This Friday is National Puzzle Day: an event established to celebrate puzzles and encourage everyone to participate in more of them. Not only are they enjoyable, but they can also help with concentration, brain function and stress-relief.
I’ve loved puzzles in all their forms for as long as I can remember. It began with jigsaws, newspaper crosswords and the number rounds in Countdown with my grandmother after school when I was small; then moved on to video games and the adventure genre after finding The Secret of Monkey Island as a nine-year old. I’ve continued to play all sorts of puzzle games throughout my adult life and it’s likely I’ll still have a controller in my hand for as long as I can.
Extra time off over the Christmas period in December meant my other-half and I were able to get stuck into more video games, and Röki was probably my favourite from the holidays. Inventory puzzles in the classics can be confusing – take the monkey wrench from Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge or the cat-hair moustache from Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned as examples – but modern titles like this have put a new spin on them so they feel much more intuitive.
We also played Call of the Sea, a beautiful-looking game which laid out its puzzles like a series of escape rooms. Last year’s COVID lockdowns meant we were unable to take part in any real-life experiences but releases like this have meant we’re still able to participate in digital format. The Escaper is well worth a look if you’re a fan of escape rooms; our friends in chat joined in with figuring out the solutions when we streamed it in April, so it turned into a fun social evening.
You could also try an escape-room-in-a-box such as the Exit The Game series by Thames & Kosmos. When a power-cut meant having to spend a Friday evening in darkness recently, we finally got around to opening The Mysterious Museum edition after purchasing it over a year ago. It turned out to be an interactive story with physical objects, with some great puzzles taking place outside the box, and being huddled around the table by candlelight just made the experience even more fitting.
How about a jigsaw instead if that doesn’t float your boat? The Escape Puzzle series from Ravensburger is an interesting take on them that gives it a twist. It’s not as simple as putting the pieces together: they can fit in multiple places, allowing you to form items that will assist in your ‘escape’ from the scenario. We completed the Space Observatory version last year and found it to be a nice escape from our laptops after spending so much time in front of a screen during the lockdown.
If a detective story is more your thing, I’d highly recommend the Post Mortem Los Angeles series by The Mysterious Package Company. We really enjoyed the Death in La-La Land version after it was sent to us as a gift by Kevin from The Lawful Geek. Imagine a choose-your-own-adventure complete with physical items that come hidden away in evidence bags, where you must direct the investigation and figure out whodunnit before submitting your final report to the Global Detective Agency.
This was an awesome gift because I love detective games. The Painscreek Killings was my favourite from last year (even though it was published in 2017) because it gives the player plenty of independence in gathering the clues and putting them together. January got off to a good start with Blacksad: Under the Skin thanks to a Christmas present from friend-of-the-blog Phil as it was a grown-up adventure with a smooth noir vibe and great protagonist – I really hope a sequel is released one day.
Detectives don’t only have to be hard-boiled private investigators or enthusiastic journalists though. For a technology-based take on the genre, give Greyhat: A Digital Detective Adventure a go and become a hacker searching for their missing daughter. I’d also recommend picking up Interrogation Files: Port Landsend if you’re a fan of full-motion video (FMV) and the search mechanic used in Her Story, a good 2020 release where you must choose who you want to arrest for the crime and see the outcome unfold in court.
Some people prefer their puzzles to be without a strong narrative and if that’s you, maybe The Witness will be just the thing to entertain you for numerous hours. The challenges get progressively harder the further you make it through the game but still manage to retain a relaxing quality thanks to the lovely visuals. It’s nice to turn on the game and complete a couple of puzzles whenever you have some spare time, then step away from the screen to mull over the one that’s stumping you before returning to it the following day.
As mentioned above, I appreciate puzzles of all kinds – but there’s one exception. I’ve never been able to get my head around chess challenges despite being taught how to play as a kid because my brain seems to switch off as soon as I see them. The 7th Guest is a classic horror game from the 1993 with a creepy horror theme but it contained too many chess-based puzzles for my liking! Hopefully I’ll be able to get through them if this title is voted for as part of our GameBlast21 marathon stream schedule.
So which puzzle games are you going to be playing for National Puzzle Day on Friday? If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments below!
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.