A Logic Puzzle Mystery, Brought to Life!

Halloween might be over and done with, but there’s still plenty of spooky puzzling to be found if you know where to look.

For instance, if you’re looking for a game that takes the traditional logic puzzle in a new direction, let’s talk about Return of the Obra Dinn, a PC game that has received some rave reviews recently.

In 1802, the merchant ship “Obra Dinn” set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port with sails damaged and no visible crew. As insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office, find means to board the ship and recover the Crew Muster Roll book for assessment.

With that intense historical premise to work with, you know you’re in for a few scares and some sinister storytelling.

So the game centers around a first-person perspective of this ship as you explore what happened to the crew. You’re armed with two items: a book that contains the ship’s manifest and other documents, and a pocketwatch that, when worn near a corpse, magically reveals what happened at the moment of the character’s death.

The book works like a standard logic problem’s puzzle grid, where you can fill in the information you know and deduce, say, the last names of five people in a marching band, their ages, and what instrument they play. Except, in the case of the Obra Dinn, instead of the details of a fictional marching band, you need to uncover the identity of every person on the ship, how they died, and who killed them.

The pocketwatch sequences are the centerpiece of the puzzle, giving you a static scene of the moment of death, the characters frozen in place, along with the sounds and dialogue that accompanied the person’s demise. You can walk around the frozen scene and examine details, using the book to help document what you discover and slowly eliminate possibilities from the list.

It’s a bit like a scene from Sherlock or Hannibal, as you play the detective walking through the death scene, trying to tease out the key information lurking within.

So the book is both a solving tool and the main body of the puzzle itself, a place for storing information, making guesses, and confirming when you have the correct chain of events for a given character’s death.

The Obra Dinn is one giant, interconnected puzzle, built out of many little moments like this, and only when you’ve taken the time to examine all of it, exploring the ship and the crew from all angles, can you fill in the story of what happened.

It’s essentially a murder mystery novel, but only the first chapter and the finale are in place; it is up to you as you piece together disparate fragments and assemble the narrative. In the end, it’s a simple story, but one told backward, forward, and out of order.

Return of the Obra Dinn is the kind of storytelling that takes puzzles off the page and plants them smack-dab in the center of your imagination. And that’s pretty cool.

If you’d like to try out the game for yourself, Return of the Obra Dinn is out now on PC and macOS for $19.99.

[For more information, check out these reviews from Kotaku and Screen Rant, as well as the creator’s homepage.]


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New Puzzle Book Roundup!

It’s been a while since we’ve done a roundup of new puzzle books and packets available from top constructors, so I reached out to the puzzle community on Twitter and asked for recommendations for my fellow PuzzleNationers! Let’s see what we’ve got!


First off, Patrick Blindauer has a new PuzzleFest available, and this one is Broadway-themed!

Now, if you’re not theater-savvy, don’t worry. You’re not required to know anything about Broadway, it’s simply the unifying link between all the themed puzzles. So there’s some theatrical wordplay afoot!

Click here for more information. Patrick is charging $20 for a downloadable and easily printable PDF, and based on his track record of terrific PuzzleFests, this should be another great one!

Along a similar line, the puzzles from both this year’s Bryant Park puzzle tournament and last year’s tournament are available for download as a package deal for only $10! You can’t go wrong with two year’s worth of puzzles for such a low price!

Turning our attention to puzzle books, Foggy Brume has a collection of One-Word Word Searches available.

It sounds simple. All you have to do is find one word in a field of letters. How hard could that be? Well, it’s more challenging than you might expect!

This puzzle book is priced to move at $7.50 on Amazon.

Friend of the blog Cynthia Morris has a new edition in her long-running American Acrostics puzzle book series, and Volume 5 is all about American holidays and celebrations!

Did you know there’s a special day set aside each year to be in a bad mood? Or a day to do everything in reverse? There’s even a day to celebrate ice cream…

This puzzle book will run you $9.95 on Amazon.

And finally, puzzle book master Pierre Berloquin has a collection of puzzles centered around the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Victorian London. Based on the classic novels and short stories, the world of Holmes comes alive with all sorts of puzzly fun wrapped in Sherlockian trappings.

This puzzle book and walk down Memory Lane for mystery fans is available on Amazon for $14.95.

Hopefully one of these puzzle books or puzzle sets piques your interest, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Let us know if you snap any of them up!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Puzzles in Pop Culture: Sherlock Holmes (a.k.a. The puzzle is afoot!)

Mystery novels and stories are catnip to puzzlers, because they’re an entertaining way to exercise our deductive skills and enjoy puzzling outside our usual fare of apps, games, and paper puzzles.

And surely there’s no greater boon to the mystery-loving puzzler than the ongoing adventures of Sherlock Holmes in all his forms. Not only is there are series of feature films starring the Great Detective, but there are two television programs focusing on his singular brand of puzzling: Sherlock and Elementary.

[Note: I will be discussing both seasons of Elementary, seasons 1 and 2 of Sherlock, and the season 3 premiere. So consider this your spoiler alert.]

Beyond the normal whodunnit storytelling that frames both shows — a staple of the genre that traces back to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories and novels — there are smaller puzzles to unravel.

Perhaps the most famous from the Doyle canon is “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” where Holmes solves a curious pictographic code in the hopes of preventing a heinous crime.

And both Sherlock and Elementary frequently return to this cryptographic trope, for both dramatic tension and storytelling twists and turns.

Episode 2 of Sherlock, “The Blind Banker,” has a cryptographic mystery at the heart of the story, one that echoes “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” and its similarly perilous stakes.

Codebreaking is also at the core of the season 2 premiere, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” as Sherlock attempts increasingly complex ways of cracking the code of Irene Adler’s phone. (There’s a marvelous scene where he introduces a dummy phone in order to copy her keystrokes is foiled when Irene realizes the dummy phone is a fake, and in turn types in a fake passcode. It’s a terrific exchange of gamesmanship.)

The cipher used in the season 3 premiere, “The Empty Hearse,” is another prime example, and one that quick-witted viewers could solve alongside Sherlock, as he and Mary decipher the message and pursue Watson’s kidnappers.

Elementary has had its fair share of codes as well. The season 2 episode “The Diabolical Kind” featured numerous techniques for coding information — from hidden spaces in seemingly innocuous drawings to elaborate letter-shifting codes akin to the Caesar cipher — all of which Holmes unraveled with ease. (Sadly, the puzzlers in the audience aren’t given much opportunity to crack the codes themselves.)

But each show has also played on the natural human ability to find meaningless patterns in chaos and interpret them as hidden messages. Sherlock‘s season 2 episode “The Hounds of Baskerville” had Watson chasing down a Morse Code message that turned out to be nothing more than flashes of light.

And Elementary‘s most recent episode had an excellent sequence where Watson read too much into a former mobster’s statement about “a mutt” who would be “in the ground tomorrow.” (Watson suspected the “mutt” referenced a suspect’s mixed ancestry, while “in the ground tomorrow” would point toward the suspect’s Jewish heritage and burial traditions.) Holmes correctly dismissed both as red herrings.

Both Sherlock and Elementary had a bit of fun exploring characters fixating on small clues, only to be misled. It’s an intriguing path to take when the main character of each show bases so many conclusions on similarly minuscule bits of data.

With such a richness of Sherlockian material on television these days, both mystery fans and puzzlers have plenty to sate their appetites.

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