Updated: May 27
WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 1-6
Published by: Homescapehome
Designed by: Alexander
By Steve Godfrey
At the time of writing this a certain show's fourth season is about to drop…or will have already dropped, depending on when this goes out. So what a great time to put out a review of a game which shares a strong theme with it. Was it planned like this or not? Who knows, Stranger Things have happened.
We played this game using the physical paper version but there is a digital version available. I’ve not played any of the digital versions so I can’t comment on how they work.
To set up, open the folder, scan the QR code which takes you to a form where you can enter your names and what time you start playing. Then just read the first page of story aaaaand that’s it. Seriously, just start looking though the pages and solving puzzles.
Let’s turn this up to Eleven
I’m going to be honest right out of the gate. Having access to everything all at once, having all of those sheets of paper in front of you, it’s overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to start since you’re taking in so much information. All of a sudden though something will click. You’ll read a puzzle and say “ah, I know what to do!” and you’ll just fall into it. You’ll start to see where clues crop up for different puzzles and start piecing things together like a detective in every police procedural and before you know it you’ll start to find your flow and it’s a lot of fun!
One of the things I like about the puzzles is that they’re all trying to lead you to a similar style of solution which in this case is the name of one of ten locations on the map. Because of that you instantly know when you're solving them, that you're on the right track. There’s sometimes nothing worse than doing a puzzle and not sure if you're looking for a number, an alphanumeric code or if you're trying to determine the airspeed velocity of an unladen African or European swallow.
Let’s Hopper into some puzzles.
The main reason you come to these things is the puzzles right? and the puzzles here are a lot of fun. A lot of them are spread over multiple pages in the folder so you’ll find yourself rifling through the pages trying to find all the linking pieces of a puzzle. If you’ve ever seen those detective shows where people have filled half their living room with pages of evidence then you’ll have the general gist of how this looks on the table.
This set is one of the lower difficulty levels and I’d say that’s probably about right. The puzzles are clever and there’s a bit of a mix. Some have that instant “I know how to solve this” which helps with the initial confidence boost, whilst others need a bit more looking over before that final eureka moment.
There is one puzzle here which is probably a bit more labour intensive than I personally would have liked. I won’t spoil the puzzle, but it is one of those puzzles that involves a programming element and making a mistake may mean you have to reset certain elements. If you end up having to do that multiple times then I can see that being a frustration for some people, myself included.
All that being said, it did keep us engaged throughout our two and a half hour playtime (if I didn’t have my much smarter partner in puzzle solving with me I then I probably would have taken longer) Neither of us felt the urge to call it a night and pick it up another day. We were both keen on seeing how it played out.
So obviously this is a one and done. But how one and done is it, do you have to destroy stuff, could you possibly replay it and find different things?
First question. Technically, you can draw on stuff and cut out a couple of things. However, the things you cut out are an aid and not a solution so they can easily get put back in the wallet for other players and don’t affect the puzzles. The things you can draw on, just use a pencil and they’re easily erased for someone else. Don’t try that with the digital version though! Pencil, or pen for that matter, is tough to rub off of a computer screen! er, so I’m told.
As for the second question. No, this is a linear style of puzzle. One solution and one way of doing things which means that once you're done, you’re done.
Not enough room for a Demogorgon.
I played this with my eldest daughter and I think that this was probably the perfect player count. At a stretch you could probably go to a three but for me I tend to find that most of these puzzle games work best at the lower player counts. For this one I would say that’s particularly true, let me tell you why. Because different parts of the puzzles are split over several pages, whilst one person is doing one puzzle, the other players don’t have access to those pages (not unless you have everything spread out) so they’d need to find a separate puzzle to work on that doesn’t involve those pages. That’s not to say that that’s necessarily a bad thing. There's something fun about rifling through loads of papers looking for clues and putting things together. There’s also the joy of having your head in a puzzle and then the other player lets out a “YES!!!” Once they’ve solved what they’re working on. I do think that two heads are better than one for these types of games but too many heads could potentially get in the way. Obviously different groups work differently and if your group usually works well with these sorts of games then you’ll get a lot from it.
Now we’ve tried this one, and experienced it's fun and strong take on the theme, we’re both interested in seeing what else they have to offer and to see how well they stack up when we’re not quite as invested in the theme as we were with this one.
They’re definitely worth looking into if you’re in the market for an interesting puzzle game with some strong thematic ties.