ESCAPE GAME REVIEW/NEWS:
With the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns still in effect, escape room locations are working on online games (which we’re calling online escape rooms), while other companies are capitalizing on creating escape room games (like board games and puzzle books).
Jan Van Damme, from Crux Club HQ, creates outdoor puzzle hunts, which “are similar to an escape room, but take place outdoors. The goal is to accomplish something in the world, not get out of a room.”
Van Damme’s new venture, however, comes in the form of an escape room style puzzle book, which means that there is a story leading you through an interactive book of theme-related puzzles based on those you might typically see in an escape room.
Enter Mob Treasure, their new Kickstarter, which is live through Thursday, March 4. They’ve crushed their funding goal, so the funds for the project will be collected and awards delivered this May (per their projection).
Check out their Kickstarter here at
And, what’s really cool about this adventure is that it is based on a true story!
“The missing treasure of New York City beer baron Dutch Schultz has captivated countless treasure hunters. On his deathbed in 1935, the infamous mobster rambled on incoherently for hours, possibly revealing the location of his hidden millions. The cache has never been recovered. This legend inspired William S. Burroughs to write a screenplay titled “The Last Words of Dutch Schultz.” Could the information in Mob Treasure contain new clues to finding the final resting place?”
– from their Kickstarter page.
OUR TAKE ON THE PROJECT:
Van Damme contacted us through our website and offered some advance reader draft copies for us to test out the puzzles and provide some feedback on what we liked and what could be improved. We do so on the condition that we’d provide an honest update to our readership and the escape room and puzzle lovers out there. Essentially – as with all of our reviews – do we think the project is worth the money people would spend?
First of all, let’s just say that we loved the artwork in this book! Kudos to the often-overlooked graphic designers and illustrators. The design complements the puzzles really, really well.
Readers will find the puzzles to be diverse and have many different challenge ratings. It is also obvious that the creators of this book and all the puzzles are puzzle fanatics/escape room designers. Escape room aficionados may recognize some puzzle types found inside, but there are many, many puzzles (more than 75 across 15 chapters) so there is something for everyone. And by something for everyone, we mean (roughly speaking), translation, logic, word puzzles, pictograms, even poker related puzzles (among other things)… there are even some math puzzles too.
We found the puzzles challenging and fun. Some required a lot more work and manipulation, while we solved others pretty quickly.
In terms of the story and theme… this is where a lot of puzzle books we’ve looked at fall a bit short. Either the story is engaging and the puzzles are just thrown in, or the puzzles are really challenging and on theme, but then the story isn’t developed enough to provide that immersive experience. You won’t find that here as the story and puzzles have been developed in tandem, something which we always look for and take note of.
Next, the organization of the book is really well done. You get a location and overview, and then puzzles that relate to each part of the location you’re exploring. Each location is set up like a chapter, and you’re told not to progress until you’ve solved the main puzzle that gets you to the next location. It’s one of the closest structures we’ve seen that compares to a multi-room escape room (where you need to solve all the puzzles in one room, which opens the oft-times-secret door to the next room). Additionally, there are times where you’ll be solving puzzles page after page but at other times you’re going to be going through several pages for information to backtrack with (within a chapter, of course) to solve a previous puzzle.
Additionally, this organization lets you stop at specific points (i.e. the ends of each chapter), and pick it up later on without losing your way. This experience provides HOURS of puzzle-solving.
While we do like how the hints and solutions are separated in the back of the book in the event you get stuck (they are easy to find and use), we do feel that some of the current hints could be fleshed out a bit more in terms of detail to provide some more guidance before turning to the next section to get the actual solution. We’d also say that most of the solutions are explained well, but there are a few that we would have liked some more info on even after we read them (mainly because we wanted to understand their thought process in how it was created and solved).
NOTE: we are aware that we’re looking at a draft copy of the project so lots of things are subject to change before the final awards deliver. We’d also like to point out that one of the stretch goals is an online solutions check, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally reading a spoiler for the next puzzle as you are looking up the one you’re stuck on.
Additionally, we’re big fans on being able to replay a game or hand it off to a friend when we’re done, but this isn’t as possible with a few of the puzzles due to some required folding and cutting. However, the great majority are not destructive, so it’s not as big an issue (you can always do most of the puzzles lightly in pencil and erase when you’re done or list them in a notebook).
Overall, we’d recommend this project and suggest getting in quickly on this Kickstarter to reserve your copies. They’d be great to do with a partner, or even online with a group of friends provided if each location has its own copy (there are options on the Kickstarter to get a single copy, as well as multiple copies).
This project is a great value. You can get a single copy for only $15, which is a great deal when you consider the number of puzzles you get.
Kudos to Crux Club!
Are there other games or puzzle books you’d like us to check out and report back on?
Email us at [email protected] and let us know!
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