Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book - Escape Room Puzzles

Most Unassuming Title Ever


James Hamer-Morton
# of Players:
1 (possibly more suggested - I don't quite picture that)

Game Design & Mechanics
  • This book was released as part of a whole series of hardcover, mass-printed books usually best known for their brain teasers and riddles. I previously got a few of these books (in French) at Costco, and was quite surprised when I stumbled upon this particular one (in a gift shop in Scotland, no less!).
  • In spite of its very generic title, this book ticked all the boxes of what I expect from an escape-room-in-a-book experience, including an extensive storyline.
  • The book is broken down into ten chapters that tell the story of journalist Adam Parkinson and his friend Henry, who get involved with yet-another-mysterious-and-somewhat-scary corporation. In each chapter, the protagonist gets "stuck" into a situation reminiscent of escape rooms. To get out, he'll have to solve multiple puzzles. Therefore, every chapter could be viewed as an "escape room" in its own right.
  • Every chapter includes many illustrations, which can be puzzles, hints, or just for show. Some of them have a special icon that tells you should cut off that page, but in such cases you can easily make photocopies, or even try to work things in your head.
  • Picture from the editor's website
  • At the end of each chapter, you'll be asked to obtain a specific code, or piece of knowledge, in order to proceed. Some other times, though, you'll also get mid-chapter gates - a point where the protagonist tells you, in bold letters: "Once I figured out X, I was then able to proceed." You should then be able to figure out that thing before turning the page.
  • There is no time limit per se, although many chapters will mention a certain time limit. ("I had 55 minutes until the guard returned.") I guess one could theoretically try to follow those same limitations, although the book rules make no mention of that.
  • Outside knowledge might be required in a couple circumstances, and so you're allowed to search the internet as you see fit. Likewise, you're always allowed to get check back on past chapters, and there are a couple points where you'll definitely have to.
  • There is no way to validate your current answer, although the next section you read will often mention what the right answer was. There are also full-fledged solutions at the very end of the book.
  • When stuck, you can check at the back of the book for gradually increasing hints (they're grouped by "Hard Hints", "Medium Hints", etc, then by chapter). And as I said before, those are followed by complete solutions.
  • The puzzles are quite varied, and the way many parallel puzzles might converge toward a single answer is fairly evocative of real-life escape rooms.
  • I found the story very engaging, and the main characters fairly sympathetic. I ended looking forward knowing what the whole thing was about.
  • The illustrations are quite nice. (Which is somewhat ironic, given that they're mostly made from stock photos.)
  • The book's binding made it fairly easy to photocopy the occasional cut-out page.
  • The more I played on, the harder the typical puzzle seemed to me. You know, this is always hard to properly assess - maybe I'm just not that smart - but it seemed to me that a number of those puzzles just relied on a series of arbitrary guesses.
  • Likewise, there's at least one task that's so hard to complete - even if you know exactly what you're supposed to do - that the solution itself seems to imply they don't expect their readers to do the legwork. Huh? 🤔
  • In the hints section, puzzles seem to be listed in arbitrary order - even changing from one hint section to the next. I often would've wanted to get some direction as to which puzzle I should be tackling first, and the only way to get that info was typically to go straight to the Solution pages.
  • Speaking of hints/solution pages, many of the mid-chapter "gates" don't list the hint page numbers. You'll have to look for them by yourself. The hints do exist, though.
  • Once again, what a bland title. Ugh.
  • On page 59, the text mentions finding a 5x5 grid, but the picture that follows is 5x6. This is a mistake - the grid really should be 5x5.

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