No fooling: an exit game on a cruise liner

Royal Caribbean's "Anthem of the Seas". Credit: Screenshots from HD1080i - watch the full video at http://www.hd1080i.de/en/

Credit: Screenshot from HD1080i – watch the full video at http://www.hd1080i.de/en/

This site enjoyed the April Fools’ Day fun from Clue HQ (suggesting their fourth game would be The Sinking Ship, both by name and by nature), from Escape Quest (now deleted, suggesting that you would have some thematic company when you play their new Amazon Escape game) and from Breakout Manchester (suggesting what happened to a cleaner locked in overnight at their Virus game). However, more than all of these, this site enjoyed a post which appeared to be made at 1:01am on April 1st from the Puzzle Break exit game of Seattle. The catch is that Facebook was helpfully translating the time from its original Pacific time zone to British Summer Time, and the original piece was posted late on 31st March in Seattle. No kidding going on.

The exciting news is that Puzzle Break have announced that “we are partnering with Royal Caribbean on our shipboard escape room experience: “Escape from the Future!” Available on Anthem of the Seas. Escape the room while escaping on the Mediterranean!“. A second post with more details suggests that the game will be installed on this brand new cruise liner, which will be the equal third largest in the world. With such a new and impressive ship, it seems only fitting that it will feature the world’s most up-to-date attractions. Marine Trader has more details of the observation capsule, the restaurants and the vast scale of the liner, and Cruise Critic has confirmation of not only the Puzzle Break room but also a huge art piece. It also has another article detailing other innovations, including a skydiving simulator, a circus school and bumper cars. If you’re going to have all of those, why wouldn’t you have an exit game on board as well?

So what do we know about the game? Back to Puzzle Break’s post: “Escape from the Future will be available on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. Anthem of the Seas will be based out of Southampton. ((…)) It will be cruising around the Mediterranean starting later this month! Escape from the Future shares some content with our original (no longer offered) Escape from Studio D. Escape from the Future will be FREE for cruisers.” As well as the Mediterranean cruises, the liner will be offering three-night mini-breaks from the end of the month, starting at around £430 per person. Once the Southampton season around the North Sea and the Mediterranean has finished, the liner will have a winter season from the East Coast of the US around the Caribbean. Immensely exciting and huge congratulations to Puzzle Break for striking the deal; fingers crossed that it’s a fruitful partnership that lasts for years and years.

In other news: the Kickstarter campaign from Enigma Escape has less than 48 hours to run. Excitingly, it’s over 95% funded, and looking promising. This will be the first UK exit game Kickstarter campaign to fund, so you can think in terms of backing as making an advance puchase of a ticket with an attractive opening discount. Also, there are only eleven team spaces remaining if you want to book for DASH 7 in London, so don’t hang around!

English language exit game blogging is one year old today

rsz_first-birthday-309189_640After celebrating yesterday’s twenty-fifty anniversary for The Crystal Maze, today this sites the first anniversary of the inception of exit game blogging – at least, among English-language bloggers – for Intervirals had its first post a year ago today. Congratulations, Essa! The site started through an attempt to compose continental exit game lists for Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region and has grown through a set of forums to a full, frequently-updated, weblog.

Blog author Essa comes from the Alternate Reality Game tradition; the site’s hundredth post was made at the start of February, the beginning of Blog February, a series emphasising the breadth of topics that there are to be covered. Intervirals has long been really strong at covering new site openings, but also media stories and discounts. Many other blogs have followed – and surely there was coverage in other languages beforehand, though this site will leave it up to your discretion as to whether to count exitgames.hu, the long-established Hungarian-language site about the ~66 games in Budapest and others all around Hungary, as a blog or not.

It’s exciting to see how many exit game blogs there are that have arisen from the tremendously well-developed Toronto area, and also that QMSM and Escape Game Addicts have both got off to such a strong start here in the UK. Around the world, Room Escape Artist covers the US and Escape Rooms in Sydney covers, well, where it says. Singapore is covered by escaping.sg and S-capegoats, Malaysia and more by Escman League and Enigmatic Escape. And that’s just English-language blogging! Any more for any more? Unless you know otherwise, history will record Essa as having been first up onto the dancefloor; we all follow the trail that she blazed.

One excitement development is the establishment of an Escape Enthusiasts Google Group (so it can be accessed as either a web forum or a mailing list) by Scott Nicholson, Associate Professor at Syracuse University and director of Because Play Matters. Scott has been discussed here previously in the context of the survey of the exit game genre that he launched at the very end of 2014; he discussed the survey’s purpose in an accompanying video, and noted at the start of February that he received responses from 188 different escape room facilities from around the world. Exciting times!

Here’s to many more discussions, and many more years to come!

Exit games in the news

Newspaper graphicThere have been several interesting news stories recently about exit games, well worth a round-up:

  • Today, The Star (of Sheffield, not the Daily national recently focusing on Big Brother, Channel 5 and the proprietors’ other business interests) had a cheerful piece about The Great Escape Sheffield, which TripAdvisor reviews place as number one activity in the city. It’s fascinating to hear more about the background of the people behind the game and get a sense of their influences. The suggestion that a local university offered considerable assistance is particularly interesting and shows what might be possible.
  • On Sunday, Isle of Man Today discussed a trip to Glasgow and Edinburgh where the Glasgow highlight was a trip to Escape, which TripAdvisor reviews also place as number one activity in the city. It sounds like they had great fun in both cities.
  • A couple of weeks ago, The Daily Telegraph had an enthusiastic and pleasant, though unsurprising, article about a trip to HintHunt, mentioning some of the other fixed-location sites in London at the end. As great as the games that get the lion’s share of coverage are, other games in London are also available.
  • Further afield, The Varsity of Toronto take a slightly wider cross-section of the games available there. The proprietor of LockQuest has interesting things to say (particularly in the context of this Twitter exchange…) – though, as ever, the media is far bigger than the mainstream media and you’ll find far more in-depth coverage from the amazing local bloggers who you’ll find in the blogroll here. For instance, everyone’s drooling over this timeline of the 45 (!!) exit games in the greater Toronto area, which looks so gorgeous as to put the counterpart UK timeline somewhat to shame.
  • The written word is far from the only medium; the IntoConnection series of vlogs had a global top three of the genre, in the opinion of a Dutch site proprietor polite enough not to nominate his own.
  • A really exciting blog post recently has been part of InterviralsBlog February series, with a look at the history of room escapes. It’s got people thinking, talking and researching…

Lastly, the very best of luck to Clue Finders of Liverpool! The last week has seen players taking up trial slots, with the first paying bookings expected in a day or two. Liverpool is the place to be right now, what with Clue Finders opening and Tick Tock Unlock taking its first bookings on Saturday onwards!

Around the World: a US hunt playable around the world?

South Carolina state map(South Carolina image courtesy of mapsof.net, published under a Creative Commons licence.)

Life gets in the way for a few days and all of a sudden there’s a little backlog of exciting news to post…

The happiest news of the day is good reason to turn two more dots on the map from red to yellow as Breakout Games Aberdeen have announced that they’re taking their first customers today and Crack the Code Sheffield previously suggested that today would be the day on which they will be taking their first customers. (There are TripAdvisor reports for the site already, so perhaps they have had a soft launch already?)

Last year, this site briefly covered the University of South Carolina puzzle hunt, which has been an annual fixture since 2012. Registration is now open; the hunt’s informational page suggests that “Remote teams and members are still welcomed in this Hunt. On the registration form, please indicate that you are playing remotely, and more information will be provided to you“, and an article on last year’s event reported that “Twenty of this year’s teams were composed of USC students, but the remaining teams were remote, and came from as far as China and the United Kingdom.” Fair game, in that case! On each of the five days of the first week of the hunt, a set of puzzles will be released, along with a metapuzzle derived from those puzzles’ answers, with the overall hunt solution derived in turn. You can get a better idea of the hunt’s form from the 2014 puzzles and the 2013 puzzles as well. (Ooh, they had an Only Connect event as part of the 2013 hunt as well! Excellent.)

Lastly, Iain points out that 25 cities across the United States will be having one-day revivals of the old Lobby Lud gimmick this week! To celebrate the start of the second series of NBC’s The Blacklist, lookalikes of the show’s lead character will be deploying themselves across the US between Monday 2nd February and Thursday 5th February then posting clues to their whereabouts to social media. The first three to find each lookalike and whisper the phrase that pays stand to win hundreds of dollars. Sadly South Carolinians will have to travel north and cross the state border to either Charlotte or Raleigh in order to play!

If you’re not in the US but still feel like making some money, don’t forget Quiz The Nation on Sunday evening; download the free app and get tokens letting you play your first few quizzes at no charge. The competition was bigger in week two than week one, but not wildly so, though the standard of top competitors is getting higher. First place pays £1,000, second to tenth and spot prize winners all claim £50 or more, and eleventh to fiftieth win tokens to play further games for free.

You blogging bloggers, you

Blogs and bloggingThe blogroll to the left has had a major upgrade with the section about exit games more or less tripling in size. It’s almost as difficult to keep up with as following the new locations that launch, though neither challenge is anything less than delightful, and it’s definitely a case of “the more, the merrier”. In conclusion, people seem to be reasonably evenly split between referring to the genre as escape games and escape rooms, so exit game used here is, at least, distinctive. Please forgive these descriptions being short, out of practicality rather than dismissiveness.

Starting close to home, Escape Rooms London has a single page about the titular subject that goes into rather more detail than this site’s list of locations and the new UK-wide Escape Game Addicts is so exciting that it’s bound to get many more mentions on this site over time. Definitely room for more and more UK blogs, though.

That final sentiment is borne by the experience in the Greater Toronto area, which is approaching Budapest-like levels in its magnitude. The first site to cover the field was Toronto Room Escapes, with Escape Games Review the second. New additions are Escape Reviewer, which takes an entirely welcome South East Asian approach by rating individual rooms at a facility separately and providing a variety of categorised marks for each room as well as an overall single figure, and Escape Room Addict, which writes up its reasoning for its individual scores in considerable detail. One of the Escape Room Addict reviewers has serious form; he used to do a really, really good series of Flash videos about his board gaming group, a decade or so ago, back when Flash videos were a thing. (What you say !!) I cannot read what he has to say without one of the videos and its tune (from Guitar Freaks) coming into my head, and I don’t mind a bit. With four perspectives on each room, or more, there’s much more of a chance that the best rooms will shine through and overall opinions can be less clouded by particularly good or bad experiences when either the reviewers or the site were having an unusually good or bad day.

On another site of the world, Scott of Escape Rooms in Sydney reviews his local games, with detailed and persuasive analyses of each game’s high and low points. The Escape Room Directory lists exit games in over fifty countries, so it should come as no surprise that there are sites in other languages as well; Hemos Salido have been covering Spain (in Spanish) with a highlight being a preview and review of when Real Escape Game came to Barcelona for its first European event. Escape Game France details France (in French) with interviews as well as reviews, Escape Game Authority surveys Germany (in German) and has an excellent collection of German language links to media stories about exit games, All Escape Rooms discusses the Netherlands (in Dutch) with a map that clusters multiple exit games in a location brilliantly and makes this site jealous and Gerçek Kaçış Oyunları overlooks Turkey (in Turkish) with a Wiki format that should be extremely easy to keep very much up to the minute.

Likewise, there are ever more lists of exit games, many with maps. The Escapist Society has an elegant design and a single (though very interesting!) blog post so far; it focuses on Dutch exit games, but is also starting to cover ones in England, having reached some as far north as Macclesfield, and is all in the English language. Escape Room Hub has a global focus, accepts public reviews and features another one of those brilliant clustering maps, Escape Game Guide seems a little like a work in progress but might turn into something spectacular if it can fulfil its considerable potential and Find a Room Escape has a US focus and is the only site so far to make the obvious and logical step towards helping you (at least, a US reader!) find their nearest location.

So many different people doing so many different things, generally to such a high standard. It’s an exciting time… and it’s only going to get bigger and better from here!

Around the World: what’s going on in North America

Room Escape Artist's map of North American exit gamesThe above map is a snapshot of Room Escape Artist’s North American exit game map. (Hi! Thank you!)

Speaking of exit game maps, Live Escape Games‘ Shaun points Exit Games UK to the Puzzalarium newsletter, from the site of the same name of San Diego. This site has quickly made a name for itself from some of its unique approaches, as detailed in Toronto Room Escapes‘ brilliant, must-read interview. Puzzalarium have announced an approach which is brilliant, simple, lucrative, zero-cost and worthy of recognition as instant global best practice.

Simply, they offer the chance to play their room in “Zen mode”. You book, and pay for, one room for two adjacent time slots. You then get to play the room in no rush whatsoever over the duration of both timeslots… and the time in between them, normally filled in by the room being reset. (So if a game takes an hour, and there’s an hour reset time between games, this would give you up to three hours in total in the room.) This means that people can take the room as slowly as they like, possibly even taking no hints in a room where hints might usually be liberally supplied, and come out feeling that they can be pretty sure that they haven’t missed a single thing. At a guess, only a few percent of groups would feel that this is the right approach for them, and probably only for rooms known to be relatively difficult – but those who do, and who are willing to pay double money, would really appreciate the option. Puzzalarium also offer teams who have played their game the chance to watch other teams playing the game from behind the scenes.

Escape Room Directory‘s Dan Egnor points to Dr. Bryan Clair‘s amazing, detailed account of an intricate-looking exit game he set up and ran for 36 teams at St. Louis University. (He’s also volunteering to run DASH 7 in St. Louis, where it’ll be making a return after being present for DASHes 4 and 5, and absent for number 6. What a guy!) Amateur exit rooms like this are definitely part of the future of the genre and might be right for some people who love the idea of devising and running their own exit game but don’t feel well-suited to the business aspect of things. (Plus who have the resources to sink into such a project, without getting an obvious financial return from it.) Dr. Clair, this site salutes you!

Talking of interviews and taking looks behind the scenes, the latest (and last, at least for the year… and maybe longer?) episode of the consistently beloved and heroic Snoutcast podcast features an interview with Lindsay Morse and Nate Martin of Puzzle Break of Seattle and San Francisco. Nate also previously wrote this Reddit post with his reflections on his first year in business.

Lastly, this site just loves the theme behind Omescape of Markham, Ontario’s new room: the Kingdom of Cats. It opened yesterday; obviously, on a Caturday!

Around the World: blogs from South-East Asia

Public domain map of Malaysia and SingaporeMalaysia is pictured in white above, and Singapore in red. This site is not yet aware of any exit games in Brunei (green, towards the East), though it’s amusing to imagine that the Sultan might have a private one in what is recognised by Guinness as the world’s largest palace.

Another exciting consequence of the new Escape Room Directory is that it lets the world know about some very cool blogs on the topic of which this site was not previously aware. The more people talking about the genre, the merrier. There are two covering Singapore and two covering Malaysia, both of which are heavy hitters in the world of exit games.

escaping.sg is a crisply-presented, very well-written review blog about games in Singapore with a laser focus on consumer guidance. Well over thirty games have been reviewed so far, along with overall impression pieces about the sites in which the games can be found. The site is particularly strong in terms of detailing for whom each game is most suitable and how the game might best be enjoyed. Accordingly, this blog has a very valuable role to play in the important job of helping people find the game that is right for them and their team, recognising that not one size fits all.

S-capegoats is the elder of the two Singaporean blogs. Not only does it have neatly rainbow-coded reviews scoring different exit games in each of six categories published weekly, it also has some more discursive pieces focusing on specific aspects of exit games. In part this is to explain the philosophy behind their rating system, and in part this can be taken as a set of tips to help you think about the way you play these games.

Escman League is a site with real escape game reviews from Malaysia and beyond; it’s very interesting to see additional perspectives on some of the Singaporean sites, and also a review of a game in Hong Kong. Some posts also have polls asking people whether they were successful or not at the game in the review, providing a real-time independently-measured difficulty report for each game. The site is written by four friends who clearly have enjoy what they do, and that shines through in their writing.

Enigmatic Escape is a primarily Malaysian site and the longest-running of these blogs, probably making it the original English-language exit game blog, unless you know otherwise. Posts date back to January, but cover reviews of games played both last year and this year. They also review events put on by exit game companies; the particularly interesting Escape Run 2014 event bears similarities to what might be considered a short (and physical!) puzzle hunt elsewhere. Your authors are dPace and Dscry, the latter a mainstay of the Intervirals forums.

This site has chosen not to go down the review route, but there is definitely plenty of room for further UK exit game blogs. Be sure that the exit games themselves would be keen to see them, and that this site would love to link to them!

Around the World: the leading global exit game brands

"Brand Identity" graphicMight the red carpet one day be rolled out for your brand around the world?

One of the most exciting consequences of the Escape Room Directory, and quite possibly a natural extension of the global popularity of the exit game phenomenon, is that it’s easy to identify brands whose reach extends beyond a single country. At this point it’s probably not yet possible to definitively identify the world’s leading exit game brands; if your brand deserves to be in this list and isn’t, please do get in touch with appropriately good-natured abuse. It’s probably worth coming back to this topic every few months to see how the various brands are doing.

This can only ever be a snapshot of how brands are doing at one point in time in October; the industry is so fast-moving that likely many of the brands we feature below will have made considerable progress since then, and your own research as to how each of them has moved on will likely inform your opinion about the true sustained strength and progress of each company, rather than just using a sample size of data from a single point in time.

Real Escape Game are accepted as the progenitors of the genre. The run both Real Escape Game events, which have multiple teams in the same location but still the same time limit, as well as Real Escape Rooms which fit the conventional definition of an exit game. A translation of their Wikipedia page suggests they have activity all over Japan, but also in South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore. In the English language, they have two locations in the US, as well as having run games in five cities, and two in Canada. It is unclear whether Real Escape Game NZ is one of theirs or not.

The rapidly-expanding Real-Life Room Escape page on Wikipedia (ugh, what a clunky title) suggests that ParaPark was the first fixed location game to open in Hungary in 2011; they advertise as “the first room escape game in the galaxy”. Continent, quite possibly; galaxy… perhaps “first” makes more sense if it’s translated as “first place”. Anyway, the ParaPark (“Fear Park”) brand has branches in Hungary, Spain, Romania and Austria (the latter in an apparent tie-up with a laser game brand – smart idea) and may be coming to Italy, the Netherlands and Australia.

The Mazebase brand is a little disparate. They are best known for the HintHunt brand represented in London, Paris, Cape Town, Dubai and Moscow, but grew out of a centre in Debrecen, Hungary also originally known as HintHunt. However, they have also contributed some rooms to Breakout Manchester (two Mazebase, two original), Puzzlair, one Polish site, two Greek sites with others in progress.

To UK audiences, Escape Hunt is possibly the most avowedly international brand of them all, with branches already open in the Netherlands, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia as well as the UK. They have recently revised up their global growth target by about 50% to “75 locations signed by end of 2014 and 500 by end of 2015”, which has to be an excellent sign, though there’s a difference between locations signed and locations opened. Paul Bart is going to be kept extremely busy!

The Adventure Rooms brand is also well known for the success of its franchising around the world. Having started in Bern, Switzerland, they have grown not only around their original country but also into the US, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Estonia and Russia, with Australia coming soon. No sign of any UK deal yet, but it would seem plausible that someone wanting to extend an established, tried-and-tested brand could sign one at some point down the line.

The Freeing brand is known for very large centres in Hong Kong and Singapore, with one of the two Singapore locations (at Bugis+) featuring ten rooms, all different. Gulp! Ten may tie Escape Hunt London for largest and ten different is quite possibly unprecedented, at least among the English language. They also have one Indian site and one Canadian site. It’s not immediately clear whether Freeing Room in Kuala Lumpur is connected with the brand or not.

Escape Room currently only have operations in two countries, with six sites in Malaysia and one in Australia. However, they get points for “coming soon” in five more, including the UK, with a suggestion that their first branch will be in Manchester. In Australia, be sure not to confuse Escape Room Australia, in Melbourne, with Escape Room Melbourne or the barely-opened Escape Room Oz in Queensland; it may well be that none of them have any connections with each other. This site understands that the appropriate national slang for the nomenclature confusion is a bingle.

The LosT brand has two very large centres in Hong Kong and one large one in Singapore, Room Escape Adventures will trap you in a room with a Zombie in 14 US cities as well as Toronto, and the Escap3d brand fully deserves consideration here for sites in both the UK and Ireland.

Among national brands that could conceivably grow overseas some day, Team Escape are spreading across Germany, Escape have two locations in Scotland with another coming soon to Newcastle, Escape The Room has two locations in NYC and one in Philadelphia and there are two Puzzle Break locations on the West coast in San Francisco and Seattle.

Speaking of Puzzle Break, their co-founder Nate Martin made a cracking Reddit post about his thoughts and reflections after a year of running his business, answering public questions as well. Well worth reading, and thanks towards Toronto for sharing the link!

Around the World: round, all around the world

Stylised globe encircled by a bolt of lightKudos to you if you recognise the reference; it doesn’t start at the beginning of a line, for a little additional special difficulty.

There are already a few attempts to try to create a global list of exit games; EscapeFan is one with a lot of style, though not so many listings, and Intervirals was the first try. It’s always been particularly strong on the Asia Pacific region. Another new attempt is Escape Room Directory, by Dan Egnor. Dan is a long-time veteran of the puzzle scene, has long run the invaluable Puzzle Hunt Calendar, did a corking write-up of his team’s crawl around six exit games in a single day and is generally known to have a brain the size of a planet. Keeping a list of one country’s sites is exciting and challenging enough; trying to keep a global list is a work of dedication and bravery!

One of the exciting things about Dan’s directory is that he has found a variety of other national exit game sites. The English-language ones are really well-written and it’s a joy to add them to the blogroll on the right. (More about them soon.) As much as there are sites in countries all around the world, there are non-English-language blogs as well, about which this site is insufficiently talented to comment. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to note that there are exit games in at least three dozen countries; every continent is represented except Antarctica. (It would be so delightful to be wrong on this last point!) This makes the exit game, truly, a global phenomenon – almost an Olympics-class global phenomenon. That’s really exciting.

One of the most exciting links is to EGA China. Running this through a machine translator, it looks very much like a Chinese exit game directory, and more. There’s a remarkable horizontal bar chart at the bottom, with exciting numbers like 91 and 155; machine translation suggests that this represents the number of exit games in different cities – and, looking at the map, while this cannot be confirmed, this may actually be the number of sites, rather than the number of games, let alone the number of rooms. This implies that there are 155 exit games in Beijing alone. That’s remarkable.

This site’s first ever post linked to an article in the Wall Street Journal, which suggested last December that Beijing had 120 exit games. Truthfully, as much as the WSJ is reputable, this seemed a remarkable claim that required some degree of substantiation. This is exactly that substantiation… and evidence to suggest that the genre may still be growing. It was always hugely impressive to see exitgames.hu list dozens of sites in Budapest (44 in March, 59 now…) – it’s slightly mind-blowing to think that China has at least seven Budapests and at least five more Torontos as well.

Has the exit game industry in the UK and Ireland come even close to hinting at what it might be possible to achieve over time? Nowhere near!

Around the World: The Genius

"The Genius" garnet and logoThis site contends that the most interesting new TV show of the last couple of years or so comes from South Korea, is broadcast on the Total Variety Network, tvN and is generally referred to in English as the Genius. Summarising it in one short sentence, it’s “like Big Brother except with properly interesting, puzzly games”. To substantiate the claims of its brilliance, this site would point to the results of the global category of the 2013 Poll of the Year voted upon by ukgameshows.com readers, who ought to know a thing or two.

Each season, thirteen contestants start the first of twelve shows. Each show has a Main Match, which generates at least one winner and exactly two elimination candidates who play in the Death Match. (Usually, this will be the loser of the Main Match plus an opponent of their choice, though the winner or winners of the Main Match are immune from selection.) The loser of the Death Match is eliminated, and all the contestants but that eliminee survive to play the next week’s show. The final show starts with only two contestants, so just consists of a single match, playing best-of-three different games, to find an overall winner of the series.

Each contestant starts with one garnet, the main scoring mechanism of the show, and may earn additional garnets through winning, or performing well in, the Main Matches along the way. In the first two seasons, the survivor of the Death Match also inherits the eliminee’s garnets. The overall winner is paid a million won (currently nearly £600) per garnet, which will add up to enough to buy, say, a low-end but brand new sports car.

The true star of the show is the variety, quality and originality of games that are played. Not every single game sings, but at their best, they redefine how accomplished and sophisticated game-playing on television can ever become. Some of the games are principally social, sometimes with groupthink and group dynamics being key. Others have the puzzle nature even more directly, with hidden depths and even solutions, or tricks, that the best players might find. (The best players sometimes do, and it’s glorious when it happens. It’s as satisfying as seeing someone work out how to perform a magic trick, or as glorious an Aha! as you get from solving a particularly ingenious puzzle.)

There are many other reasons why the show is spectacular, too. The presentation is world class: the sets atmospheric, the graphics exceptional, the soundtrack (particularly in the first season) frequently superb. The soundtrack heavily features electronica, both Western and K-pop. (The band Idiotape is heavily represented and work splendidly in context.) The contestants are entertaining, usually very likeable and often genuinely talented at solving the games – though in a “choose who to eliminate” game, standing out from the crowd can be a bad tactic. When the show is good, it’s as good as puzzle TV ever gets, and even the relatively weak episodes are entertaining.

The one downside is that it’s a Korean show, almost entirely in the Korean language. A fan has ensured their place in legend by producing subtitled translations that are extremely easy to follow; with immense thanks to Bumdidlyumptious, you can covertly download the shows, with translations, from links provided at their Tumblr. It’s worth starting with season one; it starts a little slowly, but when it hits the ground running, it really hits the heights. This site is posting about the show now because a translation has just been posted for the first show of the third series, and it’s the best start to a series yet.

The show gets this site’s highest recommendation. If you’re not yet convinced, you can see what the tremendous, if sporadic, Clavis Cryptica had to say about the first series, posted just before the second series started, and a preview of the third season. Another excellent place to discuss the show is Bother’s Bar, probably the de facto hangout of choice; see old discussions of the first and second seasons, then the brand new third season; comments for each episode start after the subtitled version of each episode is released.

It would be lovely for there to be an English-language version of this some day, but the subtitled show is easily enough to enjoy as it is.