzzles – be prepared to put your hand inside holes, pull levers, reattach mechanical equipment and operate big machinery. 

 

Karen: The varied puzzles offer tests of dexterity, memory, communication, teamwork (and miming ability!) with a few little jumps and a bit of theatricality thrown in for good measure.  The basic narrative, that you need to stop the mutant rats’ leader, King Rat, before he overruns London is simple enough to keep in mind throughout play and builds to a satisfyingly comic climax.

 

Mairi: The puzzles may have been slightly easier if not for an absolutely terrifying rat king that kept popping up when I least expected it. In escape rooms, I like to dawdle. This means I frequently found myself the last to leave a room, only to turn around to find a giant rat monster lurking out of the corner of my eye. Cue screaming. I assume if you don’t like scary rooms you could ask the hosts to tone any jump scares down. But honestly? I loved the host-I mean, the king rat interaction.

 

 

Mairi: Speaking of our host – a note on our games master Georgina, who was absolutely fantastic by the way. From the first briefing to the last, she ran our room brilliantly. I always love it when a games master really cares about you and your team, and Georgina was super knowledgeable about the room, our team, and the specific ways we solved each puzzle (even if some of them were slightly bizarre, haha!). It’s only my second time at the site, but I just got such a really nice feel from all the people from all the people at the venue both times.

 

The Verdict

Mairi: Mission: Breakout is very quickly going down in my personal hall of fame of “escape rooms you must visit if you’re in London” and Underground 2099 is another fantastically quirky and fun adventure in their catalogue. It’s well worth checking out for the physical location alone. At the risk of sounding like The Escape Roomer resident train enthusiast (a moniker I’ll wear proudly), I love the architecture and heck, there aren’t many places in London you can go and experience a period building so beautifully integrated into an escape room. If the company’s earlier rooms erred on the side of ‘slightly too easy for enthusiasts’, I’d implore those same enthusiasts to come back and try Underground 2099. The designers have levelled up the difficulty comfortably and players will get well over an hour’s worth of challenging puzzles and creative brilliance. Whats more, the team themselves are a thoroughly wonderful bunch of people, so make sure you set aside extra time to have a chat with your Games Master in the briefing room afterwards.

 

Karen: I’m totally with Mairi on this one.  If I’m honest my previous experience with Mission: Breakout’s ‘Lost Passenger’ game wasn’t as positive as Mairi’s had been.  It was just one of those games that left me frustrated.  So I went into Underground 2099 with lower expectations.   But boy were those expectations exceeded.  It was such fun from start to finish.  Venue, theming, puzzle build, puzzle quantity and complexity, GM engagement were all right on the money.  Definitely a fab addition to London’s ‘must play’ games.  Wonder if they can squeeze in one more game down there?

 

Underground 2099 can be booked by heading to Mission: Breakout’s website here.

 

Post-Script: As with many rooms it is likely this one will be tweaked further before the creators settle on the perfect flow that’ll suit every team. Whilst we had a fantastic time, it’s possible the experience may change slightly. For a comparison, please do check out GATAPAE’s review here. who played a week after we did.

Enigma Fellowship: The Magical Tale | Review

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The Magical Tale Review | Once upon a time in the magical land of Nirgendheim, hidden amongst the wonders of our world, lived Baron Theodore Puffington the Third. A majestic young dragon of just slightly over 300 years old. In a sad twist of fate, Baron Puffington’s tail has disappeared. An untamed dragon’s tale can release chaotic magic across all of Nirgendheim and hurt the folk of this realm. To save Nirgendheim and recover his tail, Baron Puffington cast an ancient spell to find him a champion that can help discover where his tail now lays. A beautiful book appears on your doorstep, reading like a fairy tale and taking you on an enigmatic adventure guided by Baron Puffington himself. Are you the champion of this tale?

Date Played: 26th March 2022
Time Taken: 50 Minutes
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Easy
Recommended For: Kids

Enigma Fellowship’s The Magical Tale is, in my opinion, a game for kids. I say ‘in my opinion‘ as the website is unclear and doesn’t specifically say who the game is for. There’s no age recommendation but given the themes (a little dragon who loses his tail going on an adventure) and the generally easier and more tactile puzzles, it’ll probably appeal the most to those 10 and under. For sure, I can definitely picture puzzlers of all ages enjoying this but to me, it’s best played with little children – perhaps as a family together at bed time in lieu of a bed time story.

As such it’s always a little harder to review something when I’m not the target audience, so I’ll approach this review from a few angles: Did I enjoy it? Would a kid enjoy it? Was it challenging? Would I recommend it? Kinda, Sure, Sometimes, Yes.

 

 

Meet Baron Theodore von Puffington the Third

The Magical Tale is a saccharine sweet tale of a young (only 300 years) purple dragon called Baron Theodore von Puffington the Third. Theo, as his friends call him, is in training to be a Draco Magus, a grant protector of the magical realm. One day he decides to go to the spa, a magical place where he can soak away in the warm mud. Before he can enter the spa, he must remove his tail- for some reason this detail made my stomach churn even though it’s fairly innocent- but when he emerges from the spa his naughty tail has flown away off the cause mischief.

This sets up the story for a whirlwind adventure where you, the player, travels across the land, meeting with the weird and wonderful magicians, solving puzzles, and rescuing Theo’s tail. There are eight chapters in the story and eight puzzles to be solved at the end of each chapter. The general format is that our dragon hero Theo encounters somebody in trouble – a broken bridge, overgrown reeds, and so on. It becomes apparent that the naughty tail has been causing havoc. Oh dear! Each chapter has you solve one puzzle that is contained within a little envelope at the end of each. The answer for which is a spell. Luckily for you there’s a handy spell checker at the start of the book where you can check you’ve got your spell correct and what the result of the spell was. If correct, you may proceed!

The thing I enjoyed most about The Magical Tale was exactly this – the style of gameplay. In particular, how the whole game was offline. It was an ingenious method of checking my answers were correct and moving on. There’s nothing immersion breaking like needing to put a book down and go look online for an answer, and the Enigma Fellowship team have absolutely nailed this here. On that train of thought, it was also a lot of fun speaking the spells out loud- okay okay there’s no requirement to cast them out loud, but if I figure out a spell you bet I’m going to loudly shout it. Just in case magic is real.

 

 

A Fun Family Game from Enigma Fellowship

If you are a child between the ages of say, 6 – 11 you’re probably going to love this book. It’s simple language, a straightforward and uncomplex story, has bright colours and illustrations, and accessible puzzles that largely centre around using your fingers. If you’re an escape room enthusiast, this probably won’t be for you. Unless you’re really into dragons, fairytales, or cool collectable puzzle games bound in wood. Or maybe I’m just too old and cynical to be charmed by dragons and fairytales anymore…

*sobbing into a big glass of merlot over my lost childhood*

That said, if you know a kid around the right age who loves dragons… This is your way to introduce them to the wonderful world of puzzle solving.

Each of the puzzles in this game is very accessible to kids. Kids love tactile puzzles. There was plenty of folding, and sliding tokens around boards, and even a really fun ‘weaving’ puzzle which reminded me of games I used to play in the playground with friends (does anyone remember scoubidou strings?). The creators have pitched the puzzles at the perfect level, and whilst even I struggled once or twice to get going on a puzzle or two, it was usually fairly intuitive to get going and spot the hidden spells in the puzzles.

 

 

Did I mention it’s handmade wood-bound?

Another really lovely thing about this book is that it’s been lovingly hand made and bound in wood. This probably is some of the reason why the game comes in at a comparatively high price point – around £52 GBP. It’s clear a lot of attention and care has gone into making this, and it’s even got a lovely fabric edge and is tied up neatly with a little white ribbon.

When I was a kid I ended up over-reading my favourite books until each of them were completely destroyed, absolutely covered in cellotape and hanging off with no spines. I do not believe this book would have held up against my destructive childhood self, so it’s a consideration if you do give this as a gift. Maybe it’s one to keep up on the top shelf and play with with supervision.

Furthermore, the game is packed with illustrations. The dragon himself is illustrated by Mim Gibbs Creates, who is the partner of our good friend Armchair Escapist. It’s so cool to see enthusiasts and creators working together to make awesome games. The other illustrations appear to be stock imagery of fantasy worlds in a water-colour style.

 

 

The Verdict

Ok, so I’ll get straight to the point. Did I enjoy this? Honestly not really. But that’s okay because it really wasn’t for me. I am old and cynical and was never that interested in fairytales when I was little. But what I can say is that I can totally appreciate how great of a game this would be for it’s actual target audience – young children, families, and dragon enthusiasts. It’s got a charming, Disney-esque story of a fantasy world and a string of enjoyable puzzles supporting the game. Any game or book that gets the next generation into puzzle games is a double thumbs up from me.

It’s clear that all the creators have put a lot of love and effort into the game and it’s sure to make a great gift for young puzzlers across the world. So if there’s a young person in your life with a birthday upcoming, you should definitely consider this book.

 

The Magical Tale can be purchased from Enigma Fellowship’s website here.