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This is the first "ESCAPE ROOM PUZZLE" I have seen and I was really looking forward to it. On opening the box I discovered a bag of jigsaw pieces (no surprise there) a brief story setting as to where you are trying to get out of (no clues here) and a sealed envelope which holds the solution to your 'escape'. Jigsaw Puzzles from Ravensburger are known throughout the world to be of the highest quality and most entertaining of past-times. This 759 piece puzzle (priced between £9.00 and £15.00 on the internet) is exhilerating, frustrating, time-consuming, addictive and finally both enjoyable and disappointing. The first job of doing any jigsaw puzzle is to collect the edges together and then build the outer frame. Finding the edge pieces is easy - they either have one or two (four have two) flat edges with no innies or outies (apparently the innies are also called 'tabs' but I haven't found another name for the outies except perhaps holes. The box says that this is an 'Escape Puzzle' but a quick look on the internet and I found it was known as "Temple Escape".

However, mixed amongst the cut pieces are some shapes and sizes that are all edges and of course when sifting through the pieces and collecting these together you begin to think they are a purposeful part of your escape plans - re-reading the story sheet indicates that the publishers know these pieces are in the box for they say they are of no consequence at all - in which case why put them in the box at all ? I will point out that these pieces do not affect the game/puzzle in any way at all except to add to the mystery but then why mention them, why not just leave the player/s to literally 'puzzle' over them?

  

As far as being an 'escape room puzzle' you need to look carefully at the picture, top and (just off) centre where you can see the clear blue sky over the tropical island Temple in which you find yourself. The picture shows vines, stone carvings and 'furniture'  (what look like blocked protruding stone windows, doors etc) so surely any adventurer worth her or his salt would look to climb up and out through the gap. Concentrated examination whows there are no signs of crumbling stone that would make it appear dangerous to climb, so there it is, the case is solved, climb up the vines using the footholds of the aforementioned Temple 'furniture' and no need to put the puzzle together because you have just solved it by looking at the front of the box; only that's not the answer required, it is way, way more devious than that.

  

I don't often do this (use the text from a product) but what it says on the box adds to the mystery and the confusion. "It's up to you to put the puzzle together, find the mysteries and solve them all. Will you be able to solve all of the mysteries and find the 'last' puzzle piece? A mysterious illustration plunges puzzlers and players into a mystifying world where it is all about finding the "escape"!

Find ALL the mysteries and solve them all ? Find the 'last' puzzle piece ? This gives the impression that to escape you need to solve many different riddles and conundrums and that all the answers will be provided (in the secure envelope) when you have completed the puzzle. This isn't actually the case as there is only need to solve one puzzle - how to get out - and in fact this is the only solution in the envelope. As in the tradition of the theatre when you see the play 'The Mousetrap' you do not tell anyone whodunnit, therefore in the tradition of reviewing I will not disclose the answer from the envelope.

   

The biggest mystery of the 'TEMPLE' is why the illustration on the box is so different from the actual finished puzzle. Usually when doing a jigsaw puzzle you look for pieces to fit according to where they are in the illustration but in this TEMPLE puzzle there are so many differences, things seen in the illustration are not in the complete picture, many things in the complete picture cannot be found on the box, even the border is expanded from the original illustration.

   

Not having a truly honest picture to work from made the TEMPLE more than just a Jigsaw Puzzle, it made it a mind boggling challenge. Having so much green and so much gold made completing the puzzle a nightmare - it took us several sessions of at least a 3-4 of hours each. We started on Saturday evening and spent 2 hours sorting and completing the border and then on the Sunday we awoke, had a wash, coffee and sat down at the puzzle. Several coffees later we were still working away trying to determine why we couldn't find the pieces for this section and that section, nothing seemed to fit (at this point we had no idea that there were so many differences between the two pictures even though the story sheet had intimated they weren't quite the same) and frustration turned to addiction back to frustration and onto dogged obsession, we weren't going to be beaten by just 759 pieces of wildly cut cardboard!

    

And so the puzzle took over our free time until it was completed, which was when we re-read the story and started looking at the differences between the pictures. There is a crocodile with an '8' tile in it's mouth so we thought the croc had eaten something or someone - perhaps it was a Red Herring? There were circle designs cut into the stone with symbols, glyphs, hieroglyphics carved into them, what could they mean ? A square of puzzle pieces showed a dozen or more heads, another square concentrates on numbers, snakes and lizards appear in different places, golden stone statues disappear to be replaced by mysterious blocks and carvings, and some pieces start to show something that is out of place, doesn't look out of place and yet ends almost as soon as it begins. Confucius himself would have been confused. It is amost like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no picture at all to follow as a guide because it is so remarkably different in so many ways.

The story was of no use as an aid, at least to us, so we spent about an hours using a magnifying glass to go over each section in search of the 'final piece' - there were times when we thought that there was a piece missing from the jigsaw puzzle and it was this 'final piece' that we would find in the sealed envelope and that if we hadn't solved the Room Escape by the time we got to just one last piece to complete the puzzle, then the final piece would be the necessary clue; wrong!

We finally gave up and opened the envelope. Together, Fran and I had spent nearly one whole day (24 hours) over a week (we completed the puzzle in 10 days; Saturday-Monday) and despite the irritation and frustration we found it a wonderful experience to work so close together on something that we were both addicted to (after 46 years together this wasn't a new or unique experience but it was one to savour). The final solution was a tepid let-down but it was the getting there, not the end result/goal, that made this something we would recommend as a weird way of relaxation. We have a carry-case that includes two felt-padded trays, a felt base and two large zippers which allowed us to cover the pieces safely and preserve our ongoing project. Not recommended for anyone who has to leave it on an unprotected table and especially not recommended if you also have cats that walk, jump, slide and sleep where they want to when they want to.

Our opinion is that as an Escape Room Puzzle it didn't work for us but as a straightforward jigsaw puzzle with nasty but neat twists it is incredible. Besides, 24 Hours of entertainment for a £tenner; How can you go wrong ?

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015