With the current rise of popularity of escape rooms in the Netherlands we also see a rise in similair experiences for which you don't need to leave your home. The last year we played Escape Room The Game, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Escape The Game: Mystery At Stargazer’s Manor and Journal29 for instance. And there's probably much more that we haven't played yet. And while those games are all different in the way they play out, they have one thing in common: the ability to solve riddles and experience a mystery from the luxury of your own home.
In The Netherlands we have a new variant on this concept: Puzzelpost (Puzzlepost). The name says it all: a mystery that gets mailed to you with good old snail mail. We've seen similar concepts in Canada and the USA: The Mysterious Package Company and The Mystery Experience Company are examples of popular 'at-home-mysteries' over there. But luckily we no longer need to look for something similar that far from home.
The first production of Puzzelpost, Het Boekanier Dossier, is a combination of a story and matching puzzles. It's a detective story where you get send a dossier and with those contents you need to solve a dissapearance case. The thing that seperates Puzzelpost from other games already on the market is the finishing and the details. When you open the box you only see objects that could exist in the real world: a letter, a map, handwritten notes, an old driver license, a page from the Yellow Pages, stuff like that. This makes the story come to live and really enhances the immersion in comparison to the other games we played. Interested? Read on for our review!
The story is about the Boekanier sisters: Helena and Abigail. In 1979 the 19 year old journalist Abigail Boekanier is investigating mysterious dissapearances in the little village Oostzoom. When Abigail dissapears hersel under mysterious circumstances her sister Helena is worried. Slowly you'll get to learn more about the sisters, their father and Oostzoom. A mystery unfolds: what happened to Abigail? Can you find out?
After Puzzelpost got in touch with us, we were send a demo-copy of the game. So it's important for you to know that our opinion is based upon this demo. For the finished product a lot of stuff will be changed based upon the feedback of the players of these demo-editions. So the finished product should be even better!
The first thing we noticed was the beautiful design of the game. Clearly a lot of love and attention was put into making this, this alone could be a reason for this game to be a success.
During the game we were pleasantly suprised a couple of times by things we hadn't noticed earlier. Everything lays in front of you for an hour and still the creator manages to surprise you! That's one heck of a feat and this resulted in a couple of wow-moments that makes you very happy as a player: you really have the idea you discovered something!
We also need to make a compliment on the textual aspects of the game. The text is really well written. Lots of games underestimate the value of a well written text, not this game though! It's logical, has no spelling mistakes (which sadly is a rare thing) and a story to lose yourself into. Because of this we really were curious how the story would continue after we finished the game. The end of the game isn't the end of the story. You're a step closer to the solution, but the game (and the story) will continue in a next game.
This leads into some our criticism: the game ends rather abruptly. We didn't even realize we found the solution already and kept searching for other clues for quite some time. We also thought we were directed quite a lot through the game. You receive a dossier, but it's pretty much spelled out what you need to do. This made it a bit too easy for us at parts, which resulted in a finishing time of an hour and no use of hints. We think it would be a lot more interesting if you really need to spit through the file like a proper detective, make connections and finally discover the solution. This might make the game quite a bit harder, but it also might enrich the experience.
According to the creator we weren't the first with that feedback and he's taking that into account for the finished product. In the end we were more than pleasantly suprised by Het Boekanier Dossier and we can totally recommend it to everyone who loves a mystery!
The creator of Puzzelpost
After playing the game we had a quick chat with Ruud Kool. He started Puzzelpost and came up with the idea for the game. He's already got 10 years of experience in making (real life) games. He had his own mobile escape room since 2013 and helped with a couple of other escape rooms (Sherlocked in Amsterdam and Escape Room 0345 in Asperen for instance). According to Ruud the rise of popularity of escape rooms is due to the fact that you can check out of the digital era for a moment and actually experience an adventure with friends and or family. That's why he intentionally avoided the use of a computer or smartphone with Het Boekanier Dossier. Everything should be physically in front of you and you really need to work together to solve the mystery.
He tells us the first reactions are mainly positive. There's a couple of things he would like to change for the finished product: more deduction and less direction and he wants to make it easier to reset the game. So it can be played again by friends and/or family.
At this moment there's a crowdfundingscampagne for Het Boekanier Dossier. To actually realize the production of this game he needs 30.000 euro. If the campaign raises more he'll use it to make the experience even better: a nicer box and a complete newspaper could become parts of the experience. The crowdfunding's deadline is the 18th of June. For 48 euro you can support Puzzelpost and you'll get send a copy of Het Boekanier Dossier (if the campaign succeeds and the game is made). You can also donate less money of course. See the website for more infomation about this. We can only hope he makes the target so more people can enjoy this beautiful game!
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