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What Are We Playing? [March 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 March roundup for 2024!

Requiem for a Double is a tabletop murder mystery that incorporates an assortment of puzzles into a unique narrative. The puzzles were varied and well-thought out with lots of fun aha moments along the way. We also really appreciated the non-linear format, allowing us to switch up the puzzle we were working on. Overall the experience is approachable for less experienced puzzlers, though we did need a couple of hints for the multi-step puzzles. One puzzle could’ve used more clarity in the extraction, as we had the correct answer (a date), but had to try and guess what format the input required. We did feel it was sometimes too easy to accidentally look at evidence we hadn’t yet "found" during gameplay. Similarly, when we didn’t initially reach the correct answer, we would’ve preferred to try again rather than be told the correct solution right away.

The website for the game was basic but functional, and the themed content was amusing and didn’t take itself too seriously. The story itself was a refreshing change of pace from other murder mysteries, and the puzzles integrated well into the narrative. This game packs an impressive amount of gameplay into a small envelope, and we liked that it included a page to organize evidence and information, as well as a refill kit. Overall, it’s a promising start from a new company, and we’re looking forward to more games from Peculiar Pond!

Time: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: 2.5/5

Dubious Documents by Nick Bantock

Dubious Documents is a puzzle book made by the creator of the Griffin & Sabine series. The book contains sixteen envelopes, each containing a single folded page, with clues for each page given at the front of the book. While the first puzzle was a tricky one to start with and the final extraction felt unnecessarily confusing, we enjoyed most of the individual puzzles, though we did feel it would’ve been nicer to have each clue on the same page as the envelope to avoid flipping back and forth. Overall, they solved cleanly and could even be considered beginner-friendly.

What stands out the most about this book is the artwork. The components were beautiful to look at, full of collage style art, vintage stamps, and illustrations. More than anything though, we wished the whole experience utilized more of the artwork, and not doing so felt like a missed opportunity. Two of the puzzles were solved using only the envelope, meaning the page wasn’t even necessary, while the rest typically used only a small portion of the enclosed page. The beautifully detailed visual elements had a lot of potential to be incorporated into the puzzles, so this aspect was a bit of a letdown. Overall, a pleasant way to spend some light puzzling time and would make for a lovely gift.

Time: <2 hours

Difficulty: 2/5

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

Viewfinder lives in the “mind-twisty, playing-with-perspective” genre of puzzle games such as Superliminal, Maquette, and A Fisherman’s Tale. Each time I walked into a photo, it felt a little bit magical. For fans of this genre, Viewfinder delivers a clever new twist on the environment-changing mechanic. It challenges you to seek new solutions but starts out incredibly simple, which would also make a good choice for anyone just dipping their toes into puzzles. If you’re a non-spatial thinker, you might find these types of puzzles more challenging, but I think they would be solvable by people with a wide variety of skills and experience levels.

There was some instances of overlapping dialogue in the game, which felt a bit glitchy, but overall the gameplay was pretty smooth. When it came to jumps and completing challenges, it was relatively forgiving and didn’t force a level of precision that felt punishing. Near the end I got a little frustrated due to a timed sequence, which felt like an odd choice for an otherwise casual and rather zen-paced game, and I was delightfully surprised to discover that it’s possible to turn it off in the settings (thanks, devs!) I wished the story had enough substance to match the cleverness of the gameplay, but overall it was a very enjoyable experience.

Time: 3-5 hours

Difficulty: 2.5/5

Image via Steam

A Fold Apart is a cutesy, surreal, and emotional puzzle game about a couple in a long-distance relationship. The main puzzle mechanic is unique—clever but not too complex, and gradually becomes more fiendish as additional interactions become available.

I had a few minor issues with the game—the font choices could have been more refined, the pacing seemed artificially slow at times, and some small UX improvements would be appreciated. At times, I also felt like I was just using trial and error rather than a really comprehensive strategy to stumble into the solution. Overall, however, the onboarding and gradual addition of complexity was very smooth.

While I can imagine some people rolling their eyes at the writing, the narrative itself was sweet and relatable. If you like games like Goragoa and Monument Valley and don’t mind a sappy love story with a slower pace, then give this one a shot.

Time: ~3 hours

Difficulty: 1.5/5

The Leopold Trilogy (The Pendulum of the Dead, White Sleep, The Fate of Leopold) is a series of card-based escape room style game from 50 Clues. It felt smoother than most games I’ve tried in this genre and had mechanics similar to an Unlock! game, only with a much darker storyline.

While the scenarios were written with the intensity of a psychological thriller, they lacked narrative depth, meaning, and emotion, which made it difficult to connect with the character we were meant to embody. It left us wondering if any of it was “real” or if the protagonist would just be revealed to be mentally ill in the end. There were some interesting moments of choice for the player, but embodying this unhinged character forced our hand at times, and we had mixed feelings about the violent actions we had to take.

The atmospheric Noir-style art was thematically appropriate and felt like reading a comic book at times. The puzzles were varied and most solved cleanly, so we rarely had to resort to a hint. Sometimes the actions and puzzles felt a bit random, however, and didn’t quite fit with what was happening in the story. Most of the puzzles felt relatively beginner-friendly, so this can be enjoyed by a wide audience, but because of the thematic material it’s definitely not for everyone.

Time: ~60 mins per chapter (about 3 hours total for the series)

Difficulty 1.5/5

The Lost Library by Mystery City (hosted by Mastermind Escape Rooms)

The Lost Library is an outdoor puzzle game based in Athens, Greece. There is a plethora of escape rooms in Athens to rave about, but this game is brand new and won't be found on the escape room lists since it takes place outside. Although I typically only write about things that are possible to play at home, I wanted to highlight it on the off-chance that our audience may one day end up in Athens and appreciate knowing about this little gem.

We embarked on our adventure after being handed a backpack with a map, a book, and a box of small items. There was a total of five locations to visit, and each one was the host to a well-signposted puzzle that utilized the landmarks and environment in a satisfying way. The 3D objects were well-designed, pleasant to handle, and enhanced the gameplay experience. The map was helpful, and it was always clear where to go and what to do next. The challenges were not trivial, but I wouldn't call them difficult, either—this would make for a fantastic activity for traveling families, and can be enjoyed by puzzlers of all experience levels. The best part was being able to learn a few new things and see some landmarks through a fresh lens. We were really pleased to have this adventure take us to see some places around Athens that we may have otherwise missed.

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: 1.5/5

What have you been playing lately?


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