404: Interactive Puzzle Book

5.2 Overall
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404: Interactive Puzzle Book

  • Played February 2020

  • 1-4 players
  • $20-25

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404: Interactive Puzzle Book by Dr. Gareth Moore is a puzzle book very reminiscent of Journal 29 which we reviewed on here earlier. For those unfamiliar with the format, it works like this: the book consists of a number of puzzles (56 in this case) laid out on every set of facing pages. Very occasionally, a puzzle will refer back to a previous puzzle but for the most part each puzzle is self-contained. The book also has an accompanying website where you can check your solutions and look up hints.

In terms of quality of materials, this book is about par for the course. Apart from the cover, it’s entirely in black and white, but the artwork is well done and looks good. The book feels solid and doesn’t feel like it will come apart in your hands. And the accompanying website isn’t anything special in terms of design, but it gets the job done.

The book does include a story presented as snippets of text alongside the puzzles. Small snippets are also occasionally included when you enter a solution on the website, so make sure to take that step if you’re interested in getting the full story. Unfortunately, the story starts strong but becomes a little repetitive, and there isn’t as much story development as we would have liked. To be honest, it feels more like a thin layer that’s been added on top of the puzzles, as opposed to being a main focus from the beginning. The puzzles are definitely the centre of attention here.

So how did the puzzles themselves rate? Unfortunately, it was a bit of a mixed verdict. There were a few “aha” moments as we played through, but at the same time a number of solutions left us scratching our heads. We did find ourselves using the hint system quite a bit more than we would have liked; of course in a book like this, there will always be a few puzzles that you just don’t get, but it felt to us there were quite a few more of those than we would have liked. Speaking of the hint system, we felt it also could have used a bit of work. Each puzzle includes a number of hints, and the first few always felt very generic and obvious, while even the most in-depth hints didn’t always do a good job of explaining what was going on. While browsing the forums on the book’s website, we found a number of similar complaints from other players. Also, we would have liked a bit more variety in the types of puzzles; we found there were quite a few on the theme of coding/substitution/word re-arrangement, etc. and a bit more diversity would have been nice. And, as mentioned above, we felt the puzzles bore only the most superficial relation to the story and theme.

So what was our overall verdict? Well, the ERA team found this one a little tough; we got stuck and needed to resort to hints quite a bit more than we would have liked, and at times it felt like something of a chore to get through. Also, if you’re looking for a gripping story to go with the puzzles, you won’t find that here either. It may be that if you’re a hard-core puzzle fanatic, you’ll quite enjoy this book; however, we can only rate it as we experienced it, and for us it was a bit of a hard slog.

Spoiler alert: the book’s Kickstarter page includes four of the puzzles from the book if you want to get an idea of the types of puzzles you’ll come across.

Final Verdict:


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