Your Uncle Keith always stood out from the rest of the family. He lived alone in a grand old mansion, and everybody thought him to be a bit of an eccentric. It was a great surprise to you when you received a postcard from Uncle Keith. You haven’t heard from him in many years. You arrive at his home, but find the house empty. What mysteries await you within?
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 15th May 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A fun game to play at home – if you have a printer handy!
I kept planning to play The Gatekeeper and waited for the perfect sunny day to take photos… And waited… And waited. Yep, the perfect sunny day never arrived (*shakes fist at London rain*), so instead I tackled the print & play game with my Player 2 on a Saturday morning over a pot of tea.
What followed was a particularly charming game about breaking into your uncle’s house- but I get ahead of myself! Here’s the review:
The story starts with your eccentric uncle Keith who lives alone in a mysterious old mansion- alone. One day, he invites you to come visit but immediately you know something is not right when you arrive and Keith is nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is just one of Keith’s peculiar games, or perhaps he is testing you? In any case, you decide to see if you can find your way into the mansion.
What follows is a journey from room to room as you explore the mansion and uncover secrets along the way. Behind each new door is a delightful new environment filled with surprises. The magic you’ll find at the heart will surely change your life forever, if you can unlock it!
The Gatekeeper is an entirely printable game, meaning there’s no online interface to grapple with. Even the clues can be printed in advance, making this a pretty good game to pack with you on a holiday if you know you’ll be without internet for a while.
The game is played in ‘chapters’ where each chapter has a number of puzzles which must be solved before you can proceed onto the next one. Each of these puzzles is marked with a unique symbol that relates to the puzzle at hand. For example, a star, or a key, or a potion bottle. These act as locks, and your answers are the key.
There are 11 puzzles in the entire Gatekeeper game – 11 symbols to find, dotted around the pages and we both really enjoyed the puzzles. There’s a good mix of nice and simple and really hard but the different difficulties are dotted around the whole pack giving someone something to do at all times and no big blockers to continuing the game.
As the game is magic themed, players can expect to come across puzzles that make use of dusty old tomes, of strange language ciphers, mixing potions, harmonising crystals with magic properties, and crafting keys. In particular, I really enjoyed the first half of the game’s puzzles the most. There’s a puzzle early on involving books which took us a while but it was worth all the more when we finally cracked the code.
I also enjoyed a puzzle involving the Herbarium – or maybe that was mostly because I loved looking at the beautifully drawn pictures of flowers!
In terms of difficulty, I’d overall rate the puzzles as “Medium”. We definitely struggled more than we expected to – probably the pot of tea wasn’t strong enough! But there was plenty to do in this game and persevering on the harder puzzles made it worth it. In short, a great mix of different things to do in this game and the creators have made good use of the printed medium!
If at any time you need to check your answers, there’s a separate PDF. I think Gatekeeper actually does their clues and answers system really well for a printed game – it’s kinda like a mini puzzle in of itself! The reason being, the clue system is designed so that you can’t accidentally spoil the game for yourself.
For each answer there is a 5×5 grid of letters. If you cross out all the letters contained in the answer you think is correct, the Xs will make a shape and you can check if this shape is correct. Pretty ingenious actually! And, if for any reason you want to skip this, the actual answers can also be found later in the PDF but written backwards so a skim read won’t be a huge spoiler either.
The artwork in this game deserves it’s own header as it is frankly fantastic! The whole pack has a whimsical, magical allure to it and this is made all the more special by the hand drawn illustrations on each page. It’s almost water-colour style and really brings the house to life.
Because of the light hearted nature of the game with it’s bright colours, warm vibes, and magical plotline, I’d recommend this game for families and kids in particular – and I think it would be a big hit in this group! I really enjoyed it, but after a whole lockdown of printing out play at home games I think my printer might be on it’s very last legs these days. Worth it though to see the bright colours of The Gatekeeper in all their glory.
The Gatekeeper can be downloaded for $29 USD on The Other Tales’ website here.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief of The Escape Roomer and writes about news, and reviews covering London and UK south.