Doctor Esker’s Notebook was an interesting and overall enjoyable batch of puzzles in a fairly unique format. There was obviously a lot of potential to expand on the idea, and here I’ll take a look at the sequel Son of Doctor Esker’s Notebook.
Like the original, Son of Doctor Esker’s Notebook is a series of puzzles presented via a deck of cards. There are 74 cards total, made up of 59 puzzle cards, 10 solution cards, and 5 instruction cards. It stands alone and does not require Doctor Esker’s Notebook or any knowledge of it to play.
The solution to each of the 10 puzzles in the deck is a 2-4 digit numeric code. The solution cards are numbered 0-9 on their backs, and when arranged in the correct order for each solution they will identify the next puzzle to be played (via seemingly random elements on the answer cards coming together to form words, pictures, etc). It’s a very clever, elegant way to handle solving the puzzles and as with the original game is well implemented here.
Like with the original, I played this solo but felt it would also work well with a small group (I’d probably cap it at 4 players rather than the “1-6, or more” the box suggests).
There was a wider variety of difficulty in these puzzles, although I thought they were a little easier on average. I found several of them really clever and well executed though, and the game built to a nice crescendo with some of the best puzzles coming toward the end.
I particularly loved the fact that the final puzzle parallel that of the first game without really feeling like a repeat. The minor production issues from the first were missing here, making things feel more polished.
However I did feel a couple of the puzzles tried too hard to be accessible. These puzzles aren’t really deep enough to have multiple paths to solve, so when one puzzle was actually two completely separate, simplistic puzzles that lead to the same answer it completely felt like unnecessary padding.
Even more annoying was that one puzzle had essentially included instructions on how to solve it. It was weird and unwanted. It would have been a great puzzle otherwise, but was instead reduced to a rote exercise.
Outside of those issues though I found the remaining puzzles engaging and fun.
The online only hint system is exactly the same here, with several hints for each puzzle allowing players to choose how much help they want. I like the approach a lot, but it’s worth mentioning that the hints and solutions are strictly available online so if players get stuck on a puzzle visiting the website is required to continue on.
Despite some minor criticisms the Doctor Esker series is continuing to be quite good for what it is, which is a fun little collection of decent puzzles presented in a cost friendly, portable, and reusable way. Son of Doctor Esker’s Notebook doesn’t really break the established mold at all, but there’s nothing wrong with more of a good thing.