Online, Apr 2020
There’s an elegance in economic design. And where the other print and play games I’ve tried consist of a fat wad of pages, Co-Decode’s game consists of a mere 3-5 sheets (their game description avoids specifying the exact number, so I’ll follow suit), and from that somehow produces an unusually substantial game.
Of course, that’s because there’s quite a lot of web-based content. The primary game sheets depict locations, and each point of interest in that location is marked with a QR code. Scanning the QR code opens a web page showing in greater detail whatever object you’re inspecting, often in an interactive form that lets you rotate the object, attempt to enter a code, or do something else with it.
As the game processes, you are prompted to replace a QR code with a new one, by cutting out the replacement and sticking it over the other. This system allows the game world to change in response to your actions – for example, a locked box changes to an open one. And while it might sound like it’d be easy to accidentally scan one of the replacement QR codes early and see a spoiler, there’s a rather clever mechanism by which the replacements can’t be scanned until they’re put in place.
The whole QR code system is ingenious and used well. At the same time, I suspect it’ll be the aspect of the game most likely to put players off. For me, it meant that I played on my small phone screen instead of on a laptop, and there was a lot of scanning and re-scanning and fiddling with small pieces of paper and trying to remember what I’d seen where. The sequel will apparently use larger QR codes, which will be welcome; I’d also recommend checking in advance that you have a good ad-free way to scan the codes. If possible, play on a larger screen such as a tablet, and each time you scan a code keep the result open in a tab for easy access. Edit: Apparently this first game has now also been updated to use larger QR codes.
Looking back through the puzzles, there isn’t an unusual quantity of them – but while playing, it certainly felt like there was a great deal to do. Or maybe we were just slow. 😉 But you should expect this game to take you 90+ mins, and quite possibly over two hours – depending on how efficiently you divide up the non-linear sections. You’ll definitely want to be careful, particularly with one puzzle near the end where making an error will make it very hard to continue without printing off a fresh sheet (although in this case you could also look at the puzzle solution, which provides a link that would rescue you from that situation).
I have high expectations for Co-Decode: specifically, I expect anything from them to be innovative, well-designed, and challenging. A Jewel In Jeopardy was all three, satisfying both in the individual puzzles and in the overall game structure. If I’m going to quibble, a couple of steps seemed ambiguous in the sense that they had two different equally plausible solutions; but neither particularly caused a problem. The tech was fiddly but the game was engrossing enough that that didn’t put me off. And while it may be a small thing, I appreciate that they’ve deliberately designed it to be gentle on the player’s printer ink.