Cryptex Hunt 2021 – 9th Place!

Cryptex Hunt 2021 is over, and the results are in. We took 9th. Not bad considering over 700 teams, but I’m looking to win it all next year. Our group was in the top 3-4 for the first three (of five) games in the series today before falling down the ranks a little.

The wide variety of games made this contest a lot of fun, and I could tell the puzzle designers had fun putting together games that would utilize Adventuron’s features in novel ways.

As a little denouement to this contest, I’ve ranked the games in the series from lowest to highest, based on my experience with them.

14th: The Haunted Cabin. Overall I liked the concept of the “escape room experience from hell,” and it was fun poking jabs at some common escape room tropes (though I felt some comments were a little meanspirited), but there was one AWFUL puzzle that really dragged the experience down to the very bottom of the list. I really have no idea how the designers thought that puzzle would be enjoyable, and it sounds like most other participants in the contest felt the same way. (Note: It appears the game has been edited to make that puzzle less painful)

13th: Final Puzzle. The puzzle itself was fine, but there was a major component that felt extremely out of place at such a critical stage of a contest like this. Participants who followed one particular podcaster got a pretty significant advantage in knowing how to approach the problem. Thankfully one member of my team was reasonably familiar with the key details, but getting kneecapped by my social media habits, or lack thereof, would be a pretty nasty gut punch just shy of the finish line.

12th: Connections. This wasn’t quite a full game so maybe it’s not fair to judge against the others. The lack of content, and zero reward for exploration, left me wondering why this was even built out in Adventuron instead of being a static screen embedded at the start of the final puzzle or at the end of the previous one.

11th: ELIZA. Similar to Connections, this was a game that used only a limited set of what Adventuron is built to do. It makes sense as a “final boss” sort of puzzle, but with such limited interactivity, it felt like an incomplete experience. And one element involves an “escape room urban dictionary” that makes me a little embarrassed to be an escape room enthusiast.

10th: The Red Soldier. I heard the game’s designer wasn’t happy with Adventuron, and it showed. It was pretty clear that the designer wanted to have a story-heavy game with lots of branching dialogue to help players dig through an elaborate backstory. The heavy dialogue ended up feeling cumbersome and the puzzles, aside from the final, were heavily on rails with lots of guidance pointing players to the next step.

9th: International Cryptex Day. Not a bad game by any means, just very simple, with only two puzzles that would come close to slowing down puzzlers. It serves its purpose well as a tutorial.

8th: The Room of Escape. Kind of a weird tone (an escape room that plays out like a truly dangerous room, but maybe was a normal escape room all along?). The game overall was enjoyable, though the final hidden puzzle felt like a grind, with the instructions pretty much saying “Google this specific thing, then do it.”

7th: Welcome to the Jungle. Very fun setting (reminiscent of Pitfall), and I really enjoyed how the designer made the jungle difficult to explore. The puzzles were both clever and humorous. Not the most challenging of the games, but very well-crafted.

6th: Escape the Egyptian Tomb. Consistently solid start to finish. Not particularly challenging or groundbreaking, given how much Egypt shows up as an escape room theme, but with plenty of good puzzles to keep us interested. The final puzzle was an order of magnitude more complicated than the rest of the game, but it was one of the cooler puzzles across all the Cryptex Hunt games.

5th: Wake Up. I loved the artistic design of this one, looping through the same space repeatedly while the features used in the previous puzzle disappear. I’m impressed by the designer’s ability to convey “dream-like” through Adventuron, without getting lazy and relying too much on “dream logic” for how the puzzles get solved.

4th: The Wizard’s Tower. A wizard who wants to sleep- it’s a funny, simple setup for a solid game. The castle environment has all the trappings of a game like Shadowgate, but it’s the wizard’s own home so you never encounter anything dangerous or offputting. The hidden puzzle sequence was more elaborate than most of the others, which was a nice little reward for clearing the game.

3rd: The Bamboo Forest. Simple and elegant. The items you find always have clear purposes, and aside from one little detail about the final puzzle, there’s not much to cause players to get stuck, but it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Like Wake Up, this game shows strong artistic vision. Out of all the games, this is the one I’d recommend most for a budding puzzle enthusiast to show what this kind of contest can offer.

2nd: Dead Mall Mystery. Dead Mall Mystery is a well-conceived game based off a wordplay on “dead mall” – i.e. a mall that’s at the end of its life cycle, nearly shut down and devoid of stores. The game’s mall is active and lively but populated with the dead- zombies, mummies, ghosts, skeletons, and vampires. The game hits the storytelling mark for me- it tells a simple story without overwhelming you with paragraphs of text when you really want to just solve puzzles in record time. I liked the puzzles better in a few of the above entries, but Dead Mall gets bonus points for how it integrates a narrative without overwhelming or distracting from the main point of the game.

1st: Starship Escape. The first game of the final day of the contest was a real winner. Tons of puzzles / connections to draw, with a higher level of challenge throughout compared to most of the other games in the contest. This game was one of the few times I felt our team was tested outside of the clear “boss” puzzles of each round, and it was really good for encouraging how we worked as a team.

I’d love to compare notes with anyone else who participated in the contest. Even if you didn’t, you can play all of these games, sans the final few “meta” games, here:

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