Just over a year ago, we reviewed Escape Room: The Game – Puzzle Adventures: Secret of the Scientist, a fun and affordable blend of jigsaw puzzles and riddles that lets you play through an escape room-type scenario from the comfort of your own home. Now, a year later, Identity Games has come out with a second game in the series, called “The Baron, the Witch & the Thief”. Time for a closer look.
Narratively speaking, this new game is a standalone escape room adventure that’s not connected to the game that came out last year. It features an original new story that takes places in the middle ages, in which you find your wife kidnapped by the local baron, who accuses her of witchcraft. Her sentence is to be carried out the next day, so time isn’t on your side, and you venture into the castle with the help of a ally who seems to also have a stake in this tale…
Structure-wise, The Baron, the Witch & the Thief is extremely similar to the previous game. It features a game box with six compartments, and you start off by opening one of them. Each flap has a piece of the story to tell, after which you have to solve its puzzles in order to figure out which compartment is next. In most cases, the first step is to then put together the small jigsaw puzzle you find, with 50 to 100 pieces each and irregular layouts to make things challenging.
Once you’re completed a puzzle, which shows you the layout of the environment you’re currently in (in the story), you have to figure out which code you need to progress. Ultimately, this results in picking the right puzzle pieces for a “decoder”, which you turn in order to find out which color/symbol combination you need to find next – leading you to the next compartment. If your solution doesn’t match up, you most likely made a mistake somewhere, and there are hints included with the manual in case you need a nudge in the right direction.
Most of the compartments also contain paper attributes that you have to use in order to solve its puzzles, which are almost exclusive of the logic puzzle variety. As the decoder requires you to place large puzzle pieces on quadrants dubbed A, B, C and D, your job is to figure out which shape or number matches up with these letters. It’s a clever system that Identity Games has successfully translated over from their “bigger” Escape Room games and it works well as an instrument to give you that “got it!” feel at the end of a chapter (or compartment). The puzzles themselves are also well designed, providing a decent amount of challenge even though we never had to resort to the included hints.
At its price point, The Baron, the Witch & the Thief is hard to beat. Completing the game will take most players about two and a half to three hours, so that’s an evening full of entertainment for two players. You could theoretically play with more players, but you’d probably get in each others’ way while making the small jigsaw puzzles. It’s a well made game too, but the affordable price tag does come with a drawback – some of the puzzle pieces were stuck together and needed to be carefully separated, while others needed a bit of glue to make sure the top and bottom layers stayed together. Minor issues that didn’t stand in the way of our enjoyment though.
When you look at the solid gameplay formula, the entertaining story and the way it ties the narrative into a diverse set of puzzles, this is another excellent production by Identity Games. At a fraction of the price of a real escape room or a night out at the movie theater, it’s a good recipe for an evening of co-op adventuring.