Unlock! Escape Games and Free Demos

Unlock box

Unlock! Mystery Adventures

I recently picked up a copy of Unlock! Mystery Adventures. So far I’ve only played the tutorial adventure, so don’t worry about spoilers or solutions in this post.

I’ve tried some real life Escape Rooms over the past few years, and they’re usually fun, though I was so disappointed with Breakout Manchester, that I couldn’t even be bothered to blog about the experience! But as we and our friends get to that age where young children start interfering with the adults’ playtime opportunities, organising a group outing gets harder.

Unlock!, Escape The Room, and the critically acclaimed Exit: The Game series offer the chance to try out the Escape Room phenomena in the comfort of your own home and are more suitable for smaller groups, or even solo play.
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Multiple Puzzle Solutions in The Witness

The Witness

Perspective tricks are all over The Witness

The Witness is a computer puzzle game from 2016. It’s great to look at, with challenging but satisfying puzzles and a few moments of genius.

Despite its high points, it has to be said that I was massively underwhelmed by the game overall and bored before I reached the end. The attempts to make the game deep by throwing in an assortment of philosophical sound and video recordings sits somewhere between lazy and insulting. Wired have already done an excellent dissection job, though I would choose the adjective “hollow” to describe the experience of playing The Witness, rather than “empty”.

The distinction is subtle, but the game really does look great on the surface. Its desert island setting is covered with perspective tricks and puzzles requiring you to be standing in just the right place so you can trace paths between separate buildings or across vast landscapes. The design of the puzzles in general is great, with LOTS of them, and a minority that are pure frustration. It’s a worthwhile reward at the centre of it all that’s missing, and the game falsely implies you’re going to receive one with its enigmatic wrapping suggesting questions to be answered come the end. Instead, the only reward for solving puzzles are more pretty graphics and more puzzles.

But if you want a challenge, I’d still recommend picking up a copy of the game. Just don’t expect to find meaning, or plot, or satisfying conclusions in it. Most importantly, if you get bored, walk away and come back when you feel in the mood again. Pushing through the game because you’re expecting something to happen rather than because you’re enjoying solving the puzzles will just suck the joy out of the experience.
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Cat And Mouse from BePuzzled

Cat And Mouse puzzle

Impossibles: Cat And Mouse

Reporting on another charity shop find: a BePuzzled “Puzzling Puzzle” from 1994, “Cat And Mouse”.

This is intended to be an ultra-hard jigsaw puzzle, and has also been marketed under the “Impossibles” brand. The various ideas for making jigsaw puzzles harder are great. There are no edge pieces. The picture is repetitive and is not fully revealed by the box art. There are 5 extra pieces that don’t fit into the puzzle. And there’s a extra puzzle to solve once all the pieces have been put together: find the mouse hidden among the cats.
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Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise

Agent A

Ruby La Rouge’s cat meets Agent A

Agent A is your typical point-and-click / escape room adventure game. It’s lifted above the average by nice graphics and a great selection of puzzles with few moments of frustration or tedium.

The basic plot is that Ruby La Rouge, an enemy spy with an awful accent, has killed your boss and several of your fellow Agents. You’re Agent A, the best in the business, and it’s up to you to confront Ruby in her hideaway. No sooner have you found your way through the front door, then Ruby turns the tables and traps you inside with her vicious cat.

What follows is a short but charming homage to spy films as you crack safes, reveal secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, and put oversized precious jewels to good uses.
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Cryptogram Puzzle Post

Cryptogram Puzzle Post Envelope

Cryptogram Puzzle Post April 2017, The River

While rooting around the Travelling Man game shop in York, I came across a series of nicely presented envelopes promising “codes, ciphers, riddles, spells and illusions inspired by witchcraft and alchemy”: the Cryptogram Puzzle Post.

Issued monthly since March 2017, each envelope holds a self-contained bundle of 7 small puzzles, leading one to the next towards a final solution. That solution can be emailed to the author for confirmation of its correctness, or a set of three correct answers from a full Season can be submitted to unlock a “mystery art” prize.
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Picture Puzzle: Name the City


Puzzle: Name the City

A tricky little picture puzzle to test your decryption skills and a simple question: name the city.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

If that isn’t enough fun, this post includes some of the code used to generate the picture. If you understand the code, it will give you a big hint for solving the puzzle.

The image was created using the free POV-Ray raytracer. Generating raytraced images involves creating a virtual 3D world with objects and light sources and a camera. POV-Ray then calculates how light travels around the virtual world, bouncing off the objects, and creates the view that would be seen by the camera. The usual aim of raytacing calculations is to mimic real-world physics as much as possible to try to create a photo-realistic image.

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A Present of a Picross


Example Picross

A final present from me for Christmas! This time it’s a Picross puzzle.

A picross is a logic puzzle. They’re also called Nonograms, Hanjie, Griddlers or “Paint-By-Numbers”.

The goal is to blacken squares in a grid to create a picture.

Numbers around the grid are clues. From these clues you can deduce exactly where all the black squares go using logic and deduction. There is only one solution where the clues in the columns and the clues in the rows are consistent.

Each clue number signifies an unbroken line of black squares. These lines appear in the same order as the numbers, running left to right for the rows and top to bottom for the columns. Every line of black squares is separated by one or more un-blackened squares. You can mark these in with light Xs. A zero means the entire row or column is unblackened.

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News and Updates for December

logoChristmastime is here, by golly!

Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Hogswatch, Krampusnacht, Pancha Ganapati, Winterval, Yule or Yalda, the end of the Gregorian Calendar year is, for many, a season of glad tidings and enforced time with the extended family.

Puzzles and games are a great way to soothe political and religious differences, offering something entirely different for people to argue about.

As I write this, there’s still time to pick up some of these puzzle books if you’re stuck for gift ideas. Alternatively, there are a few online challenges to while away the northern hemispherically cold winter evenings.

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Cryptic Crossword Primer for Christmas


Click for full size version

Cryptic crosswords are one of those things you either love or hate, that you either understand or can’t stand. Part of the problem is that there is a huge set of rules for solving them which you are simply supposed to know. If you don’t know the rules, you’ve got no chance.

This post is a Chritmas present to readers. It includes a short introduction on how to solve cryptic crosswords and a special Christmas themed crossword to try your hand at. It is not like some of the devious cryptic crosswords in the broadsheets. Most of the clues should be fairly easy and fun.

You can click on the image to the right to view the crossword at full size, and here is a PDF version to download and print.

I believe that puzzles are a great activity for families stuck together for extended periods trying to think up topics of conversation! So print a few of the crosswords off and work together over the holiday period to find the answers.

This crossword and the primer below were written by myself and my partner in crime at inkflamingos.com. Please visit her art blog!

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Dickens’ Final Chapter: A TimeTrap Escape Room

TimeTrap logo

TimeTrap Escape

TimeTrap Escape are a small escape room company based in Reading, Berkshire. So far they have produced two temporary “pop-up” rooms in bars around the town.

There were some great word-of-mouth reviews for “The Dungeon”, held in the basement of The Purple Turtle, but I couldn’t make it in person. So when I heard that “Dickens’ Final Chapter” was having a short run in the library of the historic Great Expectations hotel and bar, I didn’t miss my second chance and visited them during their final week.

And so a willing friend and I travelled back in time to discover which felon had stolen the manuscript of Charles Dickens’ final book.

Though the room is now dismantled, I have attempted to keep this review spoiler free in case it is recreated in the future.

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