Madmen and Heroes Review

Madmen and Heroes is a subscription box company that offers two different kinds of experiences.  The Resystance is a historical themed box that teaches you about specific historical events.  The Craaaft is a supernatural themed box that teaches you about paranormal beliefs from around the world.  Each box starts with an explanation about the content and what you must do to complete the game.  There are a series of clues and puzzles that you must solve in order to complete your quest. 

I enjoyed the themes from this company.  I was able to try two Resystance boxes, the Underground Railroad and Women’s Suffrage.  I also tried one of the Craaaft boxes which was Preta Problem, a Buddhist themed box.  I genuinely learned some historical facts and lore.  There’s no better way to learn than from a fun game or story.  Unfortunately, I think the theming is about the only good virtue about the boxes. 

There is a limited story with each box.  It usually only consists of a rough idea of what’s going on historically or what your goals are.  The Preta Problem for example had nearly two pages of writing explaining what Pretas are and how you need to find each one in the temple to help them.  The information was repeated a lot and could be edited down to less than a page with clearer writing.  The Resystance makes it seem like there’s a time travel meta story going on, but they never really build on that.  The premise is similar to that of Escape the Crate, but that company builds on the meta story every box.  So far, the Resystance is just visiting places.  I have no idea what we are resisting or what’s going on. 

The puzzles are usually a mess. A good puzzle is one that provides you all the information you need but still provides a challenge.  Most of the puzzles in this box do not explain what they want you to do.  It sort of explains what you are looking for and then there’s random clues sprinkled throughout.  There’s just no clear direction for what to look for.  The hint page on the website is pretty good though.  They provide roughly 3 hints, a ‘how to solve’, and the solution for each puzzle.  Without looking at this page though, you might not even realize something is a clue.  The answers compilate to a single password which completes the story with an epilogue.  Getting this password can be tricky figuring out if there are spaces or capitalized letters or the order to put them in.  For me, I just didn’t find the puzzles to be enjoyable. 

The quality of the images and prints are really low.  Most of it looks like they downloaded from a small internet image and had it blown up a few sizes.  Most of the images are grainy and pixelated.  The puzzle elements are usually just tacked on like a clipart.  They are made on good quality paper too which is a striking contrast.  I’m not sure why they spend time printing poor images on quality paper. 

Each box comes with a few trinkets.  The Resystance boxes come with random things that seem useless in the game and in life.  This is typical though for these types of games and this one doesn’t stand out as being the worst offender.  The Craaaft actually has some really fun goodies.  For the Preta Problem I got a long strand of Buddhist prayer flags and a necklace of prayer beads.  They didn’t play into the game at all, but it went with the theme and I like them.   

Each box is $30 a month.  For that price, they do not come close to the quality and content that other companies provide.  At most I would consider these boxes to have a $20 value.  It’s not like they are in a big rush either considering they have a 12-month rotation for their boxes.  This means every June they send out the same June box as the previous year.  They have plenty of time to clean up their content and offer a finished product.

I really wanted to like these boxes because of the themes.  It was a great concept that was never completed.  Maybe I will give them another shot in the future if they fix their quality and revamp each box with a story and better images.  I think hiring a graphic designer would be a good move.  Never leave a mystery unsolved!

-J.C. Mystery Detective

Puzzle Books by R.W. Galland

Lots of new puzzle books are coming out that use new and innovative ways to enhance the puzzle solving experience.  Many are using smart phones or websites.  What can you do when you head out to go camping or loose that precious wifi signal though?  For that reason, sometimes it’s better to go old school.  You won’t need to look for the USB connection for the puzzle books by R.W. Galland.  You will need to power up that brain though.

So far I have worked my way through ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’, ‘The Knights of the Round Table Puzzle Quest’, and ‘The Leonardo Da Vinci Puzzle Codex’.  Each book works the same way.  Almost 200 pages of puzzles and all of the answers are in the back.  Sweet and simple.  Each book is split into three sections.  The easy puzzles, the medium puzzles, and the hard puzzles.  Each section is roughly the same length.  The puzzles in these books tend to require explanations so you won’t spoil it for yourself by flipping to the back and accidentally looking at the next problem’s solution.

The puzzles range from beginner level to pretty complex.  The books favor riddles and word problems which make up roughly eighty percent of the puzzles.  In each book there are no repeats, but from book to book I noticed several of the riddles were duplicates.  The word problems are heavily math based so be wary if you failed math or if numbers make your head spin.  The remaining puzzles are actually pretty different between the different books.  The Alice book has image puzzles where you need to find the differences between two mirrored images.  These are difficult but a fun and classic image puzzle.  The Leonardo book had a ridiculously easy puzzle where you have to match missing blocks to some of Da Vinci’s paintings.  Almost as easy as learning not to put the square block in the round hole.  The King Arthur book had a maze type puzzle where you had to collect all the water and leaf symbols while following rules.  It also had a battle type of puzzle that I still don’t really understand that was heavily math based. 

The puzzles are perfectly melded with the narrative that takes place.  For ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ we follow Alice through her whimsical adventures in Wonderland.  For ‘The Knight’s of the Round Table Puzzle Quest’ we follow the King Arthur myths from childhood to death.  For ‘The Leonardo Da Vinci Puzzle Codex’ we follow one of Leonardo’s apprentices and are presented the puzzles as Leonardo would to his students.  I learned a lot from the King Arthur and Leonardo Da Vinci books.  These books tell the stories through a series of riddles and puzzles.

The art in each book is taken from its original source material.  Some of the art has been modified to turn it into a puzzle.  This was mostly used in ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ and ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’s Puzzle Codex’.  If you love Da Vinci’s artwork, many of his sketches were used to make the puzzles.  His paintings were chopped up though to make the lame matching puzzle, so don’t expect to get a good print of the Mona Lisa.  The original artwork from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is colored and enhanced in this book.  The puzzles simply mirror the artwork and make small changes which keeps the original looking good.  I’m not completely sure where the artwork from the King Arthur book is from.  I would guess several sources from artwork, books and stories over the centuries. 

My personal favorite was the ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ book.  As you may know, Lewis Carroll was the author of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.  He was also a mathematician and huge nerd of puzzles, just like us!  He actually published countless puzzles in magazines, books, and leaflets.  This book features several puzzles that he created or that he loved.  Even the writing matches the fun poetic and riddling speech that Lewis Carroll uses in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It’s basically the perfect theme for a puzzle book and collects several Lewis Carroll originals.

So if you’re looking for a way to cut down on that blue light before you go bed, picking up these puzzle books is a great way to do it.  They are beautifully illustrated and have a great range of puzzles.  You could simply read through the books and check on the answers for some relaxing entertainment. You can also challenge yourself and try to solve the puzzles on your own.  Start with the theme that intrigues you the most and go from there.  The latest two books remaining from the series that I haven’t tried is ‘The Nikola Tesla Puzzle Collection’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Puzzles’.  I’ll definitely be finishing my collection in the future and picking those up.  Never leave a puzzle unsolved!

J.C. Mystery Detective