Showing posts with label book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book - Escape Room Puzzles

Most Unassuming Title Ever


 


Publisher:
Author:
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.
Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • 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.
Erratum
  • 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.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Book - The Escape Book

The hardest puzzle? Figuring how to survive that writing...


 
 


Publisher:
Author:
Ivan Tapia
# of Players:
1

Game Design & Mechanics
  • At first glance, this book reminded me of the French "Escape Book" series: a fairly thick soft-cover book with lots of text and not many images. As it turned out, the two are quite different, though.
  • Gameplay-wise, it's a lot more similar to this other book I previously wrote about. The reader / player goes through a series of linear puzzles. The main difference is that there's lots of text to read in between each puzzle.
  • Every puzzle you'll come across (there are 17 in total) yields a 2 or 3-digit code, which indicates the next page you need to go to. If you see a note saying "Candela has solved puzzle X", and it's the one you were working on, congrats, you can keep going.
  • The puzzles cover a reasonably wide range of styles, although they're mostly visual. The book encourages you to write inside it, but you can generally go without that. Still you might want to keep a copy machine within reach.
  • Whenever you feel stuck, the puzzle also provides a page number you can turn to for incremental hints leading to the complete solution.
  • There is no time limit proper, although the narrative constantly reminds the reader of the few amount of time that Candela (the main character) has left.
Pros
  • The puzzles cover a wide enough range that you're likely to find something you like in there.
  • A strong emphasis is put on the storyline...
Cons
  • ...which is unfortunate because said storyline is downright dreadful, along with the prose. You know, I'm all too aware that my own writing isn't on par with the great authors of this world (especially in English), but reading through this book helped me realize that I do have some notions of what "good writing" means. The repeated emphasis on visual descriptions and the overexposed background plot all pile up to make the "reading" part thoroughly unenjoyable.
    via GIPHY
    Some people have suggested skipping the text altogether and jumping from one puzzle to the next, but there are a couple cases in which that would deprive you of a few clues, namely .
  • Considering that every code can only be a page number, the pool of available answers is a bit small.
  • There are couple cases where the reader is expected to have some knowledge which I definitely would consider "outside knowledge", namely .
  • Like I've said before, I'm always flabbergasted to see authors and publishers expecting me to write into a pristine copy of a book, let alone fold and/or tear it. Fortunately this remains a minor concern here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Book - The Librarian's Almanaq



Publisher:
Author:
Roy Leban
# of Players:
1 or more (I recommend 3-5)
Duration:
8-40 hours for a single person, less for groups
(although players aren't expected to time themselves)

Game Design & Mechanics
  • I'm a regular visitor on Kickstarter, looking for new boardgames and - duh - any sort of "Escape Room in box". Given that, it would've been hard for me to miss The Conjurer's Almanaq, a very successful project which nears completion as I write this. The price tag for this KS seemed a bit high, but I had noticed the mention of a precursor book, more affordable, and available on Amazon. That, I had to see.
  • That first Almanaq initially started off as part of the 16th annual Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. Puzzle Hunts (where some puzzles lead to more puzzles, and so on) are fairly common in the US, but we don't see them as much in French-speaking communities, it seems. (We apparently prefer treasure hunts, car rallies, and the like.)
  • I find it a bit hard to properly write about this book given that, ideally, you'd approach it without any preconceived ideas, fully enjoying the thrill of discovery. If that's how you feel, you can stop reading now, I won't take it personally. 😇 For those who'd prefer to get a small idea of what they're buying into, let's proceed...
  • The book opens with some basic instructions, and then comes the Opening Puzzle, where you're asked to tear out (that's tear out 😱) actual pages out of the book. Lots of pages.
  • Those pages will have to be assembled in a "grid" of sorts. (I won't say more.) Once you have the answer to this first puzzle, you'll use it to unlock another list of pages to tear out. Those pages cover 8 additional puzzles. You'll have to figure out which pages goes with what puzzle. Sometimes, you'll even have to figure out exactly what it is you have to do. With those 8 answers, you should be able to tackle the Final Puzzle.
  • And what about the pages you didn't rip out? Well guess what - they're all fake! Decoy puzzles, lovingly placed in the book to force you into finding the right ones. (Which, let me remind you, are the ones you've been savagely pulling out. 😵)
  • Heeeeey, have you been losing weight?
  • The author has set up a web page where individual answers can be validated, and where you can also get a couple hints for every puzzle.

Pros
  • If you want to get value for your money, I'd say this book gives you at least five times more gaming time per dollar than your typical "Escape room in a box".
  • It can be a great introduction to Puzzle Hunts, given how clear the rules are, and how easy to is to validate your answers.
  • In spite of the simplicity of the material (because, y'know, it's a book), some of the puzzles still came up as fresh and unexpected (to this reviewer anyway).
Cons
  • I'm placing a #notquite tag on this review because the book might be missing some of your favorite Escape Room elements: there's no theme proper, no time limit, and nothing I would count as "searching".
  • If you're a regular on this blog, you can guess how freaked out I was to have to destroy my own book. Be assured that this time around, there just isn't any workaround.
  • Although me & my friends are all functionally bilingual, none of are native speakers, and it showed. If you're in the same situation, rest assured you will need an English dictionary and access to Wikipedia, and you will also have to validate pretty much all your answers in the Opening Puzzle. If the very idea of using an online tool to look for anagrams upsets you, then you'd better get yourselves some English-native, word games enthusiasts.

Another (free) suggestion
  • If you have a taste for Puzzle Hunts and never played "The Fool's Errand", you definitely should. This game from the 80s can be download for free from the author's website.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book - Paper Escapes

 
Pictures from the publisher's website


Publisher:
Author:
Jesse Cruz
# of Players:
1-2
Duration:
60 min (although players aren't expected to time themselves)

Game Design & Mechanics
  • This "book" is in fact more like a fancier version of those "puzzle books" you can buy in drugstores. It's clearly meant to be written directly into and eventually discarded. (And this being escape-themed, you won't be surprised that you might need to mess with the book in other ways.)
  • There 10 puzzles listed in sequence. The answer to every puzzles is always a series a digits.
  • As I already stated, the book doesn't ask you to time yourself (it's meant to be a casual experience), but if you get stuck on a puzzle for more than 5 minutes, you're invited to turn the page over and read the hint written on the next one.
  • If you're still stuck after that, there's is a URL (and a QR code printed there for convenience) which send you to page listing the full answer.
  • The last puzzle uses the codes you previously obtained, and the final code you get is supposed to be entered on the publisher's website, where a terse congratulations message awaits.
Pros
  • In general, the puzzles are decent, and each one if fairly unique. They're the kind of stuff you can find in Escape Rooms, and even more so in the Escape-Room-in-a-Box games I've previously reviewed.
Cons
  • Let's start with the most crucial point: the "Escape Room" angle is a farce. I've seen such puzzle books (made of various puzzles that connect together) for years. This book has no storyline (not even a theme), nothing to "search" through, and nothing to "unlock" except for that one final code.
  • I see absolutely no point in giving this book a high quality finish (and the price point that goes with it). Why put so much production value in a book meant to be written into (and worse)? At the beginning of this review I mentioned puzzle books in drugstores, and I think that should've been the proper model for a book like this: cheap paper stock, cheap cover, cheap price tag, and then you sell it alongside crossword puzzles and sudoku books.
  • It's also way too big for its own good. I could easily see the book pages being half as small, and gameplay wouldn't really be affected.
  • The internet angle is a bit of a waste, too. Why not put the solutions at the end of the book? The main benefit of books is that you can bring them anywhere, even out in camping. You can still do that with this book... but only if you're willing to wait for the answers.