Enigmailed: Chocolateral Bars | Review

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A puzzle-wrapped chocolate bar through the post every month? An idyllic village, ravaged with nefarious mysteries? The chance to vote for future flavours and storylines?

It’s a world’s first, people!

Have you ever been sitting there, eating a bar of chocolate, wishing that your experience was a bit more puzzley? Are you like me and want to include puzzles into all aspects of your life… Especially chocolate consumption? Are you slightly more normal and just want to get a cool gift for that puzzle person in your life? Enigmailed have the answer to all these questions.

Okay so those examples are a little extreme, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that British company Enigmailed have been hard at work these past months creating several new experiences, including my very favourite of which: Chocolateral Bars. Put simply, chocolate bars which contain brilliant little puzzles on the packaging!

At the moment, they have the following chocolate bars on offer:

 

 

Both chocolate bars have a mystery to solve – a kind of murder mystery come detective drama. Your job in both is to read the clues and discover a WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW the curious crime was committed. As one of my friends pointed out when I gifted them a bar, “I’m not sure eating chocolate called Fatal Experimint is a good idea”, but I can guarantee, several bars of chocolate later, that they are not poisonous. Just creatively named!

Neither mystery is going to take you any longer than the amount of time it takes to eat the chocolate bar, that’s for sure. But I think that’s part of the beauty of it, making this a fantastic gift for just about anyone in your life – puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike. It’s like playing a sudoku in the morning paper over your cuppa.

 

The Verdict

Honeycomb Sting

Flavour: Honeycomb Milk
Completion Time: 10 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

Both taste and puzzle-wise, Honeycomb Sting was my favourite of the two, but that’s mostly personal preferences as I don’t really like mint all that much. In Honeycomb Sting, you’re introduced to the setting of a palace with a world famous beehive kept on the grounds – but wait, somebody has been stealing all the honey! Eek!

Thankfully, the culprit has left behind clues on the chocolate wrapper. From lightly highlighted letters to curious strings of digits, each separate puzzle points towards a different piece of information, such as the identify of the thief, or where they’ve hidden the honey.

The only question remains whether you’ll catch them before you finish the bar!

 

 

Fatal Experimint

Flavour: Mint Dark
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

The harder of the two, Fatal Experimint adds a little extra tension to the game – Dr. Spears, the dentist has been poisoned! But if you can successfully solve the game, you’ll be able to find an antidote to save his life. In this mini mystery, you’re looking to make an arrest, and fast!

The puzzles differ a lot between the two experiences, with Fatal Experimint utilising more numerical puzzles, and a couple of well known beloved ciphers with an Enigmailed twist. Since I played (and ate) this one second, the chocolate might be getting to my head and making it seem tricker, but I’d definitely rate this one as the more challenging of the two.

 

Excalibar’s Sword

Flavour: Eton Mess
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 19th September 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, a priceless artefact believed to be the Sword in the Stone has been stolen! Once again it’s your job to figure out who thief is, why it was stolen, where it was last seen and what it is being disguised as. As with the other chocolate bars, there’s also a (very tricky) bonus puzzle, for those who want to go the extra mile: How many millions the sword is insured for!

By the time you’ve played the first two, you’ll get the gist of it by now – all over the packaging many small puzzles are hidden. In Excalibar’s Sword you’ll be looking for any letters that seem out of place, ciphers, and hints in plain sight… Among other things!

Of all the flavours (so far) Eton Mess absolutely has to be my favourite. I’m a huge fan of white chocolate and strawberry, so it’s a double thumbs up from me!

 

Toffear Apple

Flavour: Toffee Apple Milk Chocolate
Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 30th October 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, there’s mischief afoot at the Longstocking Orchard. Apple wielding ghosts? Or perhaps just a Halloween prank! It’s the player’s role to find out who is disguising themselves as a ghost, how they’re evading security, what their motive is and where they are hiding out.

As a Halloween special, it’s delightful! Of course, Toffear Apple is part of the Chocolateral subscription, but as someone who likes to give Halloween gifts this makes it the perfect treat to give out to guests and adult trick or treaters.

But of course, as with all Chocolateral bars, the puzzles are not particularly easy. No sir. I’m very well acquainted with Enigmailed’s hints page by now. But, since you’re always looking for a word (or a few words), players can expect a bounty of exactly that: word based puzzles! In Toffear Apple in particular I enjoyed turning of the bar over and over on the look out for ghosts, apples, and making the words out of the peculiar things on the paper. Spooky fun, and just what I needed to kick off a Halloween celebration!

 

 

Seasons Eatings

Flavour: Chilli Dark Chocolate
Completion time: approx 30 mins
Date Played: 21st November 2021
Party Size: 2

In this edition of Chocolateral, we’re getting festive! But don’t expect tidings of comfort and joy…at least not straight away. There is something afoot, as someone has snatched all of the snacks which had been left out for Santa and his helpers! As usual, it is up to you to peruse the clues hidden in the packaging to solve the seasonal mystery, and there is plenty to sink your teeth into (geddit?!). Yes, not only have you got to figure out who left their footprints in the snow, when they struck, what they’re doing with their bounty of festive treats and how they managed to evade being caught- you’ve also got the chance to go the extra mile (all the way to the north pole maybe?) to figure out which popstar paid for them in the first place!

Picture this: a chilly but clear Sunday afternoon in the lead up to Christmas, eating delicious chocolate, sipping on festive spiced punch and solving puzzles! What better way to get cosy and in the spirit for the next month’s worth of festivities (oh yes, we looove Christmas!). We really enjoyed the level of detail Enigmailed have gone into- the classic Christmassy red, green and white colour scheme; the seasonal imagery of crackers, santas and presents; and the puns- oh how we enjoy a good pun at the best of times, let alone when Christmas is involved. The puzzles are cleverly interspersed into the packaging as usual, which if you’ve played before you will have come to be quite familiar with. We found some of the puzzles quite quick to solve and others took a bit more thought, which we thought would make this a great little activity to do over Christmastime with the whole family- there’s enough to go around in terms of both puzzles and of course CHOCOLATE (if you don’t mind sharing!)

The chilli dark chocolate flavour of the chocolate was lovely; the chilli wasn’t overpowering but provided a nice warming which felt perfect for a Christmassy bar. And we loved the fact that as a dark chocolate bar this month, it is suitable for vegans, so everyone can get on the chocolatey puzzle solving bandwagon, just in time for Christmas! Seasons Eatings was a perfect festive puzzley treat for the lead up to the big day itself!

 

 

Valentine Brawl

Flavour: Plain Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 6th February 2022
Party Size: 2

What’s the classic Valentine’s Day gift? Chocolate! But, what’s the perfect VDay gift for your escape enthusiast Valentine? Puzzle Chocolate! In this edition of Chocolateral, trouble is afoot at the village Jewellers, Emerald Aisle (yes, we loved that pun) as someone has robbed all their rings, depriving many happy couples of their VDay engagement plans!

While nibbling on our non-engagement related chocolatey Valentine’s treat, we had to figure out the classic W’s- Who, What, Where and Why, oh why, were the rings targeted?! Each time we play we are amazed by Enigmailed’s ability to squeeze in new and different types of puzzle into such a small space and following a consistent format. We enjoyed the variety of puzzles offered and found that each of us had ones that just seemed to click with us instantly. The matter of Why did stump us for a while and we decided to go for a quick look at their handy hint page to help us out with this one and work the puzzle backwards, but we got there in the end! We were also very pleased with ourselves as we also managed to solve the bonus puzzle to find out the name of the owner of the jewellers.

With Valentine Brawl, as with all the Chocolateral bars, we love the feeling that the chocolate is a reward for doing a good job puzzling and, of course, puns-a-plenty is always a bonus to enhance the puzzle solving fun further!

Whether you’re cupid reincarnate, or not so much of a fan of the mushy lovey dovey stuff, Valentine Brawl is a fun option to celebrate or take your mind off the season of love!

 

Simply the Zest!

Flavour: White Chocolate Lemon Meringue 
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 12th April 2022
Party Size: 2

Dun, dun, dun! There’s been a murder, but who dunnit?! It’s the classic soap, a mysterious murder, a woman found dead in her high-rise apartment, the suspicious roast dinner… Hold on, a roast dinner!? We are glad that this did not feature in the chocolate bar flavouring.

Our of all of the bars in this subscription, this one was the most ‘story based’ of the Chocolateral series we have played so far, asking you to find out who has committed the crime, as well as tasking you with identifying those pesky red herrings (ahh yes, enthusiasts will recognise the struggles of red herrings as well!)

We got stuck into this bar quickly (the puzzles we mean…of course…) and found ourselves with 4 of the 5 puzzles solved relatively quickly. They were all logical and had strong sign-posting, something which always impresses us as Enigmailed managed to squeeze this so much onto such a small chocolate bar wrapper! 

The final, trickier puzzles left us scratching our heads though. We could not figure out the WHEN of our murder mystery. In this case, finding out the ‘when’ was the the bonus puzzle of this chocolate bar, so the answer is not on the website. So, dear readers, if anyone knows the WHEN – please do get in touch and let us know! We promise we will pay you in chocolate (if there is any left…) 

All in all, another great entry into the Chocolateral series, and we cannot wait to see what fantastical flavours and puzzles the creator dreams up next.

 

 

Fool’s Errand

Flavour: Banoffee Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 4th April 2022
Party Size: 2

So, we definitely should have played this on April Fool’s Day – we missed a trick there! But alas, we sat down to see whether we would be made fools of, or whether we could work out who was clowning around trying to set up poor Uncle Fumble? We are currently playing the month-long puzzle offered by Enigmailed – also named “Fool’s Errand” – so it was felt apt to tackle this game to check our puzzling skills were ready to challenge the enigmatic “Leaderboard”! Also, after playing one of the more recent games, we realised we could have used our chocolate bar to complete one of the challenges…double Fool’s Errand (can we have a shout out on the leader board if we manage to link the puzzles?!)

We found this bar one of the more challenging ones. We couldn’t seem to click with the puzzles in the same way as some of the others. However, we think this may be a good way to showcase how different each of the bars manage to be. Some we find we can solve in ten minutes, others we keep coming back to over a series of days to see if we can finally get that a-ha moment (and steal a piece of chocolate as a reward hehe). In this way, you can savour the puzzles in the same way you can savour the chocolate (well, if you want to…).  There was one stand out puzzle on this bar though that we did click with (after the hype around a particular word based game which we play religiously every day) – it must be all that practice. It was a really clever way of translating the puzzle concept onto paper, and we appreciated the effort that had been made to showcase a new puzzle type. 

If you’ve not checked out the month long puzzle that Enigmailed are running, definitely pop onto their website! It’s a great way to get your puzzling in, whilst providing that competitive edge so many of us puzzlers enjoy. You can find lots of fun challenges, and plenty of ways to work up an appetite (although who needs to work up anything to eat a delicious banoffee flavoured treat – banana, toffee, chocolate…it’s a dream combo!).

 

 

Crime Caramel

Flavour: Creme Caramel Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 7th May 2022
Party Size: 2

Uh oh! There’s been a robbery! Lizzy (very aptly named) has had her most fabulous lizards stolen, and it is up to you to find out the WHO, the WHEN, and the WHY. Oh, and to add to the mix, one of the lizards suffers from a skin condition, and you need to figure out which one so you can get the lotion to them ASAP (an excellent way of adding a bit of pressure). We went for a pic of our lovely pet here (any excuse to put in a pic of Tilly – she was not helpful in solving Lizzy’s predicament)

As we play more of Engimailed’s wonderful Chocolateral series, we are beginning to learn a bit about the different puzzling styles featured on the bars. We are getting better at seeing patterns, and playing these games regularly is definitely helping to give our puzzling skills ticking over. However, that definitely does not mean that we are now finding these easy – there was one puzzle in particular on this game that we found especially challenging – and brought a wonderful A-HA moment when we finally solved it. We clicked with this bar better than the previous one and managed to get through all the puzzles without looking for a hint (although, when we did go to check the answers, we got stumped trying to find those (wink wink!)). 

We were stoked to also manage to solve the extra challenge of finding out HOW MANY lizards were taken. It would be creme-inal not to mention the excellent pun use in this bar. We are so here for some fun word-play and always enjoy Enigmailed’s humorous blurbs and storylines. 

We shared this chocolate bar with Ash’s mum to spread the love (and also because we had recently ordered a huge amount of reduced Easter chocolate oops). We’ve had some excellent feedback from her on the taste “very creamy, very caramel, perfect for a sweet tooth” so I think we may have another Enigmailed fan on our hands! These bars would certainly make such a good gift for anyone you know who likes chocolate (and who doesn’t?!), and enjoys a bit of puzzling. 

 

Tilly Enjoying Crime Caramel Chocolateral

 

About the Chocolate

The chocolate manufacturer is Kernow Chocolate, created and hand-packed in Cornwall, UK. If you need any evidence of all the love and care gone into creating this chocolate, just look at the list of ingredients! I’ve never seen a shorter ingredient list in my life – it’s all totally natural, not a chemical in sight.

Even without the puzzles, I already find myself browsing the manufacturer’s website to see what else they sell. It was that tasty, and I feel great about supporting a local UK business.

 

 

You can purchase a Chocolateral Bar over on Enigmailed’s website here, and also use the promocode MAIL10 for 10% off an order of Undeliverable!

 

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.

Exitus: Tenovus Virus Tinkerers | Review

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Tenovus Virus Tinkerers Review | Do you have what it takes to be a Virus Tinkerer? Welcome to the Tenovus Cancer Care Research Labs. Dr Alan Parker has been conducting ground-breaking research in the field of fighting cancer. He’s managed to change the DNA of specific viruses and train them to attack cancer cells instead of healthy cells. Dr Parker is away at a conference. You arrive in the lab and realise the electricity had failed in the cleanroom and the backup battery, which powers the incubator has been running all weekend. It now has just 60 minutes of energy left, if it runs out of fuel the retrained viruses will deteriorate and fail. It’s down to you to gain access to the cleanroom and change the backup battery to the incubator before Dr Parker returns from the conference.

Completion Time: 54 minutes
Date Played: 30th December 2018
Party Size: 5
Difficulty: Easy

Having completed most of the rooms in Cardiff by this point (barring those companies we refuse to return to), we were very excited to see a new company open, perfectly situated on the high street nearby 2/3 other companies.

As an independent company, rather than a franchise, we knew it could be hit and miss. However, I want to say now that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had, and extremely well done. You can really see the owners’ passion in the design of the room, as well as their customer service and the whole experience. This has shot to the top of my list of the best rooms in Cardiff, and at the time was in my Top 10 of all-time experiences.

 

 

The set

I believe the company have essentially rented a large, open space, and then built all the rooms by hand. Their handiwork is very impressive, and we wouldn’t have realised if we hadn’t been told!

For the set, they’ve worked with the room rather than against it. The theme of the room is a deadly virus (sound familiar?), but rather than lots of zombie tropes they instead created this from a science perspective. Given the room was designed (and played) before the pandemic, it seems the company are psychic! The set perfectly fits with the theme, and is excellently done. It isn’t crammed with lots of furniture or objects, and feels very clean and sleek. However, there are enough ‘props’ for it to feel realistic, and act as red herrings without being too frustrating. In a way, it felt like a snowflake – simple at first glance, but complex and beautiful when you look closer.

The game

The room is not at all what you expect when you first enter, but for such a small space there is a lot to get you started. Admittedly one of the first puzzles was quite frustrating (technological issues), but once we were through the game really opens up. It is non-linear for the most part, and I believe there were different orders and methods for solving puzzles (which is extremely clever!). The hint system is a screen (YAY!), so it blends in unless you need it.

The puzzles themselves fit the theme perfectly and were an ideal level of variety and difficulty. We were a team of 5 experienced players, and we had a great time. However, I also think a team of new players would do just as well – there were no leaps of logic required, and the signposting through the room was very well done.

The only part of this game I disliked was the end. The goal of the room is to prevent the outbreak of a plague, so rather than ‘escaping’ you end by releasing the (hopeful) cure. I understand why it was done this way, but I always find these rooms can fall a little flat. That being said, what the ending lacked in drama it was made up for by the staff’s enthusiasm…

Outside the room

The staff were amazing. We had a really lovely chat with them prior to doing the room, where we were able to geek out about rooms we’d all done and how we found them. They were so welcoming and interested in what we were saying that we felt right at home. After the room we were able to discuss how we found it, things they’d noticed about how we played (and that they’d enjoyed seeing), and recommendations we had (very few). It was great to see they were genuinely invested in their room, and making sure their customers had a good time. It was refreshing to not feel pressured to get in and get out, and instead have the space to relax and take our time.

The ‘waiting room’ is a really nice touch too – lovely big sofas, food and drink and a really great atmosphere. I believe they have since added board games too, which I think is a nice touch.

Accessibility

Unfortunately, the room is situated up a flight of stairs with no lift, although the room itself is flat. There was nowhere in the room to sit down, but I’m sure they would be able to accommodate if required. The room itself was fairly spacious and felt pretty airy.

There is a color puzzle in the room, and a slow flashing light (the ‘plague alarm’ – like a slow siren). However, it’s not particularly bright and very easy to ignore.

Was it worth the money?

At only £12 a person for a group of 5, this far exceeded expectations. I believe the price is now £25pp, and I maintain that’s still a great price for such a fantastic experience, especially when you consider the customer service and overall vibe.

Honestly, this is so worth the visit if you’re in Cardiff. It is simple, and the theming may not be as amazing as some other companies in the same area, but it is the most enjoyable experience I’ve had.

TL; DR

Pros – Customer service, puzzles

Cons – Set design was pretty simple

Virus Tinkerers can be booked at Exitus Escape Rooms 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.

The Altas Mystery (VR) | Review

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The Atlas Mystery Review | Explore the haunted halls of the infamous Atlas Theater, a 1940’s era movie palace that played host to a shocking Hollywood tragedy. Solve intricate puzzles, discover startling artifacts, and evade sinister forces to uncover the twisted truth behind the theater’s dark history.

Developer: Top Right Corner
Date Played: April 2022
Console: Oculus Quest 2
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 3 hours

The Atlas Mystery… Just, wow!

This is one of those games that I’ve been aware of for a long time. As frequent readers might know, I’m a game developer in my day job so I spend time on (read as: doom-scroll) “game dev twitter” a lot. Given the overlap with “escape room twitter” it wasn’t long before I spotted The Atlas Mystery. Let’s just say it ticks a lot of boxes for me. Virtual reality, 1940s noire, an old abandoned movie theatre, a grisly murder… And ghosts?! Ugh, a thousand times yes please!

 

 

The Atlas Mystery is a classic escape room game in every sense of the word. Whereas other ‘escape room VR games’ do things in virtual reality that simply would not be possible in real life, The Atlas Mystery takes another approach: it pushes the players to do exactly things they would do in real life, but in a virtual setting. Funnily enough, this style of gameplay was oddly refreshing. I found myself pushed to gently twisting dials with a shaky hand, holding up film negatives to the light, unplugging and rewiring complex panels, and even using a handheld shovel to scoop freshly popped popcorn into a cup. Yes, really!

 

Alone in the Atlas Theatre…

I’ve played many real life escape rooms that don’t even come close to the spooky atmosphere that The Atlas Mystery creates. It’s a vast space, and no matter how much you squint there are certain dark corners that remain eerily shrouded in shadow. In particular, near the start of the game I found myself standing behind a counter faded with a completely dark, unknown space beyond the barrier. Having replayed the game a few times now, I’m sure there’s nothing out there in the dark – but there’s no other feeling quite like it standing there, convinced shadows of bad omens are just inches away if only you reach your fingertips out into the dark.

*shudders*

In particular, I loved being about to run around such a huge space uninhibited. Okay, okay, spooky shadows aside, this video game truly felt like you had an enormous space to play around with. A whole lobby area, plenty of side rooms, a lift taking you to other floors with winding corridors, and film rooms a-plenty. The best part? None of this space felt dead in any way whatsoever. Even the long stretches of corridor felt well placed to build up nerves to a state of heightened tension. Then, at the end, each new room was packed with exciting puzzles and objects to interact with.

 

 

Is that a gun?!

One of the absolute best reasons to play The Atlas Mystery however has a clue in it’s name.

Yes, that’s right… The ATLAS!

No, no, I’m kidding. The MYSTERY.

This game has a really well-thought out storyline in it that, whilst I glazed over at the start, I found myself retracing my steps to pick up every little scrap of paper I found to piece together the story in my head. It’s an eerie sort of murder mystery, and I won’t go into spoilers, but I will say it’s well worth the read. There’s been a terrible and grisly Hollywood tragedy, will you be able to figure it out?

 

 

Crack the Codes, Unlock the Doors

In terms of difficulty, I personally found The Atlas Mystery definitely to be on the hard side. I believe a well-seasoned escapist may solve this in around an hour, but I took well over 3 hours over a couple of days. I found the game so difficult in fact there were a few moments I thought I might put the headset down and call it quits. But no sooner than I’d wake up the next morning, I’d already find myself itching to return to those eerie, empty halls of the film theatre in search of a clue I may have missed.

Some of that ‘difficulty’ comes down to the controls however, which is an issue hard to overcome in virtual reality. On more than one occasion I’d have the correct tool but be unable to ‘place’ it carefully enough that the result would trigger. A good example of this are the keys, and there’s a fair few keys in this game. Encountering these hiccups, I’d assume I’d got the puzzle incorrect, and move on trying many more things before returning to try again. With many interactable objects in this game there’s a certain “sweet spot” to touching them that I found very easy to miss. Despite that, I congratulate the development team on their originality in this space. VR is not an easy medium to create a game in (take it from me, I’ve worked on plenty!) and their commitment to making each object feel real within your hand is fantastic.

Besides, once you get the hang of the little movement quirks in the game, it’s easy enough to pick up.

As a final note on control and movement, since you can move around either by teleportation or with the joystick, I’d probably also put this at the “medium” risk of motion sickness. Remember – teleportation is often a lot more comfortable for new VR users, so if you plan on spending a long time in The Atlas Mystery, it’s best use the teleportation function!

 

The Verdict

For a while, I wasn’t sure where The Atlas Mystery’s dice would fall for this review. It was a slow burning game that took a while to get me hooked on it, but once it did I kept coming back for more. The puzzles were challenging, but immensely satisfying once you finally figure them out and by the end of the game… Could it be… I actually wanted more?! A lot more! More floors, more environments, more story, and most of all more puzzles.

I would say it’s not a perfect game. But I think the developers still did an exemplary job creating a fun and lengthy escape room that felt full of- well, life is the wrong word, but full of unease. I enjoyed spending time in The Atlas Mystery and I definitely think it would appeal to the average escape room enthusiast. With a lack of really good VR escape room games out there, The Atlas Mystery will fit well into the existing catalogue and will be sure to be a cult favourite among enthusiasts.

 

 

The Atlas Mystery can be played on Oculus, and Steam VR. To chose your platform, head to their website here.

The Secret City: Murder on the Don | Review

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The Secret City: Murder on the Don | A local resident has been found dead after playing a mysterious game. The only way to catch the killer? Joining the next round. Solve cryptic and sinister tasks as you work with Sherlock Holmes to try to figure out the identity of the game’s murderous creator. Fail, and you might be their next victim.

This outdoor escape game offers an engaging new way to experience Sheffield. Explore the historic city, its pubs, statues and street art, as winding clues lead you to the heart of a deadly mystery. Will you be able to catch the killer, or will you be forced to survive by other, less heroic means… 

Completion Time: 1 hour 42 minutes (plus a couple breaks as recommended by Sherlock)
Date Played: 17th April 2022
Party Size: 3 + a bulldog!
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Difficulty: Medium

We struck gold with the BEST weather we could ask for to take on The Secret City’s ‘Murder on the Don’ outdoor experience. It was also the vegan market in the centre of Sheffield, so it was a double win-win for us to be out and about exploring the city! 

Prior to heading down to town, Ash received clear instructions from the Secret City team instructing us how we would access the game and what to expect. We’ve never used the Telegram app before, and we were really impressed with how well it functioned! It helped boost the immersion with ‘real-time’ messages and clues that progressed alongside the storyline, helping to give the experience, that ‘buzz’ of adrenaline that can be sometimes hard to capture outside of a physical room. 

The game began at Devonshire Green. We were called upon by our friend, Sherlock Holmes, to assist him with a recent murder case. From there, we were thrust into a race against time to play along with the mysterious ‘murder game’ that had been involved with some recent homicide cases (just some light-hearted Easter fun!!! It was a bit more time-pressured than your average Easter hunt).

Initially, I must admit that we were all very sceptical of Sherlock’s role – could we trust our favourite detective?! 

 

So far managing to stay ahead of Sherlock….

 

One Sunny Day in Sheffield

The puzzles were great. We were looking at our city through new eyes! It was a combination of following directions (which were often given to you in riddles), noticing things around the area and then applying these to a ‘puzzle’ to work out a solution that was input into the Telegram app. It was really handy that we were given the total number of tasks at the start, so we could easily see our progress, and how much we still had to complete (side note, the bulldog managed about 18 of the 23 tasks – Maggie was a 10/10 companion, although she did mean we took way longer as everyone understandably wanted to give her fuss and attention).

The game itself had in-built breaks which were very welcome, and recommended local businesses nearby to try out – very much a win-win!

 

Taking a much needed pit stop at one of the great bars recommended to us!

 

We should caveat our commentary on this game with the fact that all three players are very familiar with the city of Sheffield (although despite living here all her life Tasha can still get lost hehe). However, we managed to visit places we had never been before, which was amazing! The scope of this game was great, it took us all throughout the city, visiting the classic spots such as the cathedral, the Riverside, the steel works at Kelham Island before finishing at the beautiful Victoria Quays!

For people who are new to the city, or those that are steel-city legends themselves, this is definitely one to play. 

 

Tasha seeing our city in a whole new light!

 

The Verdict

The ending was delivered well – it was dramatic and provided a satisfactory finale to our playthrough. A nice touch was the list of recommendations for nearby pubs etc that the game gave us (big shout out again for this, what a good feature!).

We will definitely be keen to check out the other games on offer by The Secret City. What a fab activity for the upcoming summer months and such a brilliant way to discover somewhere new or get a new perspective of a well-loved city!

 

Murder on the Don can be booked for Sheffield by heading to Secret City’s website here.

If you wish to play at another location, a similar story is also available in New York and Sydney.

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.

Escape Reality Edinburgh: Machina | Review

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Machina Review | A team of high-tech scientists and programmers have assembled to perform ground breaking experiments in developing the first instance of true artificial intelligence known to man. You have just been accepted onto the team of scientists and have arrived at their headquarters. After a few days you realise that scientists are suddenly leaving and that these robots are showing scarily human-like emotions. You decide that you need to leave as quickly as possible as something peculiar is happening, but all of the doors have been locked trapping you and the rest of the team inside. Can you all escape before you reluctantly become a part of the experiment?

 

Date Played: 20th March 2022
Time Taken: 48 Minutes 39 Seconds
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: Mathematics Enthusiasts

 

Located at the start of the Union Canal in Edinburgh, the location of Escape Reality Edinburgh is perfect for a sunny Sunday. We took a calming stroll along the water, preparing ourselves for one of the more difficult rooms on offer, Machina.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by hands down the most enthusiastic Games Master I’ve ever met, DJ. His passion for escape rooms shone through, and we were impressed by his storytelling and brief explanation of the rules for our group of more experienced escape room players.

The room was very dark, and we were provided with two torches. The darkness did slow us down at points as we waited for a torch to be free, but it was a successful in increasing the sense of time sensitivity in the room as we yelled for light. The room has recently received a lick of paint with some new features added, so it felt up to date and well maintained.

 

Wake up!

I’m not sure whether our walk was too relaxing, because we were very slow off the mark to begin with. We tried to solve the first combination locks as a team, which was likely our downfall as the design of the room has changed recently to allow players to separate and solve multiple puzzles at once rather than a previous linear approach. This is a great move, and as soon as we split up, the padlocks started opening and we found our groove.

This isn’t to say we weren’t initially frustrated, and in sheer desperation we accidently took apart a prop which we thought we had justification for but it turns out we became the dreaded escape room vandals who left a trail of destruction in their path. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been superglued together by now…

 

 

Do you know any mathematicians?

A lot of the puzzles require calculations, so make sure you’ve got someone who loves numbers on your team! Our phones were locked away, so calculators were sadly not an option. I’m awful with dates, so I found some of the puzzles extremely difficult but I was able to excel at the sequence spotting elements of the room. The experience has been upgraded to include a laptop, so there’s some password hacking to do as well as essential information to discover allowing you to progress.

As well as padlocks, there were puzzles which required keypads and also some more physical tasks to complete to find solutions. Some of these triggered some exciting reveals, which is always one of my escape room highlights.

 

Need a hint?

The hint system at Escape Reality is one of my favourites.  You are given an iPad which you use as your timer, but you can also scan various QR codes throughout the room to receive a hint. We used one hint, after which you are locked out of using another for 10 minutes. This feels like a really fair way of getting a nudge in the right direction without receiving time penalties, and you also have the option of pressing a button to summon your games master if required.

 

 

The Verdict

The games at Escape Reality are always guaranteed to be great quality, and I’m so pleased that customer feedback has been taken on board to improve Machina. A non-linear approach is great for teams who prefer to separate, and some upgraded features succeed in increasing the immersion of the room. I didn’t quite experience my beloved frantic attempt at solving the final puzzle as it was a lot easier than most of the previous solutions, so it was all over quite fast – but all in all this is a great room, perfect for teams who have a bit of experience and know what to expect.

Machina can be booked at Escape Reality Edinburgh on their website here.

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.

Cryptocards | Review

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Cryptocards Review | CryptoCard is a unique postcard that hides 5 challenging puzzles. In fact, part of the challenge is figuring out what the riddle is, what parts of it are hidden, and how it should be solved. But why break your head? You send the postcard to someone else! What’s the catch? They do not know who sent them the postcard.

Date Played: December 2021
Time Taken: 30 Minutes
Difficulty: Hard

Cryptocards is a fun little ‘puzzles on a postcard‘ concept by an Israeli creator that I was very excited to receive through my letterbox one day, out of the blue, from a mysterious friend. As such, it’s definitely ‘lesser known’ over here in the UK and as far as I’m aware doesn’t ship to the UK as standard. But if you happen to receive one and you’re not concerned about the fact that the writing on the postcard is in Hebrew (Google Translate’s camera function is my best friend here), then it’s a uniquely fun little game that is well worth checking out!

 

 

About Cryptocards

For such a lightweight puzzle experience, Cryptocards is challengingly good fun! At present, there is just one design available and it’s printed on a single double sided postcard. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just a regular postcard… Albeit one with a very fun design. It’s mostly black and white with a ‘hand printed’, grunge look and feel to it. But on second look you start to notice some very interesting shapes and patterns stick out. Aha! It’s a puzzle to be solved.

The method of ‘solving’ this puzzle, and revealing who actually sent you the card is quite simple. It’s a method we’ve seen before but no less effective:

  • Each of the five mini puzzles hidden on the postcard has an icon and the solution is a string of two or three numbers
  • Once you’ve found all of the numbers, you can write them out in order
  • This will then take your player to a web page where they can read a secret message you’ve left for them

Over here in the UK we have slightly similar game concepts, such as Puzzle Post and Enigmagram, but nothing quite so small as a postcard.

In terms of difficulty – I won’t beat around the bush, I found Cryptocards comfortably quite difficult! There was a good mix of different puzzles, but one good thing was that no puzzle relied on the use of words. This means that beside your intro message from the creators in the centre of the card, I was still able to play being unable to understand a word of Hebrew. Seriously, my Hebrew was so bad I played most of the game upside down, not knowing which way round the alphabet looked.

There are 5 puzzles in total and each of these is in theory short and sweet. One of them took me mere seconds to figure out how to solve it, but the others required a little more mental gymnastics. None of them was objectively difficult, but it took longer than usual for a satisfying click. So, in short about the right level!

 

 

The Verdict

I’ve kept this review short and sweet because the game itself is a short and sweet one. At around £13 for a postcard, it is a little on the expensive side – they don’t currently ship to the UK but I imagine that’d be an extra cost too. However if you have friends in Israel or the surrounding region, I’d highly recommend checking Cryptocards out.

There’s something really, really fun about receiving a mysterious letter from an unknown correspondent, and Cryptocards nails that mysteriousness. I’m quietly hoping they produce more puzzle games on postcards, and hoping even more that they roll out English and other language versions in the future and are able to reach a global audience one day!

For now, I’m just happy that I received my own little postcard on a snowy December’s day and got to spend half an hour over lunch puzzling my way through 5 tricky puzzles. Good fun!

 

All photos (c) Cryptocards. 
Cryptocards can be purchased from their website here. Note, the website is entirely in Hebrew.