Room-in-a-box, Sep 2020
Curious Elevator is a combination of an online game with a physical box of puzzles delivered through the post. Each in the linear sequence of puzzles requires information from the website in addition to at least one of the items from the box. Each stage has the same format: an elevator illustration with a wrapped box on a table, which you click to receive the clues for the puzzle; plus a screen to click to enter your answer, and a link below for hints. While the online half of the game gives you only information relevant to the current puzzle, it’s up to you to work out which of the items in the box need to be used; although if in doubt, the first level of hint is always a list of the items that you should use. (I was a bit taken aback to find that the game’s elevator started at floor 63 – did that mean there were 63 puzzles to get through?? Fortunately or sadly, there are a much more reasonable number.)
There’s no particular reason to describe Curious Elevator as an escape game; rather it’s a light puzzle hunt. By puzzle hunt standards Curious Elevator is easy. By escape room standards it’s fairly challenging. This makes it an excellent gateway drug to discover the world of puzzle hunting.
Many escape rooms, physical and otherwise, have excellent puzzles. Even so, the sophistication of escape room puzzles is often some way short of those typically found in good puzzle hunts. Curious Elevator provides an example of this. Its puzzles are efficient, in that there are minimal extraneous details. They are elegant and creative, and sometimes witty. However baffling they may initially seem, once you find the right path you can be confident that you’re doing the right thing. They resolve to recognisable words, giving further confirmation that you’ve solved it. Those solutions are in turn used as raw material for a final metapuzzle. Clues and solutions sometimes contain jokes or references back to the puzzle’s theme, or the theme itself may be a clue to the solution. Which is to say: the puzzles in this game are beautifully designed and highly satisfying to solve.
Note that you’re allowed to look at everything inside the box as soon as you’ve started the game. The presentation in one place suggested otherwise, particularly after having played other box games where you had to not open things until instructed to do so; misunderstanding that left us flailing for a while at an early-ish stage. I also thought the game made slightly too much use of anagrams for my taste. However, the hint system is admirably granular, making it easy to get a nudge without an unwanted spoiler. (Although I’d strongly recommend not taking hints unless you really really need to – there’s no particular time pressure and generally these puzzles reward persistence.)
Elevator’s style is more explicitly ‘puzzle-y’ rather than, say, immersive or story-driven. If you’re more interested in an exciting story then this may not match your tastes so well. But as a set of puzzles to solve, with a challenging but accessible difficulty level, this is an excellent product that I really enjoyed playing and have no hesitation about recommending. The simple but charming illustrations, the quality presentation throughout, and the intentionally replayable design (including a refill pack for the one destructible element) are the cherry on top of a very tasty game.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.