December 11, 2023

Book Review: Can You Get Out of This Book? By SOLV

This book looks cool, and from the cover, you know what you’re getting into: an escape room style book full of puzzles that requires the use of your phone. I don’t like when books and board games require me to use a specific app or website, but I'll give it a pass if it’s simply for checking answers.

Let’s start with the good: clearly, a lot of thought went into this book. The book is full of puzzles, and everything is nicely illustrated. Some of the puzzles are fun to solve. The QR codes link to the book website, where readers can input answers and get a few hints.

I’m going to be honest: I did not finish this book, and I’m not entirely sure it is solvable. Some of the puzzles are too frustrating to input into a text field like a maze where you’re supposed to input <,>, and = symbols for every left turn, right turn, and straight away for the shortest path. Some of the answers are straight out wrong, like the library where you find a page that was ripped out of a book. A quick Google search shows the page is from a book titled “The History of Venice,” but the ‘correct’ answer is a different book also depicted in the library.

If you can’t figure out a puzzle, the website directs you to a forum to ask other players what the solution is, but for almost every puzzle, there is no solution listed in the forum. This is particularly unfortunate since for many of the puzzles, you get pertinent information needed to solve the next puzzle only after you input the correct answer for the current puzzle. That means that in many instances, getting stuck prevents you from playing anymore.

There are a number of issues with this book that are annoying and should be improved. The QR codes should include a text-url so players can type it into a browser if the don’t want to rely on a QR link. Solutions should be provided when players get stuck on a specific puzzle so they can continue on to the next one. Information from the website that is needed for subsequent puzzles should be succinct so players can jot down the information inside the book. Most of the puzzle content should be included in the book. Answers should be kept short and be easy to enter into the text field of the website. The website should intuitively navigate to the next puzzle after inputting the correct answer so readers don’t need to scan every single QR code. The page layout should be realigned so the images and text don’t disappear into the binding. Readers shouldn’t need to download WhatsApp in order to use the in-game computer system, and FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, I DO NOT WANT marketing messages from a book through WhatsApp!!

Book reviews are supposed to be for readers to let them know if they’ll enjoy the book. So to readers: do not buy this book. Wait until SOLV comes out with a new edition or another title and has worked out all the pain points in their books.

However, to SOLV, I want to say: you’re almost there! This book just needs a bit of refinement. Print some proof copies to line up the artwork correctly. Have a few puzzle enthusiasts play test the book to see if real people can come up with the correct answers. Revamp the website and take steps to streamline the puzzle-solving process. Take just a little extra time to ensure you’re creating an enjoyable product that escape room fans will love.

I eagerly await SOLV's next iteration. I’m hopeful they will engage their obvious creativity and passion for puzzles and take the time to iron out the issues they’ve encountered so far to captivate eager escape room enthusiasts and puzzle lovers with high-quality puzzle books.


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