Puzzling Pursuits – Blackbrim: 1876 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95; $5 shipping

The police have been kidnapped! Who you gonna call? Puzzle Enthusiasts, that’s who.

Theme:

From the Puzzling Pursuits website:

Set during the Victorian era in the English town of Blackbrim, you are a private detective who has received a package containing mysterious clues from a police commissioner shortly before he was kidnapped. He and the entire police force are being held hostage. To save them, you must solve all the riddles the perpetrator left behind…

First Impressions:

Blackbrim: 1876 is certainly an interesting, sleek looking package. with two separate parts wrapped up in black tissue paper, and a properly mysterious introductory page to set the stage for the rest of the game, it certainly had us intrigued!

High Points:

Blackbrim: 1876 was broken up into two parts, and the first part was an overall alright introduction to the Puzzling Pursuits style of puzzling. While nothing really stood out to me here, this section on the whole was solid. I enjoyed two of the puzzles above the rest, as they were somewhat more seamlessly logical and provided great ah ha moments to revel in. The meta was also enjoyable, and I like how the website to check answers has been set up, it works smoothly and allows for hints to be taken and solutions to be verified without any difficulty or accidental spoilers.

Part two is where Blackbrim: 1876 really shines, however. Sans a couple of puzzles that are similar to puzzles we overall didn’t enjoy in part one, the set up and puzzling is much more clever and refined here. These interactions also tended to be more layered and intricate, allowing for subsequently satisfying solves, as well as loads of multi step, clever conundrums. One particular puzzle looked to me like it was going to be a very difficult, trial and error enigma, but proved to be an elegant mind game that really folded together beautifully once I had teased out what to do. This whole section feels a lot like an escape room, as each puzzle we solved opened up another room, freeing another captive, and leading us closer to the final meta, which ended up being an awesome solve that was hidden in plain sight. The story line itself is also a lot of fun, and the second part really ups the ante narratively, with fun reveals and a finale that ties everything up neatly while still delivering some story threads that could lead to a sequel.

Low Points:

While part two of the game was definitely where things picked up, part one felt like more of a slog. There were a lot of anagrams, and while we don’t necessarily mind those, they just sort of felt like they were there, rather than an active, engaging part of the puzzle. A bit of clean up after the initial solve. There was also a lot of vague googling to do, especially one part which we ultimately skipped since research based googling is something we’ve never really enjoyed. One puzzle in particular required googling, and though we had solved enough of it to skip over the bits we needed to google, it would have been a much more entertaining puzzle without the research. Another puzzle is a great, tactile idea, but doesn’t line up quite as well as it should to ensure confidence in the answers we arrived at. At one point, we needed to take a few hints to move forward with one puzzle that was really stumping us, and they were a little too vague to put us on the right path.

Our only critiques for part two was one more google based puzzle, and a math based puzzle that my wife loved, but I checked out on. That one is a real hit or miss, so if you don’t enjoy math, make sure you play with someone who does. Overall, the only issue is that the cursive style font that is used throughout is difficult to read, even for someone who writes in cursive on a daily basis.

Verdict:

Blackbrim: 1876 was a somewhat uneven experience that still managed to deliver an overall enjoyable time as well as a second half that really captured a nice “at home escape room” feel. Though we had a few gripes with some of the puzzling and all of the Googling, it was still a good time, and I can recommend it easily to enthusiasts that are looking for a somewhat challenging and narrative interesting experience! Start your investigation into Blackbrim here!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Puzzling Pursuits provided a complementary box.

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