Games Gazette Logo

In Martino Chiacchiera & Silvano Sorrentino dvGiochi have two extremely bright and clever game creators working for them. Together they have created the two excellent card game series DECKSCAPE and DECKTECTIVE. 

ESCAPE from ALCATRAZ is the penultimate in the line of nine games (plus one short demo edition) and the last one that I have played. I have  the tenth in succession, CREW vs CREW: The Pirates' Island, and will be shivering me timbers and swashbuckling with the best of them as soon as possible.

The ROCK (not the film/wrestling star) aka Alcatraz Island was from 1934 to 1963 an (almost) impenetrable and unescapable prison. It held infamous villains such as Al Capone, Machine-Gun Kelly, Bumpy Johnson (currently being portrayed in a TV series by Forest Whitaker) and Robert Franklin Stroud (aka the Birdman of Alcatraz). Three or four people may or may not have escaped - one swam ashore and was so exhausted he was immediately arrested, and three others were never seen again and it is believed they drowned (or escaped).

So the 1-6 players of this game now have to do the virtually impossible, they have to escape from Alcatraz. So grab a pencil and paper and get ready for a rough journey through the depths of this grey stone monstrosity to freedom - and (possibly) a surprise ending!

All of these games start the same way. You open the box and the first card tells you CAUTION: Do NOT Look Through This Deck. This is because the cards are all in numerical order with either some useful information, a clue or a puzzle on one side and the solution and continuing directions on the flip side.

During play you have to solve the puzzles. You can all talk together and decide what to do, what the answer is, how to solve the puzzle etc, discussion means that no one person is to blame when you get it wrong. You will need a pencil and paper to keep a running tally of X's and A's - the highs and lows of your detective skills - these, along with the time it has taken to complete the game - count towards your success or failure.

On vacation in the USA many years back we took a boat tour to Alcatraz. It is an awful place, even now as a tourist location, so goodness knows how downright nasty it must have been to be incarcerated there. It is the tales which come from prisons like Alcatraz that have been the mainstay of many a movie or TV series/show and, I would hazard a guess, many young Americans have seen what the inside of a real (albeit old and cold) prison looks and feels like. 

Just standing in the cell that was allegedly where Capone spent nearly 4½ years gave me the chills. It's very narrow and thankfully the doors could not be closed - I don't think I have claustrophobia but I think I would develope it if I had to stay there for more than a few minutes.

Every puzzle is different. You may have to follow coloured links from one side of a circuit board to the other, hoping to find and connect the broken joint, or discover a key and then have to find out where it fits. Conversely you may find the keyhole  and then have to search for the key (and is the key actually a key or is it something that could be (used as) a key?

None of the above are specific puzzles for this game, they are just representative examples of the type of puzzle you will find within the Deckscape series. Some are simple maths puzzles, some simply logical, others take a considerable amount of brainstorming - but remember, you are always against the clock.

The game is a card game with 64 large cards and a fold-out newspaper sheet. I cannot give you any real hints or clues and I certainly cannot give you the answers to any of the puzzles - it's much more fun trying to solve them yourself. Okay, as this is a review, I guess I should give you a mini suggestion so here it is; read the newspaper and study the postcard thoroughly, they are not included in the game just for fun (although they are quite fun) they have a purpose.

The DECKSCAPE games are play once only, but they are worth the cost (usually around $11.00) plus they have pass-on value.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021