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!
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!
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.
The Cursed Collector Review | Someone is trying to break into The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre. Is it a thief, and if so, what are they trying to steal? As an undercover investigator you will help the curators find out what is going on and take action … and fast!
An anonymous tip has revealed that a person already known to the Museum is the potential perpetrator. We need to convince Security that the threat is real!
Completion Time: 21:49 Date Played: 17th February 2022 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Easy
Personally, I love it when museums enter the ‘escape room’ space. Museums are packed with history, fascinating stories and curious collections ripe for converting into an immersive mystery just like this one. I actually hope that more museums will do it in the future – it’s just such a fantastic way to get the general public to engage in a meaningful way with the past and I love that!
The Cursed Collector is the latest in museum-escape room collaboration. It’s also a funny story, because my partner (occasional player 2 in my reviews and UK museums professional) heard about this game’s launch long before I did. We bounce around ideas for museum themed escape rooms from time to time, but one day he turned to me and asked “Hey, have you played the Royal Museums Greenwich one yet?”
Wait what? A brand new digital escape room experience that I’d never heard of?! Well, that had to be fixed at once! And so, pulling together a fantastic team of Al, Ash and Georgie, we booked ourselves in right away.
About The Cursed Collector Escape Room
The Cursed Collector is a timed digital escape room experience. You’re given a specific time slot and a Zoom link to join 5 minutes before. At your allocated time, you all hop onto the call and are greeted by your host, then in no time at all the adventure begins.
The whole game then takes place over a series of websites which one member of the team is encouraged to share their screen so that all players can play along. The narrative weaves seamlessly between fictional websites, for shady security firms and secret societies and real websites including the Royal Museums Greenwich actual collections! Various pages have audio files, and password protected sections which must be unlocked to progress.
The game centres around a fictional story inspired by those collections, but it does a great job of forcing you to interact with the real exhibits which you can then go and see in person. What a fun blurring of story and truth together! We worked together and dug through layers of maritime history in search of lost treasure. Why? To break a curse, of course!
The whole thing should take an average team around 60 minutes to complete. We were on particularly good form and took just 20 minutes, but equally I’m not sure enthusiasts are the target audience of the game so we may be outliers there.
Introducing, Our Museum Guide!
In our case, the host (in our case named Victoria) was one of my favourite things about the whole experience. Bearing in mind it’s just a museum (and not say, an escape room company with games masters who have trained for years), our host was full of enthusiasm from the first moment to the last. Due to the nature of the gameplay, we interacted with her only during the intro briefing and the outro, as for most of the game she took a very hands off role. A good thing, I suppose, as we didn’t require any hints! But even at the last moment it felt like she cared a lot about our experience, asking all the right questions about what worked and what didn’t work and what feedback we had. A lovely touch to feel listened to!
I do feel that for an experience like this it is unusual to have a host. Since the whole thing was digital and fairly self-contained, we easily could have played without an intro or outro video (say, just a pre-recorded video and a web-page with hints if we needed them). I mainly mention it because there are only 2 slots offered per evening, but the whole game could easily be a “play anytime” game if players were allowed to start and finish at their own pace without needing to book into a slot. The more players who get to experience this game, the better, right? But hey, that’s just my two pence on the matter! I appreciated getting to meet our lovely host, but the presence of any host was not necessary for the gameplay.
Cracking Codes and Hacking into the System
In terms of puzzles, whilst they may have been on the easier side, it certainly was fun to whiz through the internet hacking into various login pages and security systems to access information. For the best experience, whilst one person will be sharing their screen – other players should open up the same URLs and have a dig around at their own pace. You never know what you may find.
Some of my favourite moments included ‘hacking’ into a real email address’s inbox, and finding many cool pages on the internet that you’re never quite sure are real or fictional.
There’s a lot of ‘guessing the password for this page’ with a few clues pointing on various web pages. Though these people seriously need to up their security! Haha!
If you enjoy more deductive, mimetic puzzles like that, then it’ll be right up your street.
I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to grade this escape game as we traditionally do for each review. Subjectively, not my favourite escape room experience. But would I recommend it? Sure!
I think it comes down to the technology. Playing The Cursed Collector reminded me a lot of playing the very earliest games in the Isklander series – that is before they revamped them all into a trilogy. What I mean by that is that it reminded me of the kinds of games that game out in early 2020. Isklander won a lot of awards when it first came out because nobody had seen anything quite like it. If they launched now… Meh.
So what I’m trying to saying a roundabout way is that the style and ambition of The Cursed Collector already feels dated, which is a slight shame given the wealth of resource material a museum like The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre has. They could have done a lot more with it.
But here’s the thing, why on Earth would I expect a museum who has never made an escape room before to compete with the established escape rooms that have spent the last 2-3 years fine tuning and honing the digital escape room craft? I wouldn’t. Museums do not have a lot of money, made even worse by the drastic cuts faced in the UK as a result of the pandemic. People aren’t visiting museums as much anymore, and museums need to do whatever they can to secure more income and bring more excited people through their doors – especially young people!
So am I thrilled that RMG created this escape room? Heck yeah!
Should you play it and support them? Absolutely.
I hope that this is just the first of many immersive experiences the team go on to create and I hope they inspire other museums across the UK to follow suite and create their own games.
The TLDR; Verdict
The Cursed Collector is fairly engaging and has a great host who guides you through the RMG Collections in search of missing items in order to break a curse. Sure, it’s not the most impressive escape room, feels a little dated compared to other digital escape rooms you can play today, and it definitely won’t challenge enthusiasts, but it’s important to support museums if you can. We’d recommend this for families and kids** who cannot visit the collections in person but want a fun and educational way to engage with the RMG. For the best experience, why not play first, then go visit those very same objects you were working with in the game!
** please note, the website recommends it for ages 14+. We think this game would be fine for players much younger, but do get in touch with them directly to discuss!
The Detectives That Saved Christmas Review | The elves radio beacon is in the shape of a star and when the time has come, they climb the tallest Christmas tree they can find, place the star at the top and await the reindeer. The elves stored the star in the community centre but when, after the twelfth week in Great Snoring they went to pick it up it was gone. Only a dozen people have a key to the community center and as there were no signs of a break in it must have been taken by one of them.
After comparing the naughty list with the list of key holders the elves have made a list of the 6 suspects. Can you help the elves find their star? Pull yourselves together and walk a mile in their pointy shoes!
Completion Time: 20 minutes Date Played: 28th November 2021 Party Size: 1 Difficulty: Easy
This time last year Play Helps in partnership with the Sara Lee Trust released a charity escape game for Christmas: The Detectives that Saved Christmas! I was slightly gutted to have missed it- I mean, I’m a little bit obsessed with Christmas. It’s totally normal to be updating The Escape Roomer in a Santa hat in November, right? Anyway…
I was very excited to hear that this game is making a comeback this year – bigger and better than ever, 100% of the proceeds for the game go directly to charity. Wahey! Take my money!
There’s something a little magical about doing what I love – playing escape rooms – and knowing you’re doing it for good and the money you spent is going to a really, really good cause. The Sara Lee Trust are a local charity in Hastings that look after those affected by cancer. The charity was chosen after the game’s designer (Shaun Shrubsall) was helped by them, and it’s his way of giving back!
For this reason, we are generally very favourable about the game because we believe as many people as possible should go out and purchase it. For sure, your average enthusiast will not be challenged by it – as it’s not a difficult game at all – but look at it this way: Since it’s got such a family focus and a wide market appeal, this could be just the game to introduce to your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends to get them hooked on whodunnits.
About The Detectives That Saved Christmas
The Detectives That Saved Christmas is a classic whodunnit game. Rather than being in a physical room, the game is played looking top-down at a table with all the suspects and the evidence spilled out upon it. Since the game was built in Telescape, I’m used to 360 views of rooms, so it was really creative to see the escape game platform used in a different way.
Your goal is simple: find the elf that did the crime. This can be done by eliminating each of the elves’ alibis. Six elves and one crime committed in the sleepy town of Great Snoring. You start the game with just the descriptions of the elves, and as time ticks along more and more evidence appears on your desk. Each time a new piece of evidence appears, a little jingle bell sounds. The first time this happened I had my volume set to maximum and nearly screamed. The second and third time was a lot more gentle and festive! As each piece of evidence appears, you can click and drag them to each relevant elf and mark their portraits with a cross to eliminate them or a tick if you think they’re the culprits.
A Winter Whodunnit
In terms of pure puzzles – there aren’t a lot, as this game’s beauty is in logical deduction. If this, then that, which means that elf could not have done it. However I did particularly enjoy using a lot of maths to calculate the exact timings to figure out whether it was technically possible if an elf could have driven to the crime scene in time. Thankfully you’re provided with Google maps, but I like to whip out the calculator too!
It’s not particularly challenging, but I reckon that in a bigger group there’d be a lot of fun debate. This game is nothing if not fun, and when it’s not packed with hilarious elf puns and light hearted jokes, it causes you to question and chat out loud about what you’re solving. In short: making it a perfect family game to get everyone involved in.
Another of my favourite parts was at the very end of the game. once you’ve made your choice, the time skips forward and the credits roll with a funny “where are they now” montage of all the suspects you didn’t chose as the criminals. In a silly kind of way, I was very emotionally invested in these elves and was glad to see they all lived happily ever after… Well, perhaps not all of them.
The Detectives That Saved Christmas is fun, but don’t expect the world of it. After all, its’s a game designed for mass market appeal, to bring the family together – wherever they are in the world – to solve a Christmas mystery. Any game where the proceeds go towards charity is worth grabbing a ticket for!
USB Escape Season 1 Review | Conventional escape rooms lock you in a room with a ticking clock and an assortment of puzzles. USB Escape brings that complexity and that intensity to your desktop for the ultimate immersive experience. Join us in solving a reality- bending virtual escape room puzzle collection.
Hours of story-driven puzzles explore the psychological horror of a broken family recovering buried truths. These will test your ability to observe the unseen and your commitment to uncover the truth.
Have you got an inquisitive mind?
Date Played: July/August 2021 Number of Players: 2 Difficulty: Medium Time Taken: 2 stints of approximately 60-90 mins
Are you ready to plug into an immersive Escape Room experience like no other?
This game starts from the moment you receive your USB in the post, with an accompanying letter, as players are pulled straight into the USB Escape universe. The first thing to mention in this game is the wonderful USB itself. It’s so unique (much nicer looking than any USB we ever used at uni to save our essays on, and more exciting!) and we are huge fans of the logo and branding here. It was exciting plugging this into the laptop, and watching the game develop at our fingertips!
We’ve never used the file explorer this way before, to ‘unlock’ files using the correct password, but it worked so well! You are given just enough information to start piecing the story together, but with a lot of cleverly placed ‘plot holes’ that make you desperate to figure out what happened in June of 2017. There are also helpful ‘password reset’ files for each puzzle, in case you need a hint to nudge you in the right direction- just don’t click into these files unless you are hoping for a bit of help! As you travel further into the narrative, you realise that things are definitely not OK, and something spooky is afoot. We both enjoy a creepy theme, and this game played some of the classic horror themes nicely!
Is Alice a wimp? The answer is always… Yes!
The use of video and audio were particularly effective, especially to help pull players into an immersive universe. Watch out if you’re wearing headphones, Al had to take hers off at one point and watch through her fingers (much to Ash’s amusement!). (Side note – Al is a bit of a wimp, you will be perfectly fine playing this game even if you are a bit averse to the horror genre!). The creepiness increases as you progress with the game, so we would recommend playing this in a couple of longer sittings (or one major sesh, if you’re hardcore), to ensure that you get the full experience of being pulled into the tension.
Gmail has never been so scary!
The puzzles were interesting: lots of visual searching was required (good practice for us!) and often you had to combine multiple pieces of information to solve the puzzles. Players are provided with snippets of information, through the medium of email between two central characters – “Owen” and his sister “Allie”. These emails get gradually more unsettling as you unlock more information. The progression of the narrative was strong, climaxing with an intense ending based on a local urban legend that had us both at the edge of our seats!
Reaching the end… for now…
We were so impressed by the volume of story and puzzles, all stored away in the tiny USB. There was one point during this game that gave Al quite the shock (and felt SUPER unsettling, it is such a simple but clever idea to do this). USB Escape can even add some ‘personal’ touches to your copy of the game! Ash gifted this game to Al as a birthday present, so of course she just HAD to get some creepy additions in there , and had a slight upper hand in knowing what was coming…
Overall, we really enjoyed this game, and we will definitely be looking forward to continuing the saga with Season 2 when this is released! See our full ratings below.
An envelope lands on your doorstep, inside is a letter from someone but you don’t know who…
Rating: Brilliant Completion Time: 30 minutes Date Played: 25th of December 2019 Party Size: 2
If the date weren’t a giveaway, why yes this was a Christmas gift! One of many I bought this Christmas. Since I didn’t actually receive one myself (not hinting anything haha!) – I’m reviewing the copy I purchased for my partner as we puzzled through it together on Christmas morning.
The thing is, I LOVE buying gifts for people that are experiences, like tickets or vouchers. Since Enigmagram’s series of puzzles ends with a link for your recipient to view a customised landing page with a message or image, you can use this as a cooler way to give a further gift. The “Inception” of the gift giving world as it were: A gift, within a gift.
I used the Enigmagram to gift my partner tickets for a concert, but I think if you’re reading this and looking for other ideas, this would be a cool way to gift something puzzling:
An escape room voucher
Another puzzle! Puzzle-ception!
The link to play an online game, or code for a videogame
You never know! Go wild and chuck that gift in there.
The puzzles are really fun and force you to think outside the box (…Or the envelope, see what I did there? 😜) to crack a code. Quite literally though! We made the mistake of putting the envelope to one side thinking “pah, we won’t need this” – but oh yes, you do need it! You need every single thing that comes in this little envelope, and Enigmagram wastes no time in filling every little corner with puzzling delights.
The types of puzzles you may encounter include things like solving sequences, rustling through receipts to find a specific detail that looks innocuous, filling out newspaper puzzles and squinting really hard at photos. The last one mentioned was a real tricky one, but overall it’s really good fun and great quality materials whilst also (at the time of writing) being totally unique to the market.
In terms of story – there isn’t one! Or rather, the story is what you make of it. A mysterious letter arrives at your door and through a series of numbered puzzles you crack a code to find out what the message says. Why not make your own story about it, text that recipient ahead and let them know what to expect!
The last thing to note is that the website says Enigmagram is suitable for players aged 15+ but I also gifted a copy to my 8 year old brother who had almost no trouble with a little help from us grownups. So the puzzles are a good level for all players!