Before I get started. Full disclosure: I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid review... If you would prefer to watch the video review for Doctor Esker’s Notebook:
I was pretty excited when I received the copy of Dr. Esker’s Notebook. This is a game unlike anything that I have played before, I do not know if it is a unique game, but I have certainly never come across a puzzle game like this. For those of you that have no clue what the game is about, it is a puzzle game based around the notebook of one Dr. Esker.
Here you can see the set up for the first puzzle
In a nutshell, the way the game works is you have 10 cards that make up the solutions to ALL of the puzzles, depending on how they are arranged. In addition there are 70 plus cards which make up 9 different puzzles. When you flip your set of puzzle cards your task is to figure out what sequence of 2-4 numbers Dr. Esker is trying to lead you to. These cards when flipped over and placed in the right order give a message, which then tells you what the next puzzle you should attempt to solve is. Finish all 9 and you win! If you find you are stuck there are hints on the website ranging from “small” to large”. I won’t lie…I definitely needed to use some, but I am not a puzzle master by any stretch of the imagination.
Based on the puzzles I have completed and attempted it would seem that Dr. Esker is some kind of mad genius. It really has the appearance of a lunatic’s scribbling as you look through the “notebook”, and I really hope that when my slower than the average bear self finally completes all the puzzles that I find out where the Dr. has disappeared to!
The says it plays 1-6 players, but I actually took it in to my 6th grade classroom and, as a reward, played the first puzzle with the entire class. They really enjoyed it, and are begging to play more. Now, let’s get to it!
The game itself. This is a clever, fun, and to my knowledge unique puzzle game. It makes you think, and it has an awesome payoff when you flip your solution cards and you see the clue to take you to the next puzzle. The puzzles definitely increase in difficulty as you proceed (at least I think they do, I have not completed all of them). It is hard to say too much without spoiling any of the puzzles, so I will leave it at that.
I also really like the art on it. It really nails the theme of the game. As you look at the cards they do look like notebook pages with scribbles and drawing, or with images pasted in. There are, what seem like random musings of the Dr. as well, though of course EVERYTHING seems like it could be a potential clue.
I also am a real fan of the relatively small footprint it has on the table. If you do the full set up I suspect it can spread to require a bit of space on the larger puzzles, but you can easily condense your set up and play on an airplane tray table. When packed up, it fits it no bigger than a deck of cards.
This is a simple game and, other than the puzzles themselves, there is actually not a whole lot to it. However, with that I definitely was confused on how to actually play the first time. There are instructions, and they are concise and it seems pretty clear, but until I actually played I really did not know what to do. I wound up having to take a couple of hints, then it all clicked for me.
Now, I suspect this is just because I was not in the right mindset to really grasp how the game worked, as it is one that is, as I said above, so very different from anything I have played before.
Replay is non-existent. Once you have solved a puzzle that is it. It is over, and you can never play it again. Now this is clearly how the game is designed. That said I have already enjoyed the initial puzzle three times as I got to solve it, and both of my classes at my school have gotten to solve it.
Putting it all together
This is a type of game that I must admit, I would never have purchased on my own. It is just not my cup of tea. However, this is a delightful brain burner. The puzzles are clever and challenging and both they and the art completely fit the theme of the game. The price is right, and this is certainly a game worth checking out.
Just give me the bullet points!
- *Delightful puzzle game. To my knowledge it is unique
- *The theme is on point, and despite having little written story it kept me engaged and curious
- *The puzzle difficulty definitely ramps up-you will need the clues for sure
- *It can be a little difficult to figure out how to play the first time
- *There is no replayability