Room-in-a-box, May 2018
This book is not currently available in English
Some people impulse-buy handbags or electronic gadgets; apparently my equivalent vice is to buy escape game books in languages I don’t speak, which is how I ended up with a French-language copy of the Lucky Luke book after passing through Brussels. It’s also available in Dutch, but not English. But relying on a teammate with pretty decent French knowledge the book was accessible enough anyhow, with only a few steps that relied on wordplay being difficult to follow. I’m reviewing here on that basis, for anyone else who might be tempted to try it across the language barrier.
The book is based on the Lucky Luke series of classic Belgian comic books, which Anglophone readers may or may not have come across before, and contains three separate escape games within a single volume. Each puzzle resolves to a page number that tells you where the story continues, and therefore the three different games are interleaved. The pages for each game are marked with a particular colour, to ensure you don’t accidentally continue on a page for a different game. Each game is designed to be played with a one hour time limit, whether solo or in a small group. A section at the back provides per-puzzle hints and solutions; more surprisingly, it also provides a Morse code look-up chart, and similar reference information for Pig Pen Cipher, Braille, etc.
The three games are quite distinct in style. The first is entertainingly varied, a set of small puzzles made more confusing by resolving to different types of answers, sometimes page numbers and sometimes something else. That wrinkle gave us quite a lot of problems, particularly with one point that was also the only puzzle that expects you to damage the book as you play.
The second of the three games was comfortably my favourite, an extended logic problem requiring you to draw together a variety of clues and sub-puzzles to identify the correct suspect. And the third seemed the hardest, a linear sequence of challenges each quite tough in a different way. Having at least a intermediate ability to follow French text is essential to all three, but felt especially important for the third game, and we struggled with it both because of that and because of the higher difficulty level.
Playing it with a very imperfect understanding of French definitely made it harder to enjoy, and anyone with fluent French should probably revise this review’s rating upwards a little to compensate. But even so, it was playable and enjoyable, a good distraction to save for a long train journey. The requirement for puzzles to resolve to a two-digit page number seemed quite a restrictive limitation, and conversely where the book instead uses alternative answer formats it can cause confusion, since it does so without warning. That doesn’t stop it from assembling an impressively varied set of ideas, and I particularly liked the way each of the three games felt like a different style of story, not simply an arbitrary grouping of puzzles.