Argyx Games: The Owl’s Puzzle (Apocalypse prelude)


Argyx Games are a small company based in France that are in the process of launching some play-at-home escape room-style experiences. As with many of the entrants to the market, they’re making use of Kickstarter to fund and advertise their first project, which is a 2-4-hour boxed game with plenty of physical elements. They’ll also be following that up later in the summer with a subscription service designed to give a smaller, regular fix each month. As with any Kickstarter project, you can’t just wait a couple of weeks after launch and see what people say. Instead, you have to decide up front, which obviously leaves the big question: is it worth committing your hard-earned cash?

It’s clear that they’ve put plenty of effort into their launch. As well as the website above, there’s a teaser trailer, a physical prequel game sent out to reviewers and an online version of the prequel experience. And, of course, all that content is also available in French.

In an ideal world, there would be reviews of the final experience, but they have at least shared a prequel puzzle to show off their design prowess. If you want to play along at home, there’s a link to a propless version above.

The Prequel

Opening up the letter, it’s clear that Argyx know how to present something in an interesting way. Even the envelope the game arrived in showed that they wanted to dress things up. That continued into the game, with the use of a variety of everyday objects to ensure that the solving experience never felt like we were working on a paper puzzle – a feeling I’ve had from several much higher-budget games.

Those initial puzzles were reasonably straightforward, focusing on simple observation before sending us off to the web for the next stage. That’s a theme that I suspect will run through their games – a hybrid experience where physical objects interact with virtual information to create puzzles that neither medium could easily carry off on its own. The videos alongside the main experience also helped to instill the mood of the game, and the addition of parchment paper for the opening letter worked well to start their theming.

As the game progressed, we saw a little more of their puzzle style. I was particularly taken with one puzzle that felt novel: each element was reasonably standard, but the combination stood out to produce an enjoyable challenge. It’s worth pointing out that they weren’t afraid to use outside-the-room knowledge, so bear that in mind: you may have to look for some information on the internet.

Mostly it was plain sailing, with occasional slightly heavier-going moments, but we enjoyed almost all the experience. The one exception was a piece of decoding that required a fair amount of work and seemed to be significantly more involved than the rest of the game. I found that slightly worrying because, if that passed through their testing for a short demo game, they could put something significantly more complex in the final experience. Sometimes it’s tempting to use something that will take the players longer but, if that’s adding taskwork rather than fun, I think you’d be better off simplifying it, even if you end up with a shorter experience.

The only other issue was near the end of the game, where we hit a slight problem with the web interactions. We’d identified the wrong solution for one of the challenges and ended up on a default webpage without realising it. When you input an answer, it should always be immediately obvious if you’ve got it wrong, and here it wasn’t. Again, I think that’s the sort of thing that is easily fixable during play-testing and will probably be tightened up for the final release.

The Verdict

All in all, a solid start. A few good puzzles – some of them reaching a challenging level – and only a couple of weaknesses along the way, which were easily dealt with via the clues. Add in theming through audio, props and story, and you’ve got a very solid experience.

In the end, only you can make the decision about whether you’re willing to take the risk on an unreviewed game. From the images and information I’ve seen, there appears to be an above-average amount of content, with plenty of physical elements. Their puzzle-making skills showed promise and, while they went off the beaten path a couple of times, the clue system prevented that from becoming too frustrating. Bottom line: this was a fun experience.

And the sixty-four-thousand-euro question? Yes, I’ve backed the project. Tempted to join me? Then head over to their Kickstarter page.

Full disclosure: Unsurprisingly, we weren’t charged for this mini-game. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.

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