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What Are We Playing? [Oct-Dec 2023]

Periodically on this blog I highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators. Here's the final roundup of 2023!

The Past Within is a dark and spooky game that is part of the Rusty Lake series, designed to be played cooperatively with two people on separate devices. With smooth and relatively straightforward gameplay, it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours with a friend. I rarely found it to be frustrating, but I did occasionally find it to be a little repetitive. It reminded me of a more macabre version of the Alone Together series from Enchambered, so if you enjoyed those, you may consider giving it a try. Overall, it is an well-designed addition to the Rusty Lake series, showcasing the signature style and atmosphere that fans of the series have come to appreciate through a lens of asymmetrical gameplay.

Difficulty: 1.5/5

Time: ~2 hours

The Tangram Journal is like a mini art-museum in a book, produced by Art of Play. The puzzle hunt hidden throughout the pages of the book was created in collaboration with puzzle designer (and friend of PostCurious) Matthew Stein of Enigmida. Although it was a little confusing to get started, once we found our footing, we were able to get through most of the puzzles without hints. One puzzle wore out its welcome quickly, but I did love the final puzzle, even if it was a little tricky to put together. Keep in mind that some pages do need to be destroyed in gameplay, which might irk some people, so your mileage may vary. A bonus highlight of this experience is that the art in the book is fun to admire on its own. One thing to note: the meta answers for the puzzle hunt are recorded on a postcard that is not attached to the book. Make sure you don’t lose it.

Difficulty: 3.5/5

Time: ~4 hours

Return of Dr. Esker's Notebook is the second sequel to Dr. Esker's Notebook, a card-based puzzle game full of enigmatic images and handwritten text. Like with its predecessors, the puzzles were generally very logic-based, which we enjoyed, although a couple of them required recognizing some things which could be considered outside knowledge by some. The difficulty level was a comfortable level of challenge—we only needed a hint on one puzzle and the rest came together through collective brainstorming. Because of its resemblance to the other two games, it didn’t feel exactly novel, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I'm impressed by the creator's ability to come up with this many iterations on the same idea, but I’ll be even more excited to see something new made by the same mind. If you have enjoyed the previous Esker games, you will likely enjoy this as well. If you hate logic puzzles, or want your games to have a compelling narrative thread, then it may not be for you.

Difficulty: 2/5

Time: 2-3 hours

Escape Tales: Low Memory is a card-based escape room style game with a more substantial narrative component than the EXIT or Unlock! series. It features three chapers, each telling part of the same story from a different perspective. Narrative passages and additional cards are revealed by exploring an area using tokens, which limit your movement. While the exploration aspect of the game sometimes felt a bit arbitrary, the puzzles were a mix of ones that solved cleanly and others that felt rather convoluted. The game provided hints and solutions, but explanations were sometimes lacking, and we couldn't always figure out how we were meant to reach a certain solution. The ending presented us with a choice, which we appreciated, but the conclusion wasn't really clear. Although the story was more unique compared to some other escape room games, it fell short of the emotional impact found in the first installment by this team, Escape Tales: The Awakening. Still, this series offers something a little different, and I'm looking forward to trying a newer addition to the series.

Difficulty: 2.5/5

Time: 2-3 hours per chapter x 3 chapters = 6 to 9 hours total

After hearing a lot of complaints about the infamously difficult Cain's Jawbone, I was intrigued by the idea of a lighter, more fun version of the "reorder the pages in this book" puzzle. The story in Annie Cob Jaws centers around the correspondence between a young girl and her grandmother and is written in an easily digestible prose. At its best, I enjoyed reading through the letters and figuring the clues to put them back in order.

On the other hand, I noticed several typos throughout the text, which made it feel like there was some lapse in quality proofreading, and one letter was included twice, which briefly caused some confusion. Submitting the solution to see if you're correct involved sending a list of words in the correct order to an email address. As a conclusion, it felt a bit like a missed opportunity to have a self-confirming answer, which would not only feel more satisfying (especially if it revealed some final narrative detail) but would also eliminate the need to wait for an email reply to find out if you solved it correctly. All in all, a nice lighthearted mystery that could be approachable to a wide audience, including adolescents.

Time: ~1.5 hours

Difficulty: 2/5

What have you been playing lately?


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Angela Lawson-Scott
Angela Lawson-Scott

Arranging the pages in the correct order is only the first part of the puzzle for Annie Cob Jaws. Were you able to solve the entire thing?

Post Curious
Post Curious

It is? Well, I sent an email, and was told I was close, and which couple of letters I had placed in the wrong order. I didn't realize there was any more puzzle to solve? DM me the deets!

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