The Room came out back in 2012 and won enough awards to get its own Wikipedia page. I decided to give it a whirl to see what the fuss was about. It can be picked up cheaply as a mobile game, or for a few pounds on Steam in a revamped desktop incarnation.
It’s a short game, possible to complete in an evening. It’s also easy to see why it’s popular as it’s beautifully presented, accessible and contains nothing taxing enough to cause severe frustration.
But all the way through I spent more time thinking about other games, and the numerous problems with computer puzzle games as a genre. Problems that have rarely been solved.
Maze by Christopher Manson is, according to the cover, “The World’s Most Challenging Puzzle”. True to the claim, nobody correctly solved it during the two years between publication in October 1985 and the close of the competition in September 1987. The $10,000 prize money was instead split between several people who all got closest to the solution.
The puzzle has several parts. The first step is to find the shortest path in and out of the maze. Then there is a cryptic riddle to find at the centre of the maze. Finally, the solution to the riddle is solved by finding clues hidden along the shortest path.
This post takes a quick look at the book and provides the solution to finding the shortest path. You can also download an interactive map that keen Maze-solvers may find useful.
Escape Rooms are popping up everywhere. Locked into a confined space with some friends, you typically have one hour to find clues, solve puzzles, crack codes and escape. They’re an unusual experience that brings point-and-click puzzle computer games into the real world.
I visited Enigma Escape in London in early 2016. At the time, they had only a single room available, The Killer. Since the entire point of the experience is mystery and surprise, I promise this is a spoiler-free review.
The set-up for The Killer is that you and your friends are gassed during a visit to the cinema and wake to find yourself in a locked cage. Can you escape before the killer returns to deal with you? Thus begins a tense hour trying to break free.
Masquerade is the quintessential armchair treasure hunt book: beautiful to look at and filled with many small, easy puzzles as well as one large one that is nigh impossible to solve.
This post goes through some of the little puzzles in the book (as much as can be covered in a single blog post). It also gradually reveals hints to how the main puzzle works, before giving away the full solution. Skip to the end if you want, or try to work it out for yourself once pointed in the right direction.
The clues start right on the title page: “To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes, / And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize”.
Indeed, there is a hare hidden on every page, and hunting them down is the first bit of fun to be had in the book. But this clue has two deeper, double meanings: eyes are important, and the hares point, literally, to the answer.
The Egyptian Jukebox is an intriguing puzzle book and certainly worth a read, though it is not one that you are likely to return to time and again.
Written by Nick Bantock in 1993 the titular jukebox is a cabinet having 10 drawers, each associated with a different Egyptian God, and all lovingly photographed. Every drawer is stuffed with creepy knick-knacks, coins and postcards from around the world. A short, often ghostly story accompanies each drawer and gives context to the contents.
The creator of the jukebox poses a single riddle: “Where do my worlds join?”. To help solve it, cryptic clues have the reader running around each drawer like a rat in a maze.
This is an enjoyable and solvable puzzle. Small clues scattered throughout the book must be pieced together to find the correct path through every drawer. It’s nicely structured so that the reader can see that they’re making progress, but different stumbling points present themselves on each page and require a slightly different approach to solve.
The Eleventh Hour screams out “kids picture book”, but don’t let the simple style fool you. This is a wonderful adventure and puzzle for children of all ages. It won author and artist, Graeme Base a well-deserved “picture book of the year” award in his adoptive home of Australia in 1989.
The story is sweet and told in short rhyming passages. A diverse group of animal friends enjoy celebrating Horace the elephant’s 11th birthday together. But disaster strikes at 11 o’clock when the banquet prepared for lunch is stolen. Can you identify the criminal mastermind?
The answer to this question is quite simple, but the joy of the book comes in finding all the different clues confirming it. Secret messages and hidden clues are crammed into every inch of every brightly coloured page.
Hieroglyphics? Check! Musical notes spelling out a message? Check! Turning the book upside down? Check! I don’t know about an eleven year old, but it kept me quiet for a day. A sealed section at the back of the book goes through all the clues and I guarantee not even the most eagle-eyed reader will spot them all.
If you know an eleven year old, buy them this book, then steal it for yourself to cherish forever.