Posted in Modern Fables

Modern Fables – Medogan

An online adventure game

We’d read some comments from others about Modern Fables take on the online escape/adventure game. We have to admit that we’ve not heard of them and being in London, they are a bit of a trek from us.

THE STORY

STRANDED IN YOUR IMAGINATION. The Modern Fables take on a pick-your-own-adventure played out in your mind. Can you uncover the secrets MEDOGAN has to offer? Can you escape the confines of reality?

THE GAMEPLAY

Modern Fables have created more of an adventure game than a traditional escape game but this doesn’t detract from the quality of what they have made. You will find that many free to play games (although they are asking for donations), are fairly basic affairs. The idea behind them is solid but the concepts are more simple. This is not the case with Medogan. In fact, we’d go as far to say as this is up there as one of our favourite adventures we’ve played so far during lockdown.

The game is episodic. At the time of playing we only had access to the first episode which brings our protagonist to the mysterious village of Medogan. Although set in modern day, the village gives of a very Midsommar vibe and the game gives snippets of details that makes you suggest something akin to Hot Fuzz is kicking off. The only issue, the episode finishes with more questions than it does answers. This certainly wets you appetite for the next instalment.

Gameplay is very much in the way of a detective story. We found that we’d written about 4 pages of notes with everything going on and these little titbits were extremely useful in order to solve the main puzzle of the game. But, what is so ingenious about this game is that it isn’t just text that you need to gather. It uses a series of your own technology in impressive ways to bring the story to life. I don’t want to give away what, you will just have to find out for yourself. I challenge you not to be as impressed as I was with one of the way in particular! Gameplay flows nicely and, as long as you read and listen to everything carefully, everything will slot into place. The game isn’t the hardest we’ve played but it will certainly keep you busy for an hour or so in order to work out what you need to put where. There aren’t any clues to the game but if you need a push in the right direction, you can contact Modern Fables by their Facebook page and they will send a suitably cryptic clue back. Also be aware that you need to access this game via a PC or laptop. It will not work on a mobile device. You’ll also need a way to listen to the sounds, its very important.

DESIGN

The game does have a large amount of text but this is key to the story. It also has a lot of visual elements too and the design of these are superb. It really immerses you into the world of Medogan. There has clearly been a huge amount of time and effort that has been put into creating this game. To have completed it in such a short period of time too is astonishing. If you don’t play another free online game during your lockdown, Medonga has to be the one.

OVERALL

A superb game full of intricate details, design and story. It really immerses you into the world Modern Fables are trying to create and is a genuine joy to play. It’s not only a phenomenal game, it also make us want to make the trip to London to play their physical games if the quality is anything like this one. We are looking forward to playing episode 2.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Escape Room Puzzles

Escape Room Puzzles

An escape book

From the mastermind behind Deadlocked Escape Rooms James Hamer-Horton, comes a Puzzle book that ties in with their fictitious company, the Wexell Corporation. This book doesn’t just bring enough content for one game but gives you ten rooms to break out of.

THE STORY

Enter the world of Escape Room Puzzles, but beware… once you enter, you only have a limited time to solve the puzzles before time runs out and you are locked in forever! Become Adam Parkinson, a young investigative journalist, and join his conspiracy-theorist friend Henry Fielding as they take on the diabolical Wexell Corporation. You must guide Adam through 10 precarious rooms, solving the puzzles he finds in each one, discovering what Wexell are up to, and then escaping to the next location.

THE GAMEPLAY

First off, let me say that out of all the play at home games and books I have done, this has to be the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I’m playing an escape room. There is so much content in this book that it will give you hours of playtime and you could argue that each of the 10 rooms would take a minimum of an hour to complete and can be completed by a team rather than an individual. Like many other escape type books it is story driven and the entire thing plays out over the 10 rooms. The story is pretty good and the text you have to read is important to the story too.

Now, let’s move on to the puzzles. The one thing I applaud the book for is that it’s not created for the everyday man. The puzzles in this book are HARD. I mean REALLY hard. Some of the puzzles require a leap of logic and a number of the are really labour intensive. If you are looking for something to take you away a few hours, this isn’t the book for you. It requires a lot of thought, a lot of time and a lot of effort. It also requires you to manipulate the book at times. Some will want to photocopy pages, others will happily pull it apart.

Having applauded the difficulty, I think this is also its downfall. The book is so labour intensive it can take out the fun of the gameplay and it’s so difficult it means you hit a brick wall many, many times and you have to go for hints to make progress. I prefer a game that’s hard but not too hard that the hints are almost required to make your way through the game. Due to this, by the time we reached room 10, it was a case of getting it done rather than enjoying the experience.

DESIGN

The book’s design far surpasses the design of any other book we’ve played. There is really intricacies in the detail and the design is integral to many of the puzzles. It’s a real feat of design and adds to the feeling of it being the closest to an escape room we’ve played. Some of the design adds to the difficulty too.

OVERALL

Escape Room Puzzles is a bittersweet experience. By far the closest experience we have had to playing an escape room in a book but the mechanics of the puzzles let it down. If the same format had more straightforward puzzles, not easy, just straightforward this would have been a much, much better experience.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in The Escape Book

The Escape Book

An escape book

The Escape book claims to be the “First book based on the puzzles of Escape Rooms”. I’m not sure on the accuracy of their claims but having been published in 2018, it’s probably not far off. The book was originally written in Spanish before being translated into English a year later.

THE STORY

You’re an investigative journalist – and you’ve learned too much. Your mission is to escape the labyrinth where you have been trapped and expose the corrupt, high-flying businessman, Castian Warnes. This is no easy feat, but your life depends on it.

THE GAMEPLAY

The book itself is entirely story driven. The best way to describe it is if Saw was an escape room movie but it didn’t have the gore. That’s the kind of idea Ivan Tapia was going for. Instead of Jigsaw being the mastermind, it’s replaced with Castian Warnes, a voyeuristic businessman who watches as the protagonist, Candela Fuertes, makes her way through the labyrinth of puzzles. There are 17 puzzles in total, each of which give you the answer to the next page you need to turn to. Puzzles on the whole range for quick and simple to much more complex. None are out of reach of an experienced player but some may need a little help to get to the answer. Luckily, the book has a series of hints for each puzzle at the back of the book. Gameplay on the whole is good but to get through to the next puzzle you have to read a huge amount of story. There are times where you have to read six or seven pages of story in order to reach your next puzzle. It really is story overload and, at times, leaves you wondering why there is so much detail. All of the story in the book is superfluous to the puzzle solving too. It gives you some background as to the characters and gives the story purpose but it feels it’s a story first and a puzzle book second.

DESIGN

The book has a very clear colour palette of black, white and yellow and this is maintained throughout the book. The puzzles are clear and well designed although they are very blocky in nature. This means that they look more functional than realistic. It doesn’t mean they are any less of a puzzle just that the design means it is less like an escape room.

OVERALL

There is plenty to keep an enthusiast busy for a couple of hours if you aren’t bothered about getting bogged down in the story. One worthy of being in lockdown or musing over on a beach somewhere.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Escape Room Durham, Unlock

Escape Room Durham: Mr X

An online treasure hunt

Although not strictly an escape room, Escape Room Durham have created an online treasure hunt to keep us puzzle solvers happy. Whats more, it’s totally free to play and will easily fill an hour of your day while staying at home. So, what’s it all about?

THE STORY

“Agent, our HQ is shut down, and we are all having to work from home!

Despite this, we are still being taunted by Mr X.

We need to track this dangerous individual, firstly we need to find out his Surname.

Can you take on the job? 

He is taunting us with cryptic clues. We think solving these will lead to his name. We’ll be here to help along the way!

THE GAMEPLAY

The important thing to remember here is that this isn’t an escape room, its a series of word puzzles that require you to search using the internet to make progress. What the game does do is make you think. These word puzzles require lateral thinking (and a little knowledge of the world) in order to make your way through the 6 different puzzles. The beauty of this is that it utilises technology really well. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so many aha moments playing a play at home game but I smiled all the way through at the cheeky use of real life and the attention to detail you have to pay in order to make progress. It’s genuinely a very clever game that really shows how creative Escape Room Durham are. I enjoyed it so much, I challenge them to do some more!

Each puzzle comes with a hint which sheds light on the very cryptic puzzles. For those not local to Durham, these come in handy to help zone you into where you may need to look at certain points in the game. If the hint doesn’t help then you can message them on Facebook and they’ll even provide you with extra hints!

DESIGN

It feels a little tough to talk about design. Escape Room Durham have put together a game to help people stay at home during this Coronavirus crisis. It means that the whole game runs through their website. There is some design put in here but only for it to be functional. There isn’t any whistles and bells, but there doesn’t need to be. There is a clear use of different fonts and it’s obvious that they have really thought about how they make it fun and easy to use.

OVERALL

This was a lot of fun. For most people this will be a good hour of entertainment. It’s not the easiest game you will play but it’s also not the hardest. It’s just clever, free fun! We loved it! You can play the game at https://www.escapedurham.co.uk/mr-x

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Unlock

Unlock! – Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Thread of Murder

Escape game in a box

It’s been one good, one bad from the Heroic Adventures box set from Unlock so far. Our final game is said to be the middle difficulty of the box, a classic Sherlock Holmes murder mystery.

THE STORY

London, 1889

Mr Hall has been killed. The murder weapon: a statuette used to crack his skull. Your team of sleuths will assist Sherlock Holmes in his investigation. You start at the MORGUE, where the investigation’s first pieces of evidence and the body await you.

THE GAMEPLAY

You’d have thought that a Sherlock Holmes game would have been the hardest but Unlock have created one deemed to be medium difficulty. The issue here is that the puzzles may be medium difficulty but the navigation of the puzzles is far from it. We found playing this game was very hard going. There were points where the links were obvious and you could make quick progress, but there were too many times in which you stared at a huge number of cards with no real clue as to where to go next. In fact, there was one point where we were completely stumped and the hints system didn’t give any clues as to where to go next.

The game is not just based around cards but there is a fold out notebook that provides as a kind of game board for the investigation. The is a nice change to the other games Unlock have created but it doesn’t save itself from being a game that overstretches itself way too far. At one point in the game, you end up with a huge amount of cards in front of you and it seems many are redundant by this point but you are never told to discard them. This makes the game increasingly more difficult. There are also some real leaps of logic that go too far and unfortunately make gameplay rather enjoyable for most of the experience. We wished we had been the murder victim by the end as we wouldn’t have to have lived through it!

DESIGN

The game is designed to look like a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery and it fits well within the theme. None of the design leaves any ambiguity when it comes to playing. It works well when you know where you are supposed to be heading. Here, it’s clear the designers brief was to fill out the puzzles with interesting illustrations with only a few of the designs really important for puzzles. It does what it does well, but it doesn’t save the game.

OVERALL

It’s not the best game from Unlock. In fact, it means that two out of three of the Heroic Adventures games are on the poor side. Insert Coins saves the trilogy but not enough for us to recommend the set as a must play. Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Thread of Murder has real potential but the only crime being committed her is the quality of the game.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Journal 29

Journal 29 – Revelations

Puzzle Book

It’s been a while since I played the first Journal 29 but with a little more time on my hands it was time to delve into part two, Journal 29 – Revelation.

revelatiion-main

The Story

A top secret excavation did not bring any result for 28 weeks.
It was on the 29th week that something unexpected happened.
The team disappeared and the only thing that was left behind was their Journal.
You must solve the riddles in order to solve the mystery.

Gameplay

Before you continue reading, if you’ve not yet played the original Journal 29, this is the place to start. Although it not essential that you do this, it’s always better to approach it in the chronology that they are written. You can find my review of the first book here

The idea behind book two is principally the same, solve the clues to unlock the mystery of the excavation team. With this addition, there is far more of a story element compared to the original. This does mean that the book is a little more cohesive but I found that there was more story than the book really warranted. Small paragraphs to give you an update were fine but I found I skipped much of the lengthy prose as it wasn’t relevant to anything that was being solve. The only caveat to this is the story that unfolds in puzzle pages. Due to the addition of around 20 story pages, the book does suffer from having fewer puzzles than the original. There are around 10 or so less. What the story does do though is tie up the adventure nicely.

So, what about the puzzles themselves? There are some genuinely great puzzles in the book. I found that this one required a little more outside knowledge than the original and if you didn’t have any technology available to you, you would get very stuck, very quickly. Some of the puzzles require access to the Journal 29 website and access to the all important keys also come from their too. Although I found that some of the puzzles in the original were a leap of logic, there was a far greater number here that required you to be able to pick things up without any signposting. The advantage is that Journal 29 has a forum with hints and tips and on the whole, if I had looked at the page blankly for some time, a couple of simple hints would get me back on track but, there were a couple where I wouldn’t have got the answer in a month of Sundays. There was one particular puzzle that required multiple steps to get close and it’s unlikely many people will get this without any help. The puzzles were good but I felt were weaker than the original.

The book is still a lot of fun to play and can be done by multiple people. If you have more than one copy, it’s also something you can collaborate on with others that might not be in the same household as you. If you want an escape room puzzle fix with your normal escape team then this would work really well

Overall *****

Posted in Escape Team

Escape Team – Print and Play

Episodic print and play game

With the country under near on lock down, we chose to take on a different kind of escape challenge with games from Escape Team.

THE STORY

The premise of each episode of the Escape Team series is that you have got to solve and prevent some kind of disaster that a dastardly villain has placed you in the thick of. Scenarios range from trapped civilians in a lift to the usual defuse a bomb situation. The 5 missions are Central Station, Terminal, Elevator, Roller coaster and Subway

THE GAMEPLAY

The game play is straight forward and simple. You need a printer, scissors, tape and the Escape Team app. A craft knife could also be useful for some of the more fiddly bits of the game. None of it requires any craft ability at all. Each game is played in phases using the game’s app that is available on both Apple and Android. This app, which tells the missions’s story, is where you input the codes once you have worked out the puzzles. Each time you must enter the codes in the correct order although people can work in the puzzles in whichever order you wish. The app will also give you hints if you get stuck but be aware that it will only offer hints for the phase you are currently on. Stuck on phase 4? You won’t get any clues until the first three phases are complete. The Escape Team website allows you print off the puzzles for all missions and both the training game and first mission are free to play. The app then allows you to purchase the next 3 mission for 99 cents (about 75p at the time of review).

Rather than talking about the experience as a whole, I want to break down each mission as we played.

Training Game

The training game gives you a 10 minute limit. It is three phases which really show just what Escape Tame is about. None of the puzzles are over complex and enthusiasts will complete them fairly easily. This isn’t the point though, the idea is to get you acquainted with how the game and the app work.

Mission 1: Central Station

This is the first full mission and comes in 5 phases. Each puzzles is different to the previous and allows you to spread them out and working on them individually. It pays to read the instruction and during this this mission we discovered the importance of using a pencil and having a rubber handy. Either that or have the printer handy to print off another copy if you make a mistake. There are 5 excellent puzzles here and each proves a little bit of a challenge for the 15 minute time limit.

Mission 2: Terminal

This is the first of the paid puzzles available from the Escape Team app. Again, it comes with 5 phases which have a series of different puzzles. We found this one a little easier than mission 1 but this could have been because we had worked out the way the games had been designed but also because some of the puzzles are classic escape room fare. This doesn’t detract from the game at all. If anything, it gives you a real sense of achievement as you look at it immediately and get straight to work. We completed the 20 minute escape with about 9 minutes to spare. A decent way to spend 75p of your money.

Mission 3: Elevator

It was mission 3 that we saw the difficulty begin to increase. Some of the puzzles here are much trickier. Both in their puzzles but also in your dexterity. One puzzle did frustrate us but I guess that’s why this one has a 30 minute timer. We definitely used more clues with this one and only just escaped within the time frame. Puzzles really do require some thinking and here, if you have more than the team of two we had, it would be an advantage. Just like the previous missions, this one is worth every penny. I think it’s important to note here that you don’t have to complete the missions in order so you can dip in and out at any point you wish.

Mission 4: Rollercoaster

Rollercoaster has a real mixed level of difficulty. Some of the puzzles are reasonably easy and will only take you a few a minutes to complete but others will really tax your brains. The mission is designed so that the easier ones come in later phases which means you’ve got to solve the hard ones first to make progress. This mission also has my favourite puzzle of the series. Very simple but very clever to use the simple tools you have in order to get the code you need. Rollecoaster is a decent game that will use most of your 30 minutes. Just make sure you have someone maths orientated in your team, you’ll need them!

Mission 5: Subway

The final mission available from Escape Team takes place below ground, This time, save the subway and the people on board. This is the hardest of the 5 missions. Each of the 5 phase puzzles does take some time to complete and there is one particular puzzle that could give you a series of different answers depending on how you approach it. Phase 3 was a clever concept but also stumped us for some time before the hints really helped. It did mean that we were very low on time by this point due to the ambiguity of phase 1. Still, a clever mission and one enthusiasts will enjoy.

Make your own escape

It would be remiss of me not to mention one element that Escape Team have on their website and that is the ability to use the app and website in order to create your own escape game. There is also a forum on here that allows others to upload there and you can have a go at them for free!

DESIGN

The game is designed to be in black and white in order to save your ink. The quality of the design is excellent and its clear that this hasn’t been done in Microsoft word and rushed together. There has been some really design work done and, with some of the intricacies with puzzles, its obvious time has been taken in order to design the puzzles carefully. It’s a print at home game that has a really professional feel to it. Everything you need is clear and obvious and the design makes the gameplay a pleasure.

OVERALL

For a series of missions that would cost you a small fraction of a real escape room (even with your own printing costs), Escape Team have created something that is real value for money. This will easily fill a couple of hours of your time on an afternoon or evening. When was the last time you got 2 hours of entertainment for less than a fiver?

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Unlock

Unlock! – Insert Coin

Escape game in a box

Having played the hardest of the set, we decided to play the easiest in the hope that it fared batter than the last.

THE STORY

It’s been raining for hours and your phone battery is now flat. This day doesn’t look too good unless… Hey! you know a way to kill boredom: you just have to climb up the ladder to the attic where your grandpa’s dusty old arcade machine is stored.

THE GAMEPLAY

Insert Coin is classed as the easier of the Heroic Adventures box. It seems that the box set of games follow a very similar rule, there is always one that’s more aimed at families and can be completed by a younger audience. This doesn’t make the game less fun. In fact, this is the one, out of all the games we’ve played in the Unlock series we have enjoyed the most. The game is a mixture between an escape game and a retro 80s video game. It flows pretty well and the only times we came a little unstuck, the app gave us a little help. What makes this game stand out from others is its integrated use of AR. Here, the game really comes into its own and really added another dimension to the fun. With this, it meant that we were never quiet sure what was coming next and what new, inventive ways the AR would add to the games. We found that as we played we had smiles on our faces at how inventive it was. It’s almost like Unlock have discovered their second generation game.

DESIGN

The design of this is fantastic. The who game looks like an 8 bit adventure and really pulls on those nostalgic enough to remember them originally. The design takes all the best bits of the games you remember as a kid. There are nods to Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, Mario and so much more as you make your way through the game. It’s like the Wreck Ralph of escape games. The visuals of the game are so important to its theme and here, they hit the nail on the head.

OVERALL

This has to be the best Unlock we’ve played so far. If you are going at it for difficulty then steer clear but if you are playing for out and out fun, this is the one for you. A really pleasurable hour.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Unlock

Unlock! – In Pursuit of the White Rabbit

Escape game in a box

We finally delved into a new Unlock box. This time we take a look at the hardest game, In Pursuit of the White Rabbit. A story based on Alice in Wonderland.

THE STORY

This is the unfinished manuscript of an astonishing adventure I have in mind. It is entitled ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Please, help me write an end to it… and help Alice out of the mess I so maliciously got her into…

Lewis Carroll

THE GAMEPLAY

I am all for creators mixing things up and this is what they do with this chapter of the Unlock series. The game mixes the use of the front and back of cards, a story booklet and the app to play the game. It’s billed as hard and therefore the timer starts at 90 minutes instead of the usual 60. The game uses some cool AR technology as part of the puzzles and there are some times where some of the puzzles work really well. The problem is, this is when the fun part of this game stops. The game is hard because half of the time it doesn’t make sense. Some of the leaps of logic are frankly, absurd. We actually got to the end at a limp as some many of the puzzles required such abstract thinking that we actually resorted to finding the solutions booklet. It is beyond the worst of the Unlock games we have played so far. We’ve not experienced any other of their games to be this poor. It left us frustrated by the time we had come to the end.

DESIGN

Designed to be in keeping with the whimsical world of Wonderland, the illustration does its part very well. A number of the puzzles also come within the illustrations and they do work but often are too hidden. Its almost like the designer and illustrator tried to be so clever that it made it almost impossible to complete. Visually great but that’s about it.

OVERALL

By far the worst Unlock game we’ve played. So poor that if it had been the first game we’d have played we may never have played another. It tries to be too clever for its own good and instead ends of collapsing in on itself. We don’t recommend it.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Unlock

Unlock! – The Island of Doctor Goorse

Escape game in a box

Billed as the hardest of the three games in the Escape Adventures set. We find ourselves separated on a remote island with no way to communicate.

THE STORY

The day had started off well. After weeks of hesitation, you finally accepted the invitation of Archibald Goorse, the eccentric billionaire, archaeological rarities collector. You’d been flown to his private island, located a few miles from the Bahamas, in an old twin-engine. Unfortunately, the aircraft had been caught in a storm and you only just had time to bail out with a parachute before seeing the plane crash land in the middle of the jungle. After losing consciousness, you wake up on a windswept beach. Fortunately, despite some bruises, you have nothing broken. Instead, your group is now split in two teams. How are you going to join forces to successfully leave this cursed island?

THE GAMEPLAY

Billed as the hardest game in the set, there is good reason. First off, it’s created so that the first half of the game your team split in two and must solve puzzles in order to be brought together. This means it is the first Unlock game we’ve played where you really cannot play it as one person. In fact, playing it solo would really defeat the object of having to work apart to come together. The second reason it comes across as difficult is because it feels like the designer of the game has tried to be deliberately vague in places to make you really think. What this actually does is makes you sit and stare at the cards for some time without really getting to grips with what is going on. In fact, this also means that the whole story is really lost in translation. The game is linear and, as with us, you seem to be able to accidentally jump ahead of yourself and end up missing something vital. It does also mean this game comes across as frustrating. Other harder level games in the series are hard because they make you think. This one make you go “eh?!”.

It seems strange to be writing something negative about an Unlock game but for us this one missed the mark. Some of the puzzles are a little tedious and the end really does make you lose the will to live!

DESIGN

The game looks great but it’s clear the designer has been encouraged to make things a little tricky, particularly with the end. The translation for the instructions doesn’t help granted but it’s a partly down to the illustration that makes it so difficult. We felt it was a little bit about going “back to the drawing board” with this one.

OVERALL

It’s safe to say we didn’t particularly enjoy this one. The gameplay was difficult for the sake of it rather than because it needed it and therefore we lost interest. The concept of being split and unable to communicate with the other half of your team is interesting but not enough to save this game.

Theme *****

Design *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****