The Fighting Fantasy series of books, created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, were a staple of 1980s solo roleplaying. With simple rules and basic character creation (roll two dice for your stamina, etc) the meat of each book comprised 400 numbered paragraphs. Starting at paragraph 1 you, THE HERO, starred in your own adventure, following instructions to turn to different paragraphs. Success or swift death depended on your choices and the outcome of battles and luck rolls.
My old copies of a handful of the 50-something books has long since decayed in a damp attic. But I recently came across “Fighting Fantasy Classics“, an app version by Tin Man Games featuring a slowly growing library of favourites from the series. After some research into “best of…” lists, I decided to buy a copy of House of Hell, the 10th book in the series, and give it a whirl.
This was supposed to be an analysis of Beyond a Steel Sky, Revolution Software’s newly released sequel to their 1990s cyberpunk thriller Beneath a Steel Sky. But BeyASS is a buggy mess. And though it has now been patched enough that I could play it beginning to end, it’s not yet sufficiently fixed to warrant playing a second time or do a full analysis. I’ll wait for a few more patches come out.
In the meantime, I went back to BenASS to see how it compares. Is Beneath a Steel Sky really the classic it’s held up to be? I’ll be analysing its structure using four Puzzle Dependency Charts that map out the whole game.
The Medieval Puzzle Collection, A Fine and Perplexing Tome of Riddles, Enigmas and Conundrums, is one entry in a long list of Carlton published puzzle books by Tim Dedopulos. Similar titles include numerous Sherlock Holmes themed books, Tutankhamun’s Book of Puzzles and even A Game of Thrones Puzzle Quest.
I think this particular book, published in 2014, is a cheaper black-and-white reprint of the full colour The Medieval Puzzle Book from 2013. Suffice to say, Tim has churned out a lot of these books over the last 10 years, and there’s probably not a huge amount to tell between them.
Short version: I think this book is downright poor, though not quite as poor as The Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth, also by Dedopulos. I don’t hate all his books – I quite enjoyed Sherlock Holmes’ Elementary Puzzles – but Medieval is both dull and badly edited. I’ll try to explain why, finishing with a mathematical foray into the world of homogeneous linear equations. Ready? Read on!
Shame on me for failing to post anything for over a year. I’ve been working on some puzzles and ideas of my own, but have nothing to reveal yet. As part of that work, I’ve been expanding my knowledge of Puzzle Dependency Charts so will instead share some information about them, including two full charts for LucasArts flawed masterpiece, The Dig.
Puzzle Dependency Charts (or Graphs, or Diagrams) are an excellent tool for designing and refining interconnected puzzles. Online discussions usually focus on their use in the classic LucasArts adventure games since Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame developed them to help design his games. But they are not limited to computer games and would be helpful for designing physical Escape Rooms or any multi-stage puzzle.
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. » Read more
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. » Read more
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. » Read more
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. » Read more
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. » Read more