Doctor Esker has vanished. The only clues to his disappearance are a book of puzzles written in his own hand – the scribblings of someone who might be a madman. Can you crack the codes and find the doctor before time runs out?
Doctor Esker’s notebook is a puzzle game for 1-6 players that takes about 1-2 hours to complete.
Doctor Esker’s Notebook provides a deck of 73 cards which contain nine puzzles to solve. Each puzzle is composed of a set of cards. Puzzles range from 4 to 12 cards.
Solve puzzles by reading, rearranging, matching, deciphering, or doing a little lateral thinking. Stuck? Head to the website for a clue or two (broken into chunks so you can still enjoy the thrill of completing the solve.)
The solution will reveal a sequence of numbers (from two to five digits) – when you think you’ve got it, gather the solution cards corresponding to the number sequence and flip them. If you see a message or image, you’ve solved the puzzle and can advance to the next. Continue through all nine for the solution to Doctor Esker’s disappearance!
With a small footprint and digestible chunks, this puzzle game is well suited for players who lack the table space and time for a larger brain burner. And good things come in small packages – for the most part the puzzles are well thought out and easy to solve once you look at it the right way.
The real masterpiece here is the solution system – all of the puzzles refer back to the same set of digits, and yet each number manages to give an entirely unique answer. If you’re correct the answer will be plain to see – if not the cards will simply be a jumble of mishmashed information. It’s a clever way to allow some iterative problem solving instead of a flat ‘no’ or inadvertently stumbling into the solution.
The website contains graduated hints as well – labeled small, medium, and large – to provide a boost of varying levels for players that might be stuck. We did feel like one or two of the puzzles required some outside knowledge to come together, and one might find that the lack of instructions (intended to keep from giving anything away I suppose) can lead to some initial head scratching til gameplay ‘clicks’.
Thematically, Dr. Esker’s Notebook plays more like a series of puzzles rather than a cohesive story. On the other hand, because each puzzle is self contained, it’s very easy to solve a single puzzle on a lunch break or layover, pop it back in the box, and return when the player has a little more time. Additionally, the spread is not very large if you’re playing in chunks, making this suitable for a cafe table or airline tray. Small package size (a little thicker than a a standard deck of cards) also means it can be carried almost anywhere.
No destruction of cards means no waste, AND this can be easily passed to another player after you’ve finished.. I’m not sure if 6 players would be optimal – there would be too few cards in some of the puzzles for everyone to view – but it was right on the mark for two to three players and would likely be a challenging solo game for players that enjoyed puzzlers.
Doctor Esker’s Notebook is a small puzzle game with a clever solution system. While lacking a cohesive narrative, it somewhat makes up for story by allowing the player to take things at their own pace. The game is easily carried in a purse or pocket to play with friends. You’ll finish feeling a little more clever and still have a product to pass on to another play group.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A clever solution system sometime obscured by clues that might require a missing bit of knowledge. Easy to pull out and put away makes this a puzzle game you could break into even smaller chunks for lunch or travel play.
• A few leaps of logic required
• Not as visually interesting or story driven as most in this genre of games