2019 Puzzle Retrospective and Top 3

Happy New Year everyone! I’ve played a lot this past year and the absolute Top 3 of my 2019 Girls’ Game Shelf playlist has to be:

#1 Exit: Dead Man on the Orient Express

#2 Chronicles of Crime

#3 Unlock! Heroic Adventures

Some of the lessons I learned this year were also from real life escape games — I did about 10! — but they’re still incredibly useful if you’re new to the world of puzzles, brain teasers and riddles at home. Perhaps you know some of these tips, maybe they’re all new to you and will open your eyes, or maybe these were skills you lost and now found again!

Regardless, remember to:

Find Commonalities

Did you find a set of colors somewhere? Great! Are they located somewhere else? Even better! How can you connect the two together, and does it provide you with a code, a word or other thing that can help move things along?
There may also be something spelled out, so if you notice some areas have a repeating item or color but others do not, try tracing it out with your mind to see if you could reveal a message; usually, it ends up being a number.
Is the thing you’re interacting with clear? Are there more of them? Have you then tried overlaying them? Maybe that also has a message.

“Read” those letters

Long, long letters may provide some literal direction but sometimes it could be something hidden in the first letters, which you then need to create a new message or de-scramble for further direction. You may also need to take notice of emboldened words or letters within the letter to do the same thing. Even weirder, sometimes the message can be read bottom to top or essentially backwards to be a completely different piece of information!

Check for Ciphers or References Everyday Items

Escape room games love to take advantage of secret symbols or ways of writing. There’s a great site called Cipher Tools that can get you some exposure to ciphers. Believe it or not: morse code is one of them. So if you see it in front of you, stop and listen. I’ve also seen puzzle masters configure a set of objects into braille — but of course, don’t assume that this is automatically the case if they haven’t given you a braille translator. There may also be reference to things that contain data, like QWERTY keyboard layouts, that you can use to extract letters if the current clue refers to them.

Don’t judge anything by its cover

Are some things pointed to or changed graphically? If so, can you turn those things into numbers or letters? You could even start counting them! Depending on how hard of a puzzle you need to solve, those numbers might even hint to a letter in the English alphabet (e.g. 1 would be A or 26 would be Z).
Things that look vertically stretched are often perspective puzzles, so just holding them flat and away from you can reveal a secret message. You could maybe look for what is missing as well, if there are missing things. All you need to do is make an assumption about the order of the thing as a whole, and if specific spots are blank in that order what would it communicate? Same thing with dates (e.g. January 1st, 2020) remember that dates can always be turned into numbers as well (e.g. 01012020). Perhaps the spacing is strange, and you may need to note how many spaces are separating the things in front of you? You could possibly overlay it on something or use it as a cross-reference.

Reverse Engineer

This may be the less impressive and even dirty way to go about things but if you know that the next step for progress is to get a 4-digit code, look at things you have yet to extract anything from and see if you can convert anything about it into number(s). The same goes for other codes that are directional (e.g. some locks are North, South, East, West) or need a 5-letter password; try and extract data in those forms from things that stand out to you.

Most Importantly, Never Doubt Your Imagination!

Puzzles are first and foremost non-linear. You won’t be able to regurgitate real world information here, or have everything make complete sense right away. Just because it seems like a strange solution doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Don’t waste time trying to explain your hunches to yourself or to others. Try it; if it doesn’t work, try something else. Everything is experimentation and that’s the beauty of these types of games. This is the opportunity to be rewarded for making mistakes, so have fun and let your imagination soar!