Room-in-a-box, Oct 2018
Having grown from live games to play-at-home boxes and books, the escape game juggernaut expands to a new format – the greetings card! Puzzle Card is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a birthday card with a set of puzzles to solve, plus a smallish space for you to write a message to the recipient. The puzzles resolve to a final alphanumeric answer, which can be checked on the company’s webpage.
I’m filing this product under play at home games, but it’s not really equivalent. This isn’t a game to put an evening aside for, it’s a quick set of puzzles that most enthusiasts will rattle through in a few minutes. As a result the value for money depends on the point of comparison. By puzzles per pound (that well-known measure), the few minutes needed to solve this stacks up poorly against any of the full-size box or book games available. On the other hand, it costs little more than any normal greetings card, which has no puzzle content at all.
I tried the first of the two cards that Puzzle Card currently offer, which is a straightforward escape scenario; puzzle clues are interspersed with some light flavour text. Holding everything together is a final set of instructions directing you on how to combine everything into a final answer. This structure makes it feel a little like a scavenger hunt: these are the things you need, now go find them. Everything you need to solve it is on the card itself, and since all the clues are presented as descriptions of your environment, in a combination of pictures and descriptive text, it’s much more ‘escape room’ in feel than if, say, they’d just slapped a sudoku on the card.
The mostly quite straightforward mechanisms used here for deriving letters and numbers are solid enough; the final answer is somewhat guessable from a partial answer, particularly since the webpage where you enter your solution is multiple choice. But that’s beside the point really, since it’s too brief to give much incentive to cut corners. One piece of the content stands out as being the hardest step, and also the cleverest; how long it takes you to solve the card may primarily depend on how quickly you get this part of it.
To emphasise, this is a few minutes’ diversion only – you’d buy this as a puzzle-themed birthday card, not for its own sake as a puzzle game. But on its own terms it’s well-designed and entirely successful; and if you’re reading this site then you probably know at least one person who has an excessive fondness for puzzles and/or escape rooms, and who would very likely be pleased to receive this.