Book Review: Journal 29

Journal 29
created by Dimitris Chassapakis

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: Puzzle book

I was given this book as a Christmas gift by the owners of the escape room company I used to work for. They thought it would be right up my alley, and my husband and I were excited to go through it, thinking it would be like an escape room in a book. It was not, but to be fair, I don’t see anywhere that the book is actually stated to be like an escape room. However, even leaving that aside, there were some issues that made the book less enjoyable than it could have been.

The book starts with the beginning of a story, the same paragraph that is shown in the synopsis. But that story literally never came up again, never came to fruition, was simply forgotten about. There was no reason to include it, though I guess it gave a little starting point for the aesthetic and theming contained throughout the book. And I did like the look of the pages overall; a lot of things that seemed like pointless artwork even ended up being not so pointless by the end. I liked the way not every page was a self-contained puzzle.

The puzzles themselves, though, left a lot to be desired. There were some interesting ones that were fun to solve, some that took a little noodling and led to a thrilling “aha!” moment. However, far too many of them were just huge leaps in logic that you can only get if you happen to think like the puzzle creator. Or get help (more on that later). Many required outside knowledge, a lot of things we had to look up online, and sometimes we didn’t even know what to look up. And there were no official hints. It wouldn’t have been difficult to include at least some starter hints, help to get started, on the website where answers were entered, but instead, we had to find a forum online where other players were giving their own suggestions and hints.

I think, overall, the book needed further testing. As someone who has built a few escape rooms in the past and now builds another type of puzzle game for a living, I know that every puzzle I make needs to be tested and reviewed. I need to hear if it’s way too hard, too confusing, too big of a logic leap, or has mistakes (and yes, there was at least one puzzle in this book that had a mistake that made it harder to solve). And while I don’t want to imply that the rest of the world needs to cater to Americans, if we’d at least known from the start the creator wasn’t from the US, it might have helped us think a little differently for some of the puzzles (if you do decide to go through this book, just know that commas are used where we would put a decimal point in a number; that’s just the simpler one to explain). Again, it would have been simple to have a brief explanation of things like that on the web page for that puzzle.

I think the book was an interesting concept, and if you enjoy straight puzzles, you might want to check it out. If you’re looking for something more like an escape room, I’d suggest one of the many tabletop escape games instead.

Find out more about Journal 29

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

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