Twisty Little Passages

Twisty Passages is a solo game book that is a blend of puzzle and dungeon crawler in a classic tabletop fantasy adventure setting. It features a multi-chapter campaign story that progresses through over two dozen illustrated dungeon maps. Fight monsters, acquire keys to open doors, get life-boosting elixirs, powerful equipment and enchanted items, and defeat the boss at the end of each level. Use your wits to find the right path through each area and survive.

The Good

Dungeon Crawl Math (+6)

Like most dungeon crawlers, you have lame slimes and then you have really scary big brutes. The game provides you with a table to figure out how you compare against the enemies you encounter, and what your damage to the enemy will be. The math also includes revenge damage from the enemy if it manages to stay alive for long enough.

Maze Running (+6)

The logistics puzzle of figuring out how many keys you have versus how many rooms you need to get into and through is always great. You know where you start and where you end from a bird’s eye view so you can do a bit of reverse engineering as well as permutations to find the best option.

Fun Art and Hint Style (+5)

The art has a hand-drawn, retro roleplaying game feel, but it’s not quite pixel art and not quite sophisticated digital illustration. The hint format of backwards writing is very entertaining, too. Haven’t seen this used in games since I was in grade school, so the experience is refreshing and welcome. I didn’t end up using them for the dungeons I had access to but I can imagine it would be amusing to need to get up and walk to a mirror to get advice.

“Especially Clever” Status (+5)

If you manage to complete any area with more than one life remaining, it means you have found a better solution than the designers were able to come up with. Unfortunately, I seem to only be hitting the same conclusions as the designers. Ping me to let me know if you’ve reached Especially Clever and I’ll be 1) jealous and 2) obsessed with figuring out how.

The Bad

No Real-Time Aspects (-3)

I’m irked by the turn-based blows back and forth. When I’m thinking of immersing myself in a dungeon, I expect something closer to Diablo where you simply don’t — and can’t — afford the time to sit and make a decision. While I appreciate turn-based games as a genre, they tend to be more about adventure with heavy dialogue rather than straight grinding.

Overhealing (-2)

The game is not clear about whether you have a maximum health level. It just starts you at a base level and lets you heal past that value. The need, rather than convenience, of health potions in this game is frustrating. For the most part, in any dungeon crawling games it took more strategic prowess than just health management to win.

Surplus Inventory Rule (-4)

The designer is clear that you cannot take any surplus inventory with you, which I can’t seem to find the thematic reasoning for. You’d think that if you were in an unknown land that you would end up collecting and hogging resources, right? They invented the Bag of Holding in roleplaying lore for a reason.

Class Restriction (-1)

I should be able to choose my class even if it’s a bad one to solo with. I want the option to fail miserably or tout my incredible prowess as a weak cleric kicking some major butt because it’s a great story to tell. As it is, if you ever want to talk shop with other owners of this game there is little else you can chat about other than processing speed.

The Ugly

Character Sheet Interpretation (-0.5)

You’ll eventually familiarize yourself with the equipment descriptions and realize that they are simply there to inform you about what is available within the dungeon. At first, you think “Wow, I have all this stuff available to me! Cool!” Then when encountering the icons of those pieces of equipment during your journey, you realize that those are things you can — but are not assumed to — pick up.

Damage Table Interpretation (-1)

I took a short break from this game and had to re-read how to interpret the damage table when I picked it up again. Everything else was very clear to me on how to move about the world, what keys are used for, and what the potions did. Yet, understanding how to judge survivability was difficult.

Unclear Immersion with Character (0)

The story is only very loosely connected. While there are short narrative introductions to the part of the dungeon you are exploring, it’s not key to the experience. In fact, until you get to the next dungeon introduction you’ve completely forgotten that there was even a theme or story.

Puzzle Solutions?! (0)

It’s a bit too easy to just give up and review the solutions. Even if trying to find cheat codes for video games, it isn’t as easy as looking at the back of the booklet. I’ve said this before and I will bring it up again: I don’t want the answers. I’d rather be miserable than getting the easy way out.

Difficulty: 1/5 for Novice
Satisfaction Grade: B- (80.7%) for Great
Worth Your Money? Yes.