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

I am always in awe of the mechanisms iDventure pulls off. They often feel like escape room puzzles on a micro scale, and it's been interesting to see the evolution of their Clueboxes from the first one to Sherlock’s Camera. They started out simpler and only made from laser cut wood, but have gradually added more complexity and additional materials into the mix.

Sherlock’s Camera had a bit of a confusing start, mostly due to a component that seems to have gotten loose in transit. I made the first solve, but it didn’t do anything. Thankfully, the hints have pictures, and I was able to figure out what happened and move forward. (This component’s attachment method is a clever idea, but made it difficult to both start the box and reset it afterward.)

There were times throughout the experience that found myself doing the right thing but not being fully able to execute it correctly. Aside from that, the puzzles were clever and enjoyable. iDventure has certainly cemented its position as the leader in this genre of puzzle box; so far no other brand has been able to match their quality of construction and cleverness of puzzles.

Time: ~1 hour

Difficulty: 2/5

The Museum Heist is an interactive puzzle book with both deduction and escape-room-style puzzles. Visually, the book is nicely printed with a professional design, though the art isn’t quite as cohesive as I would’ve liked.

The flow of the book is smooth, and I really appreciated the way the puzzles integrate into the narrative. Overall I enjoyed the puzzles, aside from a handful that felt a bit too open to interpretation or tedious to execute. The sections that required "unlocking" via an web browser felt like the weakest points in the book, but were luckily very easy to skip.

Most puzzles were excellently signposted, and I felt relatively confident in my answers. While the hints aren’t quite comprehensive, they’re useful if you need a nudge, and solution verification is available if need be. It’s also possible to leave something unsolved and return to it later if you get stuck, unlike many other puzzle books that require answers from previous pages to continue. Although experienced puzzlers won’t find this book tremendously challenging, it was still enjoyable to put together all the information and evidence to lead you to find the correct culprit in the end.

Time: ~3-6 hours

Difficulty: 1.5/5

Azul is one of my favorite board games, and I’m consistently impressed with the subtle but meaningful variations among all the different versions of this beautiful and tactile game. In this rendition, there are new drafting, placement, and scoring rules, putting a fresh spin on the same style of strategic decision-making. If you’ve enjoyed Calico, there are some similarities between it and this version of Azul.

Azul will appeal to fans of puzzles and strategy games, but the gameplay is not so complex that board game newbies will have difficulty learning the rules, although scoring can be a little confusing at first. Queen's Garden offers some more depth and additional complexity compared to the classic version, for those who wish to go one step further and try something new.

Time: ~45 minutes

Image via Steam

HitchHiker is a narrative video game that includes minor interactive elements as well. The tone is surreal, philosophical, and a bit dark, akin to a David Lynch film, or a strange dream. You ride in the cars of different characters in each chapter, piecing together memory fragments along the way.

While the writing and certain moments of design were compelling, the interactions were fairly simple, similar to what you may find in Life is Strange or a Telltale game. It seemed like the story was building up to something bigger and got me intrigued to learn more, but before I knew it, the game was over. This abrupt ending to what could have been a more impactful story was ultimately a little disappointing.

Time: ~3.5 hours

Difficulty: 1/5

The Century Ghost is a mildly spooky browser-based game inspired by the Winchester Mystery House. It’s also a sequel to The Glasshouse Ghost (read our full review here), and made for a solid follow-up. The interface is very user-friendly and makes effective use of multimedia, with transcripts for accessibility. The puzzles made sense and were well-themed, using a mix of digitized media and storytelling devices. The only downside was that it felt a bit short and I found myself wanting something more, but overall it was a fun, quick, game.

Time: ~45m

Difficulty: 1.5/5

What have you been playing lately?


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