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Review: The Story Begins... | Pod Klobukom (Under The Hat)


JUMP TO: THE INFO | THE GALLERY | THE GUIDE | THE REVIEW





THE INFO

THE STORY BEGINS... | POD KLOBUKOM


🗺️ Based In Slovakia

⏲️ 30-90 Minutes ▪ 💪 1/10 ▪ 🔢 2-5 Players Recommended

📚 An envelope with no addressee delivered under the door? Something unusual, even for and investigative reporter. Is this another threatening letter, or a beginning of an adventure that may result in a great article? Follow the traces left by the anonym in our FREE online game and enter the world of puzzle-hunts. The story of the reporter will lead you through five diverse ciphers. There are tips available with every puzzle that will clarify basic cipher principles. Enjoy an hour of smart fun with your friends, playing and online version of escape room. All team members can log into our game application from their own device. (This game is the beginning of our "BIOHAZARD" trilogy.)





THE GALLERY

The Story Begins... | Pod Klobukom (Under The Hat)





THE (QUICK) GUIDE

THIS, IN A NUTSHELL, IS...

▪ Classified As: Play At Home » Purely Online Digital Game

▪ An online puzzle hunt that clearly focuses on the quality of ciphers and puzzles, dressed a light but fairly well-groomed narrative. The story describes a reporter receiving a strange letter from a mysterious sender, instructing them to travel from spot to spot within the city through cipher-encoded messages. It's well done, fun if you love challenging your brain, and it's free!


YOU'LL ENJOY THIS, IF...

▪ If you are a master of deciphering secret messages. If cipher is your puzzle of choice, this is a godsend.

▪ If you enjoy a detective-style, cat-and-mouse chase type of premise. You'll go place to place (virtually) in this game.

▪ If you feel bored, and need an free option to pass the time. An average team can take up to an hour to finish.

▪ If you're an escape game enthusiast and want a real challenge. Try to get onto that challenge board--no hint permitted!

▪ If you enjoy these similar/related options: The Disappearance Of DK McDee.


SOUNDS GREAT, NOW WHAT?

📖 CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW BELOW!

🛒 WHEN YOU'RE READY... TO PLAY, CLICK HERE!

🧐 Based on everything discussed below in the review, with my team of 1, the difficulty subjectively feels like a 6/10, (which may differ from the company's official rating). As such, I recommend a team of 2 to 3.





THE (FULL) REVIEW

Mysterious messages will take you all over the city | Pod Klobukom (Under The Hat)



IMPRESSIONS


▪ Prior to playing this game, I am not familiar with Pod Klobukom (which means "under the hat" in Slovak, by the way!) as a company, so I simply took everything presented as is, without question. The official product page rated the introduction chapter as 1/10 for difficulty, and it only contains 5 cipher puzzles for the whole adventure. "I am going to fly through this with ease," I thought in ignorant bliss. I had roughly 30 minutes before eating supper; I started the game anyway.


▪ The game did start out quite straightforward and easy, all things considered. It required a bit of careful observation to get right, but it aligned with what I more or less expected. I solved the initial puzzle and advanced to the second--then it became clear, the difficulty curve was sloping up. And fast! This trend would continue for the rest of the game, and ultimately "The Story Begins..." would prove to be a surprisingly challenging and more rewarding free online game than I'd ever expected. When they say they are inviting players into a captivating world of cipher games, they weren't joking around. This is serious business!


▪ And nope, I most definitely didn't make to dinner in time. It'd eventually take me the entire hour to finish the game.



THEMING


▪ Pod Klobukom specializes in puzzle hunts, and all 3 of their online games (which make up the "BIOHAZARD" trilogy) are virtual online versions of puzzle hunts. The company makes no pretense or exaggerated claims about their intention, and their approach is direct and to-the-point. There is a light narrative about an investigational journalist receiving a mysterious letter, and that letter, when deciphered, would take them to the next point of interest. It's a no-frill, point A to point B, so on so forth type of detective hunt, and it works. Sometimes, there is beauty in simplicity, and such is the case here.


▪ The solutions for (almost) all the puzzles are locations, indicating where the protagonist should go next. While not the most creative (as I've seen this done before on multiple occasions), it does bring a plausible realism that requires very little effort on my part to start believing in the story world. For a text and cipher-based title, I was fairly immersed, and was certainly having fun.


▪ It also helped that there were audio narrations done by a competent voice actor, so there is no required reading should you choose not to. Each puzzle's paragraph-long exposition can be told like a story time, and with the spoken contents embellished by some lighthearted background music used prominently in mystery genre, I felt like a private investigator on an amusing case. It really added something extra to what could've been dry and average.


▪ The above, coupled with some well-chosen, good-looking stock images (well, they could've been slightly photoshopped to fit the plot more closely), the game has covered all fronts, and the overall theming came across as effective.



Toadster... underpass graffiti hides a secret | Pod Klobukom (Under The Hat)



PUZZLES


▪ This is a cipher-based puzzle hunt, so it's rather self-explanatory. Your main focus will be translating given information into individual letters, which then you string into a word or phrase as your final solution. However, to say this is an exclusive cipher experience may be misleading, as ciphers usually imply a direct correlation between a letter, a number, or a symbol to another letter of the alphabet, a straight coding transformer, if you will. Several puzzles go beyond that realm, and are more like gen-1 escape room puzzles. Perhaps this is why this game is my jam--this is what I love doing in the first place.


▪ For a game that is puzzle-focused with lighter emphasis on story or production value, I can't reveal much in this section, or else I would just give away the entire game. But you may or may not see some dots and dashes. You may or may not see some classic number-to-letter cipher that is part of Escape Room 101. Just maybe.


▪ The contents do most certainly get progressively harder. I stalled for a good 25 minutes at a graffiti puzzle midway. The final puzzle was two-step, appropriately intricate, and the trick to solving it was ever so elegant. It low-key blew my mind how satisfying it was when my idea lightbulb finally went off. It's a first of its kind that I've seen also.


▪ One crucial note: to get onto the leaderboard, you must finish the game with the lowest possible time without any hint reveal. The current top spot holders are all puzzle enthusiasts in the community, and it's quite hard to beat. I suggest to just have fun!



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS


▪ Well, once again, I must emphasize, this is FREE. Yes, it's a sample of what's to come in the remaining paid chapters, a bait to suck you into the world of the BIOHAZARD trilogy. Still, it offers enough solid contents to really exercise my noggin in an entertaining manner, and I see no reason why you shouldn't give this a go.


▪ The hint system is brutal! If you want to make it onto the leaderboard, you must earn the maximum amount of points possible, and that means no using hint! Not even once. This must feel somewhat discouraging to beginners, so I have mixed feelings about this decision. Are we punishing those who really have tried their best? Or are we encouraging everyone not to take the easy way out? Due to this, I insisted on struggling through the harder puzzles despite taking longer time, though there's no sweeter glory when you reach the finish line, knowing you did it all on your own. Truly, I felt really, really proud of myself that day.



OVERALL: 🙂


▪ Usually, when I think of ciphers, I think boring, time-consuming, and not the most innovative. And yet, somehow, Pod Klobukom created a free and fun option that not only breaks that mold, but really gave my brain a good beating. Like for the physical body, it's always beneficial to give the brain muscle a serious workout to keep it in tip-top shape, and this game did exactly that.





Signing off,

ESCAPE MATTSTER

Instagram @EscapeMattster Facebook.com/EscapeMattster


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