Cantaloop Book 1: Breaking into Prison

9.1 Overall
Component Quality
Puzzle Design
Game Experience
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Cantaloop Book 1: Breaking into Prison

  • Played March 2021

  • 7-8 hours
  • 2-4 players
  • $35

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The ERA team thoroughly enjoyed playing through Cantaloop Book 1. The components, like the rest of the game experience, were excellent. The game is comprised of a book with various labelled cards. The cards have engaging designs and are used together, in a multitude of combinations, that create an ever-changing and ever-evolving story line and game experience. The book has a collection of dialogue and scene backgrounds that constantly interact and change with the cards as well. The fine touches of presenting the cards in a front pouch were noted and praised. The unique piece of the game component is a piece of transparent red plastic that becomes your main key as you navigate your way through the story. Considering the game is exclusively a book and paper game, we didn’t even feel as though we were playing a paper-based game because all the game components worked so seamlessly together to create the illusion that we were playing a 90s point-and-click computer game. We would love to see Lookout Games find a way to add an audio component to the game, such as online recordings and videos of the dialogues to help the player stay immersed in the story, reduce some of the reading, and make the game accessible for all players.

The Immersion experience is unlike any other game that we have ever played before. From the integration of the game cards, to the witty and highly engaging dialogue, we felt as though we truly were experiencing the story line from the perspective of the main character. Not only was it a great storyline, but Lookout Games was able to break through the fourth wall for the game player. While playing, not only did we navigate the dynamic storyline further, but at times the player triggers inside jokes and witty banter directed to you, as the player. The ERA team is in awe of the sheer volume of permutations and possible dialogues that the player can encounter in this game, because for every possible combination and solution you try, there is a prompt provided to either engage the story line or engage in banter with you as the player! After we finished playing the storyline, we feel as though we engaged in maybe 30-40% of all the possible dialogues and we went back and read through some of the prompts we didn’t uncover just for the sheer entertainment of it! Overall, we found the immersion experience was seamless without being overwhelming. Gen-Xers will absolutely love this throwback to the point-and-click era! This game followed a linear storyline, but with an approachable and open-choice platform to steer the player in the right direction. This game took us seven hours to complete, so it was rather a long game, but a great experience. We found after the build up to a dramatic finish that the ending dialogue was rushed so we would love to see Lookout Games find a way for the player to be more immersed in the dramatic finish.

The puzzles were unique, very enjoyable, logical, and satisfying to the player. As we navigated the tutorial, game and storyline, different item cards needed to be combined together with each other, or with the storyline, to generate a code for the team to reference to see if the storyline advanced, or if a witty comment and joke from the writers awaited them. The hint system was flawless, and we recognized the incredible amount of work Lookout Games must have done to create a hint system of such magnitude to reflect every possible combination of item and scene cards. The red transparent plastic card that is the key to navigating the game play provides a unique experience we haven’t seen before. The puzzles themselves require a lot of observation, some common sense, logic, and require the player to think of themselves in the shoes of the main character. The puzzles are all intentional and relevant to the storyline and make sense to the player. The card system allows you to try every possible combination and allows you to try to solve for different puzzles before you need to, but the linear fashion of the open-ended approach always brings you back to the right spot. We would encourage Lookout Games to clarify, if possible, some of the game ambiguity in terms of where the main character can move in the story, and with what cards. It would be great to provide the player with a card box to store cards that the player has unlocked but might not be playable based on certain scenes where the character is located. While we thoroughly enjoyed the puzzles, we did find that because the game took us seven hours to complete that we had to play over two sittings. Since it is a paper-based game, we did our best to keep the game cards static between sittings. We would love to see the game creators create a sleeve at the back of the book, like the sleeves at the front of the book, to store cards in an organized fashion if players need to take a break.

Not only was this game fun, it was revolutionary! We can see that this unique experience has the potential to revolutionize the way play-at-home games are created. Whether this is your first or hundredth time embarking on a play-at-home experience, it will be one you will not regret. The game is long, so be prepared to play with a small group of friends (we’d recommend a small group, or make sure there are multiple copies of the book present with a large group) or this can be a great solo experience as well. We eagerly anticipate the second installment of this industry leading and breaking game!

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