A unique and entertaining blend of puzzle book and video game that largely ticks the right boxes but is a tad pricey for its offering.
I’m no stranger to what I like to call ‘escape-adjacent experiences’. I’ve tried my share of puzzle books, puzzle boxes and puzzle board games.
And The Cult Experience offers a different take on this – a puzzle book / online game hybrid that gives you a closer escape experience.
The book sat on my shelf for a little while after receiving it. The 2.5 hour timeframe you need wasn’t easy to come by, so when we could finally carve out enough time we deciphered the first clue and dived head first into The Cult Experience.
Your investigation into the disappearance of two young women leads you towards a mysterious cult-like organisation known as “the enlightened”.
Delve deeper into their sinister workings as you follow clues, solve puzzles and interact with various characters along the way.
With only 2.5 hours to complete your investigation, race against time and stay alive long enough to solve the mystery!
What I enjoyed
The main hook of The Cult Experience is the use of video as an integral part of the puzzles. The book itself is only half the story – keen observation on what you see and hear in the video is key to progressing.
This was a new spin on the puzzle experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The whole video is shot in the first person, Blair Witch style. This helped to ramp up the tension and helped draw your eye to the right puzzle elements, acting as signposting throughout the game.
The different puzzles required a number of different inputs – passwords, combination codes, button press sequences and clock faces. This kept things fresh and the input type helped narrow our focus when coming up with the answer.
The puzzles themselves were varied and largely had a pretty good difficuly curve, which is a difficult challenge to achieve in most puzzle experiences.
What The Cult Experience has over more traditional puzzle books is that there’s a greater sense of narrative, largely carried by the video format. There was a tantalising glimpse at a deeper lore that wasn’t explored as fully as I’d have liked, but it still worked well.
What I didn’t enjoy
The artwork in the book was inconsistent and didn’t feel like it was as good quality as the video. It might have been that the information was meant to look as though it had been collected from different sources, but the overall effect was disjointed.
Although most puzzles were signposted well, one or two of them weren’t. This led to a fair amount of trial and error for us to try and solve them.
The hint system available at the back of the book didn’t really work for us. The book offers a single hint per puzzle and in the cases when we used it, it told us what we already knew. There’s an FAQ section on The Cult Experience website that has a better series of hints.
The ending of the game was a little anti-climactic and stripped you of your agency. The tension ramped up and then ended on a bit of a flat note.
Did we escape?
Our team of two ‘reached enlightenment’ with 38 minutes to spare, so not too shabby.
For full disclosure, I was sending messages to the team at Review the Room every now and again whenever I was stuck – they’d played the game already and the hints in the book weren’t giving us any joy.
The Cult Experience is an innovative blend of puzzle book and interactive video that takes you as close to a true escape room experience as you can get without actually being there.
I liked the puzzle diversity and the close interplay between the puzzle book and the video, making for an enjoyable puzzle experience.
It’s a solid concept with a few kinks to iron out, but it’s one that I hope to see more of in the future.
However, at a price point of £30, it might be a bit steep for casual puzzle fans to take a gamble on.
Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary copy of this game for the purposes of writing a fair and honest review. This has not affected our opinion of the game whatsoever. Check out the disclosure policy for more info.