Dale Yu: Winter Puzzles #2 – Luna: The Shadow Dust (Steam), Cain’s Jawbone (not-a-book yet), The Heist: Chasing Hahn (game), The Puzzleboat (website)

OK, well it’s been a surprisingly temperate winter so far, but this is still the main time to stay indoors and keep myself busy.  There are a lot of different forms of entertainment, and I’m going to run down the different things that have kept me busy this winter so far. This is the second installment of winter puzzling activities.

Luna: The Shadow Dust

  • Developer: Lantern Studio
  • Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
  • Played on Steam on my PC

First off is an uncharacteristic foray into computer games.  I was given a review code for a point and click adventure, Luna: The Shadow Dust.  This game totally reminds me of the adventure games that I loved as a kid – man, do I miss Sam and Max Hit the Road…   As the genre name suggests, you simply use your mouse to point at things and then click the button to make things happen.

The story here is: Behind the shadow of reality, an enchanted world awaits illumination. Experience the magical journey of a young boy and his companion as they solve puzzles and trace back the memories of old, brought to life with visually stunning, wordless cinematics. Enter the ancient tower that stands at the edge of the world and discover the hand-drawn cinematics, intricate puzzles and haunting music of this indie gem.

This game is a beautifully drawn game where you must solve the “puzzle” of each room in order to continue onto the next.  There is a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack that plays in the background, and I found this a completely relaxing way to wind down at night. 

Most of the puzzles are fairly easy, though I encountered a few which took me multiple attempts to solve, and one or two that I broke with brute force guesswork.  Some of the puzzles require you to figure out how to simply get out of the room. Others need you to do something within the room. Some puzzles are done by yourself. Some require the help of your companion (you can switch between them easily).  Some require you to learn a certain pattern of actions that must be done in order or in a certain timing sequence. But, there really is no guidance. You simply click your mouse here and there, see what happens, and try to learn what it is that you need to do.

However, the vast majority of puzzles are clever and fun to solve, and I truly enjoyed exploring the world, seeing the amazing and colorful artwork and listening to the music.  There is fantastic use of light and shadow, dark and color – and in a dark room with no other light pollution, it is a sight to behold.

For many gamers (like my son), this is a short game – possibly finished in a single day.  For me, it’s just the right length. I would load up the game, play through a few rooms and then call it a night.  I then could come back the next day and do it again. For a few weeks, this turned into a nice routine. I would definitely recommend this adventure game for those who like playing things on their computer.


Cain’s Jawbone

Well, I received my copy of this as a gift (who knew that I was a Kickstarter backer of it?!), but since I have had it, I have now already given copies away as gifts THREE times! 

The description from Amazon pretty much says it all: “In 1934, The Observer’s crossword writer, Edward Powys Mathers, wrote a unique novel Cain’s Jawbone. The title, referring to the first recorded murder weapon, was written under his pen name Torquemada. The story was not only a murder mystery but one of the hardest and most beguiling word puzzles ever published.

The 100 pages of the book were printed and bound out of order and the reader was invited to re-order the pages, solve the mysteries and reveal the murderer(s). There were over 32 million possible combinations of pages but only one order was correct. The puzzle was extremely difficult and was only solved by two puzzlers whose names were revealed in The Observer – but the solution to the problem remained a secret.

two of the pages for you

The Laurence Sterne Trust is interested in all literary works that challenge the idea of linear narrative (BS Johnson, Marc Saporta, Julio Cortázar &c) in line with Laurence Sterne’s legacy, so the Trust responded with a mixture of surprise and delight when The Torquemada Puzzle Book was donated to the museum’s contemporary collection, even though the solution was missing. Now, after many months of research and good fortune, the Trust has managed to unlock the secret of Cain’s Jawbone.

To share the complexities, red-herrings and literary adventures hidden in the puzzle, Unbound are republishing the book in a custom-made box so that readers can physically reorder the pages for themselves and then get down to identifying the characters behind the fiendish crimes.”

So, you open the box and you get 100 cardstock pages.  Each of which has a page number at the top, generally starts with a complete sentence, and generally ends with a complete sentence.  But, how does it go together? That’s up to you to figure out. I have laid out pages on my dining room table trying to put them in order. I have read each of the pages at least twice individually, and who knows how many other times trying to put them in order.  Thus far, I have made only marginal progress in figuring things out. But, I’m having a fun time doing it.

The original prize for the contest was 15 GBP.  This current version offers a prize of 1,000 GBP, and the contest runs through September 2020, so you still have time to get your own copy and try your hand at it. 

For anyone who enjoys literature, mystery novels, and fiendish puzzles – this is surely for you.


The Escape Game Unlocked – The Heist, Vol. 1:  Chasing Hahn

This game is an Escape Room in a box, done by The Escape Game, one of the better physical escape room franchises around.  We have reviewed the physical rooms a few times (here and here), as well as their boardgame, and this take-home game is an extension of one of their rooms, unsurprisingly called “The Heist”.

Your mission? Stop suspected art thief Vincent Hahn before another masterpiece goes missing! *This volume, “Chasing Hahn”, is a continuation of The Heist story, but you don’t need to play The Heist escape game first. The experience will be the same whether you’ve played The Heist or not.  You will need to chase him around the globe and stop him from committing another crime!

When you open the box, you’ll see a bunch of printed material that are some of the clues to the mystery.  The game requires you to log into a website to get more material, see videos, etc. You definitely need to have access to the computerized stuff as well as the physical materials in the box.  We used a small laptop which we could easily pass around just as we passed around the maps, letters, photos, etc.

This story is fairly linear, as you solve early puzzles, you’ll get access to further areas on the website – but it is not so linear that you only have information needed to solve the current puzzle;  you’ll have to wade through all the information to figure out what you need now and what might be handy later on. I would say that the difficulty here is above average; there were a few puzzles that did require a fair amount of work and puzzling than

There are hints available on the website if you really get stuck, but we found that we only needed them for one or two puzzles, and only the first level of hint – you can continue clicking through the hints to get more detailed hints – but there is definitely help available to you (just like having your escape room prefect in the actual escape room!)

We took 48 minutes to solve this mystery, and all agreed that it was a great experience.  We had a good team victory – though there is no time limit here like most real escape rooms; you just keep pushing on through the puzzles until you get to the end.

Like Adlerstein (which we reviewed earlier this winter), this new direction of Escape Room games is a pleasing addition to the genre.  Would highly recommend. You can pick this up online, or you can get it at the actual escape room location (hopefully after you have won The Heist there!)


Puzzleboat 6

Once as year, I “join” a team of solvers working on a Puzzle Boat.  But since the timing sucks for me, as I’m usually just about to leave for Essen, it takes me awhile to really get into the swing of things…. From the website:

What is a Puzzle Boat?

A Puzzle Boat is a puzzle solving extravaganza in the style of the MIT Mystery Hunt, Microsoft Puzzle Hunt, DASH and BAPHL. Solutions to puzzles feed into other puzzles, which feed into a overall puzzle. Puzzle Boats are intended for three to eight solvers working together locally or across the internet, but you can solve by yourself.


Puzzle Boat is $90 per team.

Time and Date

October 19th, 2019 at 10AM (Arizona time zone). Puzzle Boat 6 will be available from that point onward.


Most of the puzzles are word, trivia, and logic puzzles covering a wide gamut of difficulty and genres.

Don’t worry about the starting date – the puzzles are pretty much always available, and you can work on them at your leisure.  These puzzles can be dastardly difficult; and everything is fair game to help you solve them. There are roughly a bajillion puzzles in each puzzle boat, and this will definitely keep you busy for weeks/months.  Heck, I think my team is still trying to finish up the last puzzles from Puzzle Boat 4!

If this puzzle extravaganza is not for you, you could also opt for the online magazine form, P&A Magazine from the same site.  Each magazine is a bunch of puzzles, usually with a metapuzzle to solve along the way. Great fun for a reasonable price. You can look here at the sampler issue to see if this is your thing: https://pandamagazine.com/panda_sampler.pdf

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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