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What Are We Playing? [Feb 2024]

Periodically on this blog we highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators. Here's the February roundup for 2024!

The Medusa Report is the second game in Diorama’s trilogy of narrative tabletop puzzle games. We recommend playing the first game in the trilogy, The Vandermist Dossier, before playing The Medusa Report. (Read our review of that game here.) As big fans of Vandermist, The Medusa Report did not disappoint. It includes lots of authentic-looking documents and unique artifacts, and the way the puzzles integrate into the story is very satisfying.

We really enjoyed the creative ways information was communicated using the various game elements, and the way certain artifacts combined with others was quite gratifying. There was a large variety of puzzle types, and extraction never felt too troublesome. Certain components were used in especially clever ways across multiple puzzles. Overall, the experience was smooth and we rarely found ourselves stuck, but the hint system worked well when we needed a nudge. The story built on the previous game, and the added narrative complexity and plot intrigue made the end of the game particularly satisfying to resolve. We’re looking forward to playing the final installment as soon as it’s released!

Note: The Medusa Report isn't available for retail purchase yet, but you can order The Vandermist Dossier here.

Difficulty: 2.5/5

Time: ~2 hours

Doomensions is a 3D pop-up escape room in a box. The construction of the house itself is very impressive, though it was disappointing how easy it was to accidentally rip certain components (especially the doors) during gameplay. Overall, the use of components was quite clever and involved several cool reveals. Unfolding the accompanying dossier book was also exciting and included nice interactions using just paper.

The gameplay itself was consistently enjoyable and smooth… for the most part. The puzzles were fun to solve, though occasionally a bit tedious to extract correctly. Some puzzles also had clunky and misleading elements, and a few seemed to contain errors. However, when we got stuck, the printed hints explained enough to allow us to move forward, and the conclusion was a solid culmination of earlier gameplay, wrapping up the story in a satisfying way.

Gameplay tips: if you find the ribbons to be too loose to keep the house open, use binder clips or a small clamp. A lazy Susan could also be useful if you have one, as you’re frequently rotating the house to view the different rooms.

Time: ~1-1.5h per dossier, ~6h total

Difficulty: 2/5

Screenshot from The Looker video game featuring rows of benches surrounded by hedges statues and a castle in the background

Apart in Time was a faithful sequel to Enchambered’s previous work in this series of asymmetric cooperative two-player online puzzle games. This one had slightly spookier atmosphere, but wasn’t scary. As in their other games, the puzzles flowed well. The mechanics felt familiar, but not so simple as to feel trivial. There was always some thinking and cooperation required to solve a puzzle, but we never got stuck without having any path forward. It’s a good way to spent some time with a friend remotely for a very affordable price.

Time: ~90m

Difficulty: 2/5

Unheard - Voices of Crime is an “acoustic detective” game that has a unique gameplay mechanic—most of the deduction happens by going from room to room and listening to characters’ voices at the scene of a crime shortly before the incident happens. Your mileage may vary depending on how easily you process audio, but we found the level of complexity to be very reasonable, and the difficulty level would be suitable for beginners. It wasn’t too hard to keep track of the details, and the in-game note-taking feature helped with this. The game prompts you to match each voice with a character’s name, which we enjoyed deducing in addition to solving the cases. Still, each chapter had quite a bit of audio to get through (and some chunks of dead air), which was a bit tedious, especially given that the fast-forwarding function didn’t work for us.

The writing and acting was a bit campy at times, but still entertaining, and the story had an especially interesting psychological twist at the end. The narrative was a bit disjointed between chapters, and had it carried over through scenes more, this may have been a stronger game. It did attempt to tie the narrative together, which brought forth a couple neat “aha” moments, but the overarching story felt like it lacked depth. As a series though, it definitely has potential—we would love to see this concept developed further.

Time: ~3-4 hours

Difficulty: 2.5/5

ESCWelt: Quest Tower is a puzzle box with an incredibly intricate physical structure, but the gameplay itself was a bit disappointing. I somehow managed to solve one of the steps without executing the intended solution, and it seemed like either an error or an oversight. The last puzzle had obtuse logic, but was ultimately a trial and error solve, and I didn’t actually realize it was the last puzzle, thinking there must still be more. During my stuck moments, I found the hint videos helpful, but I would’ve appreciated step-by-step hinting as well. The puzzles I did manage to solve correctly were clever, but unfortunately most of them just didn’t quite click. As an object, it has a great shelf presence and makes for a fun conversation piece.

Time: ~1 hour

Difficulty 2/5

Circus of Modryak is a Lovecraft-inspired escape game that mixes puzzles, narrative, and technology. Overall the puzzles were good and moved the story forward, though some were more satisfying than others. A few puzzles felt a bit trivial or a tad confusing, but we eventually only needed a nudge about once each chapter. The hints, though not diegetic, were integrated well into the tech interface.

The interface’s formatting wasn’t always great, but the web app accomplished what it needed to—just know that it works best on a computer. The first chapter involved a lot of reading and browsing webpages, and our group divided and conquered to get through the material. It picked up after that though, and we worked on the rest of the experience together. We enjoyed several creative interactions (though some worked more smoothly than others). The storyline was intruiging, but it didn’t build tension as well as it was attempting to. If the acting and writing were stronger, the story could’ve been as impactful as intended. The last chapter was over a bit faster than we expected, but it flowed quite well. We recommend playing 1-2 chapters at a time.

Difficulty: 2.5/5

Time: ~45-60m per chapter, ~4h total

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