LOK

Review

LOK is a new original puzzle book, created by the musical and visual artist Blaž Gracar. It is his first published work in this domain and considering the attention to detail put into puzzle design, solutions system, and illustrations, I would say that’s an impressive start, and I am looking forward to his future endeavors.

The puzzle mechanics of LOK are quite innovative, and despite my long-time puzzle history, I cannot relate them to anything I have seen before. Each puzzle consists of a grid partially filled with letters and the goal is to black out all cells by marking certain words and then triggering their effects. For example, if one has the letters L, O, K in consecutive cells and marks the resulting word LOK, then they must black out the cells of all three letters plus an additional cell by choice.

There are 5 more trigger words that appear in the book, but since it is the solver’s challenge to figure out what their effects are, I will not spoil them for you. All I can say is that each of them works uniquely and sometimes solving the puzzles gives the feeling of planning ahead the moves of a chess game.

In addition to the funny-sounding trigger words, new chapters introduce various other mechanics, building upon the previous ones and making the puzzles progressively more complex. You will encounter ”conductors“ that let you connect separated letters, “clouds” that let you black out a given configuration of cells, and other interesting concepts.

The book is split into 12 parts: 8 chapters with a total of 80 puzzles, 2 expansions with 10 extra puzzles, Rules that explain all the concepts in the book that have been left to the solver to discover, and Solutions that provide the answers to all puzzles. The parts are separated by beautifully illustrated pages of cute worm-like creatures, called ”Loks”, performing various activities, such as flying in space or working in a factory, on 10 additional solvable grids. Of course, the author could assemble the book just with all the 100 puzzles inside, and it still would have been great, but that extra touch of art is what makes LOK even more special for me.

While the market is currently flooded with all kinds of derivative logic books filled with computer generated Sudokus and Kakuros, LOK differentiates itself as an ingenious passion project of someone who simply wants to contribute to the world of puzzling. You can get the digital version of LOK for free from the author’s website by clicking the button below. If you like, there you can also purchase the physical edition and solve the puzzles the way they are intended to be solved, with pencil and eraser on paper. For those who prefer to keep their puzzle books in immaculate condition, a transparent draw board is included in the package. Thanks!

  • appropriate for all ages
  • more than 90 carefully hand-crafted puzzles
  • surprising mechanics taught through practical solving
  • explained rules and solutions included
  • free e-book version available to download

GET LOK HERE

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Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse

Review

With the huge success of real-life Escape Rooms all around the world, more and more puzzle manufacturers have been trying to recreate the experience with their solve-at-home kits. ThinkFun‘s latest offering, Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse, is possibly the closest you can get to the real thing, so far.

The setup of “The Cursed Dollhouse” is quick and simple. Within a few minutes you get to build a cardboard model of a dollhouse, turn on the recommended soundtrack of creepy music, and light up a few candles to get into the right mood. Once you do this, you can start reading the story of the house and unravel its mysteries.

You begin the adventure in the living room, where you have to solve several puzzles, involving a broken bookshelf, a dusty carpet, and a spiderweb on the wall. Then, you make your way through the rest of the house: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, until you get to the attic. Each of the rooms you visit contains multiple objects, including hidden ones, which you need to use in order to solve its three challenges. Once you solve a challenge, you get a cryptic symbol which you must enter in the “solution wheel”. Get the three symbols correctly and proceed to the next room.

As you progress, you will encounter various puzzles, including many mechanical ones. You will have to cut, fold, entangle, and do all kinds of fun activities. The puzzles are logical and satisfying to solve. There were one or two which my group found a bit confusing, but fortunately, ThinkFun has created a website, where players can get small hints without spoiling the entire puzzles. In the end, all participants were very happy with the time we spent playing together.

While the price of “The Cursed Dollhouse” is a bit steep, the game provides a lengthy and immersive experience which justifies the cost. It also can be replayed by another group of people using the provided printable forms from the official website.

  • 1-4 players, 13 years and up
  • over 30 puzzles to solve within 2.5 hours
  • realistic small-scale Escape Room experience
  • puzzles are re-printable from the official website

GET ESCAPE THE ROOM HERE

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Topple Magazine

Review

Topple is a new online magazine that can be printed out and solved with pen and paper, the old-fashioned way. The price of each issue is just a meager $1, and for that amount you get a PDF of about 10 pages and up to 20 puzzles.

The authors of the magazine have put efforts to provide a large variety of puzzles, so that everyone will find something they like. There are interesting trivia questions, rebuses, grid logic puzzles, as well as some unique challenges I have never encountered before. The number of puzzles in the magazine keeps increasing with each next issue:

Issue 1: 7
Issue 2: 7
Issue 3: 10

Issue 4: 10
Issue 5: 10
Issue 6: 12

Issue 7: 16
Issue 8: 18
Issue 9: 18

The quality of the puzzles keeps improving as well, as you can see from these two identical puzzles, second one of which has updated artwork.

Before you purchase the magazine, you can take a look at the 4-page sampler we have provided below.

If you enjoy the Topple puzzles as much as we do, we recommend you to get the latest issue and then keep buying the older ones in a reverse order. At just $1, it will be hard to find something that provides better value for the money.

  • appropriate for all ages
  • PDF booklet for easy printing
  • about 10-20 puzzles per issue
  • fun old-school vibes
  • just $1

GET TOPPLE MAGAZINE HERE

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Minecraft: Magnetic Travel Puzzle

Review

Minecraft: Magnetic Travel Puzzle (M:MTP for short) is a travel game by ThinkFun in which the goal is to arrange 3 types of objects, each coming in 3 different colors, in a 3 by 3 grid, such that certain conditions are satisfied.

As you progress through the 40 included challenges, the types of conditions you encounter become gradually more complex. While in the beginning you may be given all the colors of the objects with one clue and all the types of the objects with another, later on you need to analyze 5 or 6 clues at once, which makes the game more challenging and fun. That being said, at the hardest levels, M:MTP is still relatively easy, so experienced puzzlers will probably breeze through it within an hour or two.

At its core, M:MTP is identical to ThinkFun’s previously released Clue Master. Both games are presented in the form of magnetic notebooks, so they are easy to pick up and travel around with. The illustrations of the Minecraft edition are all based on the popular video game, so its fans may be particularly appreciative.

If you are looking for a casual puzzle to pass an hour or two on a road trip, then M:MTP would be a great choice. I only wish there were more challenges included, especially more difficult ones.

  • 1 player, 8 years and up
  • 40 challenges with increasing difficulties
  • easy to transport and play on the go
  • cool Minecraft based art
  • most puzzles can be solved with a few simple techniques

GET M:MTP HERE

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Cat Crimes

Review

Cat Crimes is a logic game by ThinkFun inspired by classic deduction puzzles. It consists of 40 challenges split into four difficulty groups.

Each challenge presents the player with a cat crime which they must solve. One of six items on a carpet has been ruined, and several clues written on a card point towards the cat which is responsible. The player must analyze each of the clues, as well as the models of the cats and the carpet (included in the box), and find the perpetrator. Even though the puzzles can be completed just as easily with pen and paper only, the inclusion of cardboard models makes the solving process much more fun. The beautiful artwork of the set and the sturdy cardboard additionally improve the experience.

The included puzzles are best suited for students in primary and middle schools, but older people can enjoy them as well. Overall, Cat Crimes is a wonderful twist on a traditional type of puzzle, and I highly recommend it.

  • 1 player, 8 years and up
  • 40 challenges, 4 difficulty levels
  • a fun variation of a classic deduction puzzle
  • beautiful models of cats and carpet

GET CAT CRIMES HERE

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