I’ve been pondering whether or not to review Journal 29 from the moment I cracked its first truly difficult puzzle. You see, it’s not the usual fare here at Stately Play, and I wasn’t sure if our readers wanted to live the dread of English teachers everywhere, having to read a poorly written book report. Yes, a book report. You see, Journal 29 is an actual book made out of dead trees without a battery to recharge or screen to tap. It’s like the 80’s, with the exception that I’m not listening to Spandau Ballet [for the record, Dave is totally still listening to Spandau Ballet -ed.].
Journal 29 is a book of puzzles that tie together…somehow. I still haven’t figured that part out yet. The conceit is that this journal is the 29th journal written by an expedition that disappeared. Where was the expedition? What were they looking for? Who cares. None of it really matters, instead this book is all about the puzzles and how they’re tied together via keys.
The puzzles are all completely different and vary in difficulty from the insultingly easy to moderately difficult. I have yet to crack into one that I couldn’t solve on my own, but there have been a few that took me far longer to unravel than I care to admit. [There is a forum full of hints if you come across a puzzle you just can’t unravel -ed.] There are word puzzles, riddles, numeric puzzles, ciphers, and whatever else you can think of. The cool part is each puzzle will lead you to an answer that you enter into your phone. Oh, right, you need a computer, tablet, or smart phone to play so I guess it isn’t much like the 80’s after all. [Spandau Ballet is, however, still playing as he writes this. Actually, he just has True on repeat and is doing that breathing part out loud. I’ll record this one day and post it just to embarrass him. -ed.]
Here’s how it works. On the left page is a QR code and a place to write what the book calls a Key. Across from that, on the right page, is the puzzle. When you solve the puzzle you scan the QR code (or enter the URL provided) and enter your answer in the page that pops up. You’ll be rewarded with a Key, that you enter on the left page, or told to go pound sand if you don’t have the correct answer. Keys from previous pages are used in the puzzles, so you can’t just skip ahead and figure stuff out based on previous answers. You need to get the Keys, which means solving puzzles in order.
Not being able to skip about might seem like a bummer, particularly if you get stuck. Like I said, however, the puzzles aren’t so hard that you can’t figure them out with some hard thinking. Also, going through each puzzle sequentially, using Keys from past puzzles, helps give it all a feeling that it’s something bigger than just a book of puzzles.
Physically, the book is fine, although it’s available only in paperback, no Kindle version to be found. This makes sense as the book begs you to bend, fold, and write on pages to solve puzzles, making anything other than a cheap paperback a nonstarter.
I’ve been having a blast with Journal 29 thus far, and I’m only about halfway through the book’s 60+ puzzles. I’m playing it along with my 13 year-old son, pondering clues and getting to that “AHA!” moment when a theory pans out is rewarding as all hell. If you’re looking for something a little different, something to take to the beach this summer, or just something to help flex your brain muscles in your downtime, Journal 29 will do the trick.
[I would have liked to post some images, but was afraid of spoiling any of the puzzles for you. Luckily, there’s a trailer for this thing and it does the trick. -ed.]