What Are We Playing? [March 2021]

Each month on this blog we highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators -- here is this month's roundup!


Solve Our Shirts! By CU Adventures

Just like the name implies, this game comes in the form of a T-shirt, and a nice quality one at that! Themed around the Greek myth of the Minotaur, the T-shirt “souvenir” is accompanied by postcards and an informative pamphlet about Greece, which delivers some light hints in a fun and diegetic way. The puzzles all felt logical and weren’t terribly complex, making the game approachable for new players, but still with enough layers to keep the solves satisfying and not overly simplistic. CU Adventures also managed to pack some clever surprises in there - this one will not disappoint.


Time: <2h

Difficulty: 2/5

Image via CU Adventures


The Last Masquerade by Society of Curiosities


Society of Curiosities is a quarterly subscription game played with physical as well as digital components. This fourth installment felt marginally less challenging than the second and third in the series, and not in a bad way. It just felt well-signposted, keeping aha moments satisfying while narrowing any gaps of logic. The puzzles were varied and creative, making great use not only of the props but also the paper, bringing dimension to a mostly flat game. As always, Society of Curiosities used online components brilliantly in The Last Masquerade, adding immersion and urgency to the mission. The most noteworthy thing, however, is that I still couldn’t tell you which is my favorite Society of Curiosities box so far… you should play them all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Time: ~2h

Difficulty: 2/5


The Runes of Odin by Puzzling Package Industries


Puzzling Package Industries packs a lot of story into this Norse mythology themed game that narrative lovers will surely appreciate. The Runes of Odin kicks the difficulty up a notch from one of their other games, Sins of the Father, but does so in an interesting and gratifying way. Though we could have used a bit more clarity with onboarding, we appreciated the variety and the thoughtful layering of the puzzles. The hints were good enough to guide us through the sticky parts but some mid-puzzle confirmations could have helped along the way. It was a bit disappointing not to use all of the gorgeous components, but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the game overall. For those who like to collect artifacts, there are some nice pieces to be found within.


Time: 3-5h

Difficulty: 3/5


Escape the Plagues

Escape the Plague is a family-friendly Passover puzzle game with social justice themes. The puzzles were created to fit the audience, so experienced puzzlers should not expect a challenge, but the game was nevertheless fun to solve. Regardless of background or religious beliefs, this would be an excellent experience for families and community organizations to enjoy as it also includes some distinct characters and discussion questions, easily adding an education aspect to it. Escape the Plagues also gets major kudos for its unique theme, its courage to actually address real issues, and its success in doing so in an elegant and accessible way.


Time: <1h

Difficulty: 1/5

Image via Escape the Plagues


Cryptex Hunt

The Cryptex Hunt is an annual event, and for the first time I actually played through the entire thing! Puzzle hunts can be notoriously difficult and unfriendly not only for novice puzzlers, but even for seasoned puzzlers that are inexperienced with puzzle hunts. To put it simply, there are certain conventions that create a pretty steep learning curve. I was pleased to learn that the Cryptex Hunt creators aimed to make something less challenging and more accessible this year, and for the most part, I believe they succeeded.


The hunt this year is made up of twelve 8-bit text adventures with adorable pixel art and some fun themes. Each one was designed by a different person, so they vary a bit across the board, but we mostly enjoyed the structure and the puzzles in these games (generally friendly to play through, although it was occasionally tricky to figure out the correct commands.) In order to actually complete the hunt, however, you need to also solve a meta puzzle from each of the twelve games, along with a final meta. The meta puzzles are significantly harder to get through and require some out-of-the-box thinking, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make them significantly more challenging. There are, however, hints available, as well a Discord server for the hunt, making the metas much more solvable.


To sum it up, if you’re feeling ambitious or are experienced with puzzle hunts, you’ll have a good time solving the whole thing. If you would rather have some tasty bite-sized puzzles, I can happily recommend just playing through some of the games by themselves. You might miss out on a few interesting mechanics, but you’ll still walk away happy. My personal favorites, in no particular order, include Wake Up, Dead Mall Mystery, The Bamboo Forest, and The Wizard’s Tower.


Time: 12h+ (45-60 per game x 12 + meta puzzles)

Difficulty: 2-3/5 for the games only, 4/5 for the meta puzzles



We Were Here

Free on steam!


We Were Here is a cooperative two-player game, and is the first in a three-part (soon to be four-part) series by Total Mayhem Games. Lost in a frozen wasteland, you and your partner are split up and must work together to find your way out, communicating only via walkie-talkies. We did not use the walkie-talkie function for our playthrough but rather talked over Discord, and I would likewise suggest playing with voice chat on a separate platform to make for a smoother experience. Otherwise, we really enjoyed the communication-based puzzling, though I was actually caught off guard that the end came so quickly. If you enjoyed any of Enchambered’s two-player cooperative games, you will probably like this as well. We’re looking forward to playing the sequels.

Time: ~1h

Difficulty: 2/5



Maquette


Platforms: PS4, PS5, PC Maquette is a narrative-driven puzzle game that allows you to play with environments and perspective as you explore a world within a world within a world. The story revolves around the lifespan of a romantic relationship, told through bits of writing and clips of conversation. The main environment features several buildings standing around a small scale model of the same buildings in the center… which you can use to manipulate objects and various parts of the world. I won’t spoil anything else about the mechanics, but suffice it to say that the tricky puzzles and the aesthetically pleasing environments were the highlights of Maquette.


Time: ~3h

Difficulty: 2/5


What have you been playing this month?

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