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Journal 29: Interactive Book Game Paperback – February 1, 2017
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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But all this being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was totally taken in by it. Every puzzle is unique, and some of them make very cool and innovative use of the book format, so much so that I fear a sequel would not be able to have as many surprises. There's also an online forum to discuss puzzles and get hints if you get blocked and don't want to spend weeks trying to think about things from a new perspective on your own. I even bought a few extra copies to give as gifts. If you enjoy puzzlehunt type events or know someone who does, you'll probably love this book.
The book is a series of 63 puzzles that require you to use logic, intuition, some online sleuthing skills and even a little ingenuity to figure them out. Called an "interactive game book," Journal 29 is true to its name in that regard. You use the ENTIRE book, in all sorts of ways, to figure out the puzzles.
Things I like about Journal 29:
* It's challenging and unique. I've never played anything quite like it.
* The puzzles, and the artwork and the aesthetic in the book, are very evocative and often ominous and creepy. It sets a good tone.
* The way you enter answers into unique web pages to see if you are correct is cool. If you get the puzzle right, you get a key word.
* Puzzles quite often require information you gathered in previous ones to solve. It gives a nice sense of progression in the book.
* Some of the puzzles seem to require illogical leaps in reasoning, or throw in useless information simply to confound and confuse.
* The ending is sort of left open to interpretation. I was hoping that when I solved the final puzzle that there would be a cogent, clear narrative to the whole thing explaining what happened to the team. You SORT OF get answers, but not really. I can go through the book and vaguely tell you what happened, but it would have been much better if it tied up loose ends more neatly.
I'll have to say, overall, I enjoyed my time with Journal 29. The book became sort of a sensation at my office. Myself and many of my co-workers would work on the puzzles in spare time. Some folks would make photocopies of the pages or take photos with their cell phones to look at and try to solve at home in the evenings. I think there can definitely be a team-building aspect to this book.
Very good overall. I'd do it again and will be searching for similar books, but I deducted a star for the lack of a clean, clear resolution to the events hinted at in the book.
It’s a book of 63 puzzles with a loose thematic theme tying them together. The puzzle themselves are generally great, but it’s the clever implementation that really sets this apart. First, each puzzle leads to an answer (usually a word or number) to be entered on a specific webpage to receive a “key” for the puzzle (again, usually a word or number). QR codes are provided so things are very smartphone friendly, but urls are also given and it was fine to play using a laptop. Keys are often used in future puzzles, so there’s a nice feeling of progress throughout the book.
Second, there are a lot of interesting puzzle variations, with some inventive uses of the internet involvement, connectivity between the puzzles, and the book format to stretch the genre a bit. There are also some similar looking puzzles here and there, but with different approaches and solutions that creates an additional level of intrigue. It’s really well put together, with solid levels of variety, originality, and challenge.
The story elements provide a nice theme and aesthetic, but are also minimal from a narrative point of view. This is a book of puzzles with a story framework, not any sort of complete tale. Which is perfectly fine, but should be kept in mind if you’re particularly intrigued by the story setup.
The book can be “played” solo or with a group (each person having their own copy is recommended). For people (like me) who opt for the solo play and have no other minds to bounce ideas off of, there are online message boards one the same site answers are entered that have hint threads by page. It’s a pretty good resource and reasonably useful help is provided without full spoilers. I referenced it several times for a little help to get started or when stuck (some of the puzzles are a bit obtuse and a push in the right direction greatly appreciated), and its availability generally prevents anything from getting too frustrating.
There was one puzzle I was unable to solve even with the hints (I know exactly what I need to do, but am not capable of it and got tired of trying different combinations of educated guesses). The hints were good, so short of someone handing me the answer there’s no further help to be gained. I was however able to reverse engineer that particular key from a later puzzle (which certainly won’t be possible in the vast majority of cases) so I wasn’t kept for completing anything else nor from finishing the book. The idea of that puzzle was quite good too, just the implementation was off for me. A little disappointing, but only one out of sixty three missing the mark is pretty good odds and it didn’t significantly detract from my enjoyment.
I managed to complete the book without writing in it, damaging pages, etc (by using scratch paper and occasionally photocopying pages), but if I had it to do over I probably would have just used the book straight up as intended. It’s well worth the price ($18 retail) and I likely spent too much effort and made some things harder on myself trying to keep it pristine to potentially be lent out / used again.
Overall Journal 29 is a unique puzzle experience that comes together really well. Recommended to anyone who enjoys stretching their brain a bit.