What to do when none of your friends has time for a board or escape room game? Well, you could play on your own and solve the mystery of Journal 29.

Journal 29 calls itself an Interactive Book Game. What you get are 63 riddles on 148 pages and a tiny bit of setup:

»A top secret excavation did not bring any result for 28 weeks. It was on the 29th week that something unexpected happened. The team disappeared and the only thing that was left behind was their Journal.«

Every two pages of the journal contain a riddle. You need a pencil and a browser to solve them. The solution is a word or a number which you enter on a webpage. If your answer is correct you get a keyword, which you will need in future riddles. You can skip some riddles but at some points you can’t get any further unless you have found the keywords from earlier riddles.

I played through the book in five days. Some riddles are fairly easy so you can rush through the pages. But sooner or later you will get stuck. My first big problem was page 12. I was fairly certain how to solve the riddle but none of my ideas led to the right code. So far I hadn’t written anything in the book, to maybe lend it to a friend later. But this little thing got me so frustrated that I ripped out the page and started playing with some symbols to solve this. But still, I couldn’t. One day later I still had no idea, so I looked at the hints & tips section of the book’s website. Of course, there was no need to rip the page out. The hints were right in front of me. I was just too blind to see.

In the end I needed help with 8 out of 63 riddles. It was probably not a good idea to start the book when I had a deadline in front of me. I felt rushed, I should have taken more time. I guess I could have solved another four riddles without any help if I had tried them again some days later. The riddles are not unfair. There are enough hints to solve them. Although you might find a hint but interpret it the wrong way. In two or three cases I was far off with my ideas. Very far off. Sometimes it doesn’t help if you know a lot of other riddles, you tend to make things too complicated. Here’s a little advice: If you think about writing an algorithm because you are convinced that a certain riddle is based on a certain Chiffre, you are on the wrong track!

There are three small things the book could have improved on:

  • You enter the codes on a website. It is fairly easy to collect all the wrong answers and give some hints (if a user wants them), if certain codes are entered that indicate that the user is on the right track but not quite there.
  • The book starts with a tiny setup. It would have been nice to advance the story through the website. I always prefer a story to »just« puzzle solving without much context.
  • As per usual: QR codes are ugly. And you don’t even need them cause the URLs are short and easy enough. There is also no need to write »Scan or visit the url above to answer and collect the key« on every second page.

Despite my usual nitpicking, this is a really great book for everybody who loves riddles. You can play it on your own when your friends don’t have time for another escape room game. It’s cheaper than most of the current escape room games and will definitely last longer. This is also a good idea for a present.

And don’t rush this like me – take your time!