THE CURIOUS ELEVATOR OF MR. HINCKS • BLUEFISH GAMES • By-Mail (Boxed) Online Puzzle Game Review
► SECTION I • QUICK GLANCE ◄
◣ GAME FACTS
💪 Difficulty: N/A
⏲️ Time: 2-4 Hours
🧑 Capacity: 1-4 Players Recommended
🏢 Company: Bluefish Games
🏘️ Location: Based in United States
◣ FORMAT SPECS
🕹️ Format: By-Mail (Boxed) Online Puzzle Game
✂️ Tools: None Needed (Technically)
💻 Platform: Web Browser
📰 Media Used: Various Media In Box, Text, Images, Audio
◣ "TL;DR!" BRIEFS
📝 Though technically not having a strong central plot line, "The Curious Elevator" utilizes a flexible Hincks with many talents, thereby gluing all puzzles into one coherent experience.
📝 Each puzzle level, or "floor", possesses its own personality, though most, if not all, challenges are rooted in some form of word play--English fluency therefore is a must.
📝 Virtually all but a couple of challenges feature puzzle contents, tasks, or formats, that I personally haven't seen before, highlighting a great magnitude of cleverness and creativity.
📝 Impressive production value, with artistic choices consistent with the overall theming. Details implemented are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also effective as guiding clues.
💪 Difficulty rating: With Mattster's team of 2, moderately difficult. Needed a few hints!
🧑 Best team size: Doing it solo proved to be quite difficult, so I recommend a duo approach.
🧑 Best audience: Have a wide vocabulary? Don't mind the randomness? This is for YOU.
• • • • •
...WHOA! LOVED IT.
INVENTOR HINCKS MAY BE MAD, BUT HE'S BRILLIANT.
THIS JOINS 🏆 "MUST DO!" 🏆 RANK!
► SECTION II • IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS ◄
◣ THE PREMISE
Stephen Hincks, "Hello there, Puzzlers! I am renowned inventor Stephen P. Hincks and I am delighted that you’ve accepted my invitation to test your wits with my cryptic and confounding puzzles! To embark on this adventure, I’ve invented a contraption to guide you on your journey. This elevator, unlike an ordinary elevator, won’t take you from the parking garage to the food court to acquire a delicious hot dog on a stick. In fact, this elevator has a bit of a mind of its own. But don’t fret, it will always take you where you need to be... Good luck, Puzzlers! I know I’ll be seeing you soon!"
• • • • •
◣ THE REVIEW
This one is a special one.
I've known Bluefish Games creators, Ace and Anna, for a quite a while. I still fondly remember trying out their teaser puzzles more than a year ago on their Instagram, getting accustomed to their wonderfully weird MO, to finally participating in a crowdfunding for their very first project, "The Curious Elevator Of Mr. Hincks".
Today, I digitally pen this review on my own site (which didn't exist then), for this very game that the community helped bring alive, and now widely regarded as a fan favorite. Both Bluefish and I have come a long way, and it's truly come a full circle for me to finally recommend this gem to everyone. Ladies and gents, here's "The Curious Elevator"!
WHO IS MR. HINCKS?
Officially, Stephen P. Hincks is an inventor first, puzzle lover second, and full fledged madman third, fourth, and fifth, and not necessarily in that order all the times.
Shaping up this strange but sagacious protagonist in a "mad yet brilliant" angle was, well, brilliant in Bluefish's part because the Hincks universe isn't focused on one central, concrete narrative. While each individual puzzle somehow relates back to the titular elevator tower, they span across quite many distinct topics. And who can better string all these items together into one coherent experience than a weird scholar with a multitude of talents?
Much like Barbie, whose career choices range from surgeon to cat burglar, Hincks is whoever you want him to be. He's smart; he's well read; and he's rich! He publishes newspaper; he owns the stocks market; and he critiques TV programs!
To be that powerful and resourceful, Mr. Hincks and his malleable persona offer a freedom that opens up a wide array of possibilities that, despite not having a compelling plot, manages to always be wacky, captivating, and most of all, constantly fun.
ASCEND TO THE TOP
So, the game boils down to you riding this one of a kind elevator that operates by the power of puzzle solutions. Solved a puzzle? Great, to next destination floor you go. Not yet? Then enjoy this floor's elevator music* until you do! (*Not actually in-game, but great suggestion?)
With this unique premise, each floor is given its own personality, both in the mini backstory and the puzzle aspects, rendering each stop a self-contained puzzle adventure. With the exception of the final "boss battle" meta puzzle, no floor relates to another directly, granting the players convenient checkpoints to pause and resume the game as they please.
In regards to the actual challenge components, very early on, my partner and I both realized Bluefish Games, or at least Mr. Hincks, is very big on word based riddles. Well expected of a world class puzzler, I suppose. Word scrambling of sorts is a recurring motif, and while you need not to speak perfect English to play this game, mastery of a wide vocabulary seems to be quite advantageous. As for me... "Elevator" doubled as an education. Chuckle.
Aside from the wordplay commonality, though, the variety of tasks Hincks asks for his guests to do is not only great, it is also original. Of the 10-ish puzzles included, perhaps 1, at most 2, is something I've seen before. The rest shine brightly with cleverness and creativity.
For instance, as an escape room lover, I've seen many (often trite or obvious) methods to encrypt a keypad code, but none like the trick found in this game. In fact, this package sets forth more ways to hide key words and/or messages than most average escape games, thus giving even the most experienced veteran a welcoming breath of fresh air.
Also worth mentioning: healthy doses of tongue in cheek humor are injected into a number of puzzles, most obviously manifested when the inventor himself authors various ridiculous publications. So do watch out for those "LOL" or "WTH(eck)" moments surely to come!
DRESSED IN ELEGANCE
The impeccable quality reflected in their website design is also an accurate portrayal of what to expect in your by-mail, in-person parcel: Vibrant colors. Amusing, diverse, and always pleasing graphics and visuals. Materials produced in assorted and situation appropriate media. To sum up: Gorgeous product, immaculate execution, worth every penny.
Even better is that the clue pieces make good sense. Not only do they look good, they also guide well. Every floor requires a certain set of associated materials, and if you pay close attention, it's easy to discern which goes with what. Look for similar art style, colors, font face, texture, or circumstances. A lot of details and thoughts went into production than first meets the eyes, and though not often attainable, this is, indeed, beauty and brains.
LET'S END WITH A QUOTE...
I once casually mentioned this to the game creators, and it's since then quoted on their site (thanks for that!), I guess I would ironically re-quote myself to fulfill the prophecy of this long overdue review:
"[The Curious Eleveator Of Mr. Hincks] is weird and eccentric. It’s almost like [Charlie & The Chocolate Factory,] but mixed with an intellectual Hincks."
Well said, Mattster, well said. Much like the factory, this elevator tower is absolutely random, sometimes a little over the top, but it's most certainly worth a visit!
• • • • •
◣ PARTING TIPS
★ I prefer not to write on any prop pieces, though doing so makes solutions more apparent.
★ Having an online dictionary handy helps a heap for all these word based puzzles!
★ Yes, you are, indeed, "destroying" that one item. No worries, a replay "refill" is included.
★ Sign up for FREE weekly secret puzzle at (the bottom of) Bluefish Games website.
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⤻ The Curious Elevator Of Mr. Hincks • "BFGElevator"