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(based on 21 ratings)
About the Story
A grab bag of puzzles, mostly word puzzles. Collect keywords and save the Sanctum!
Nominee, Best Puzzles - 2020 XYZZY Awards
15th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 8
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Ever since I was a child I have loved puzzle books, especially ones with a lot of tiny, random puzzles. I'll happily solve one cryptogram, but six pages of cryptograms -- no thank you! Sage Sanctum Scramble is basically one of those comfortable puzzle books come to life, with a cute plot about destroying a monster using keywords you find by solving puzzles.
One's satisfaction with this game will likely be directly correlated with whether the puzzles within hit that sweet spot of not too difficult and not too easy. For me they did just that. One nice (and necessary!) feature is that you only need to solve around 30 puzzles to beat the monster; I solved 31 and had ten more that stumped me. Not having to check the back of the book for the answers to win the game made it a satisfying experience.
The game has some personality and I wish it had even more. There's a risk, I suppose, of getting too cute and detracting from the puzzles. But the highlight for me was when it shamelessly acknowledges that there is a slightly American bent to the game. To wit: (Spoiler - click to show) "GREY is for people who want colours. I want colors."
This isn't really a work of fiction as much as it is a grab bag of riddles, at least 30, mostly built on wordplay. You type a number to go to that riddle and try to solve it, if you do you get that keyword (the answer to the riddle) in your magic book. When you decide to fight the final boss you use the words in your book to attack and defend. Sometimes your companion will prompt you to use a certain kind of word (repeated letters, alternating consonants and vowels, pronounced two different ways). Once a word is used it disappears from your book and you can't use it again.
The boss fight was the fun part, the individual riddles were the hard part. Perhaps that is an indictment of me and my poor wordplay skills, but I think I only got about 15 or so on my own, then used the walkthrough to get 5 more before getting tired and frustrated and skipping to the boss fight. Some of the solutions to the riddles seem unfair to me, as in I can't imagine how I would have ever gotten there without the hints. Others are fairly easy, but fun, and some are clever and satisfying. In the end though, it didn't really grab me and hold my attention. Your mileage may vary.
The game presents you with a series of word puzzles. As these are answered, more puzzles open up. The barest of plots links these together. I think most will find the bulk of the puzzles are easy--producing synonyms, answering crossword-type clues, decoding anagrams or cryptograms, etc.
Once you answer a certain number of puzzles, you are invited to join a boss battle. Your previous answers will be used to defeat the boss.
I would say the puzzles are largely fair, particularly because you don't need to complete every word puzzle for a successful ending (though, perhaps there is another ending for players that solve every word puzzle). There are two puzzles that I still completely do not understand--but, perhaps someone else will immediately recognize a method to solve them.
For anyone who loves puzzles but also wants at least some narrative for those puzzles, this isn't what you're looking for.
For anyone who loves crosswords, cryptic crosswords, or other word puzzles but does not play IF, this would probably be a fun experience. It may also be a really fun play with a friend or family member, especially the type of couple that will do a crossword together.
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New walkthroughs for May 2022 by David Welbourn
On Monday, May 30, 2022, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works of...
I'm looking for Easter Eggs.. by morganthegirl
I'm somewhat new to IF and was wondering if Easter Eggs are ever hidden in these games as they are in others? If so, which games have them? If there a lot of them, then which ones are the "best"?