Episode One: Stolen IQ (Print + Cut + Escape) • clueQuest • Print & Play Puzzle Game Review
clueQuest (Based In London, United Kingdom)
◣ GAME'S SPECS
💪 Difficulty not specified by company.
⏲️ Time duration not specified by company. (In fact, the timer goes up rather than down!)
🔢 Capacity not specified by company, but group play/sharing allowed and encouraged.
💬 Hints (3 total) available below puzzle. Solution also available should you need it.
📝 Game requires printed media (PDF file), scissors, internet connection, or more. Check for details.
🛒 If you PURCHASE GAME due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout out! ;)
◣ MATTSTER'S TAKE
💪 Difficulty: For Mattster's team of 1, it's probably a 4 to 5/10, mainly due to elements seen for the first time. If you've been exposed to the exact types of paper craft puzzles used here before, it'll be quite a breeze for you.
🔢 Ideal Team Size: 1-2. I prefer a solo play solely because I can play, and cut papers, at my own pace, when I want to.
🤷♂️ Best Fit For: Similar to most print-and-plays, bored people at home with not much to do. Cutting papers tend to eat up your time quite efficiently. Narrative-wise, this is a super spy vs super villain battle, if you're into this sorta thing!
🙂 Overall Takeaway: Entertaining, fairly clever puzzles, and fairly attractive storyline--though you won't get to dig deeper plot-wise until Episode Two. With potentials to elevate even higher. I guess we'll see where the series goes next!
Agent Lisa Hammerschmidth has discovered Professor Blacksheep’s evil plan. For some time now, the despicable sheep has secretly been kidnapping top scientists, and forcing them to join his attempts at world domination. Agent Hammerschmidth has been captured, but in one final act of courage she was able to transfer her files to HQ before being taken prisoner. Your mission is to decode Agent Hammerschmidth's secret messages, to find and free her. Together you can stop Professor Blacksheep in his tracks, and bring our top scientists home.
DANG, THAT'S A LOT OF NAMES!
"Episode One: Stolen IQ" is the first of the three episodes of print-and-play escape games from clueQuest I will be covering on this blog in the coming weeks. And even right from the beginning, I know this is an ambitious story universe that could prove quite engaging, and even consuming, because... NAMES! So many names! Let me take a stab at this...
Villain Professor BlackSheep (the bad guy) has been planning for world domination for years. Most recently, he's rumored to be kidnapping the brightest minds of the scientific community through a mysterious network known as AlphaBrain, operating at a secret location called The Cube. Frank Erikson, leader of the SkyEye satellite project, is the latest abduction victim. But it's ok! Because clueQuest's VIP spy Agent Crimson is on the case!
Oh never mind! She's JUST been captured as well and now also jailed at The Cube. Oy. Better pay The Cube a visit.
Also, BlackSheep's nemesis is Mr Q (the good guy), and Crimson's father is Hammerschmidt. Whew! Got it!
Admittedly, this is a lot to take in when first getting started, but I believe that, often, having the willingness and effort to paint a detailed picture results in a handsome payoff in the form of a captivating story. So I am rooting for this to be case.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: STRUCTURE, INTERFACE, AND PLOT DIRECTION
The game starts off with a short brief, followed by an emergency video message transmitted to Mission Control just in the nick of time, moments before Agent Crimson falls under arrest from BlackSheep's henchmen. This supplemental online content, along with the main "required" reading found on the print-and-play PDF file, gets players quickly up to date, and establishes the main objectives clearly.
In fact, this motion of going back and forth between online and physical information will be the stable of clueQuest's way to telling the tale of our covert mission. While I don't think this is the most convenient and ergonomic route for the customers, since having to tilt my head up and down between media gets a bit burdensome on my neck, it does get the job done relatively well. To be fair, between the complementary information between the two sources, the narrative feels complete, and I rather have a well told adventure over a half-baked non-story any day.
Once familiar with this approach, I dive into the main plot chapter by chapter. The entire episode is divided into 3 easily digestible chapters, with a little summary of the premise thus far in the beginning, and a handful of puzzle games to solve to advance the storyline closely following. Chapter 1 and 2 deals with our lead with the missing scientist Erikson, and Chapter 3 lands us in the heart of the secret hideout The Cube. Hopefully we'll find Crimson there and initiate a smooth and speedy extraction.
As far as narrative goes, after completing the entire Episode One, I really wish more would've happened. The main goal has indeed been addressed, but this episode sets up more questions than answers, and most definitely leaves me feeling hanging than resolved. And exactly because I've learned almost close to nothing of espionage gain compared to the beginning, I can't wait to find out more in Episode Two!
DELIGHTFUL PRINT-AND-PLAY PUZLES
Now, the puzzles! To simply put, clueQuest has exceeded my expectation, especially when they've created puzzles that actually take advantage of the print-and-play format. In the past, I've played products that require printing solely to keep budget low and production low maintenance--surely not a cardinal sin, just not very exciting.
Therefore, it's gratifying to see companies providing challenges that are reasonably hands on. Jigsaw puzzle style mini games would be one such example, albeit a tad basic, and surely enough, "Stolen IQ" has one of these, and it's tastefully, logically, and heartbreakingly illustrated. (The expensive tablet!)
My favorite of the bunch, however, is one that's much more appealing than a simple jigsaw. Without outright spoiling the solution, this one particular puzzle involves fun and genius overlapping of pieces of paper, and it's incidentally a first-time experience. Perhaps it's the novelty factor; personally, it's made for the most memorable moment in my entire game.
Furthermore, the extent to which the patrons have to perform paper craft is precisely right for my liking. Some games wish for me to really channel my inner sculptor to turn a flat piece of paper into three dimensional cubes, and I (and my fat, non-nimble fingers) just let out a collective sigh, knowing I'm about to spawn some horrific abominations. "Stolen IQ" does NOT go this route. Everything is effortlessly manageable, and I am so ever thankful!
"Stolen IQ" shouldn't take too long to play; I would imagine most people would take around 1 hour to complete everything if really concentrated. With most print-and-play entertainment, you would indeed dedicate a good chunk of time with your handy scissors. The good news is, you could save a lot of time by skipping the cutting for pages of evidence that you only need to visually examine, but in no way need to manually manipulate...
...Which brings me to my next observation/suggestion: why print and cut those elements at all?
One early puzzle utilizes voicemail audio; it's positively humorous (commendable voice acting!) and adds so much personality to an otherwise muted web presentation. Similarly, videos clips at the start and the end bring the action alive, more should be implemented. As such, within the PDF file, for much of the reading, and maybe even the static elements (ie, evidence that need not to be printed), why not lift those from the paper, instead convert them into contents that can be easily seen, heard, or watched online, and thereby producing a sensory paper-online hybrid experience?
Overall, clueQuest has cooked up a quality print-and-play puzzle game, and also arguably one that stands out from the crowd for its above-average storyline, puzzles, and some pretty amazing looking graphic arts. (While I am aware that I did not spend much time praising the production value in particular, this does not diminish the actual artistry quality--which is, I again emphasize, pretty nifty!) I look forward to what's in store in the subsequent episodes, and if this overall style and trend continues, it'll shape up to quite the satisfying series.
★ Everything needed to solve a puzzle set is already arranged in the perfect order, on consecutive pages, in the PDF file.
★ A Youtube-video-based surprise bonus game awaits you at the end. Be sure to look out for it!
⤻ Full disclosure: Complimentary game access was generously provided for review purposes.
⤻ All media credited to and provided by contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ Speed code for on-site search: CQStolen