“The Rules have changed…”
After the events at The Mansion… As you left, you forgot something… The consequences, merciless, are after you… Lurking behind your backs, hidden in the shadows you created during your adventure… The masks are off… The rules have changed… The crucial time has come… Now that you discovered the bitter truth… can you live with it?…
Throughout our visit to Athens, whenever we played a game we would inevitably have a chat with our GMs and/or the owners of the venues we visited, and always some variation of the same question came up: “Do you have a favourite game in Athens?” And more often than not, the answer was “The Bookstore.” Which is no surprise really – after all, The Bookstore grabbed the #2 spot in the TERPECA 2019 list, held it in 2020, and only slipped to #10 in 2021, and is still #13 in the most recent 2022 polling. In fact, it was this game, as well as the two other games currently available at Paradox Project, The Mansion and The Music Academy, that made us seriously start thinking about Athens as a destination for an Escape Room break. (Well, that, and the fact that I adore baklava.)
The games at Paradox Project were not only the games that prompted the trip, but also the first games we played once we arrived. We did this for one main reason: each game is three hours long. (And no, that is not a typo.) So to prevent brains from melting out of our skulls due to over puzzling later in the week, we planned to play them early on, and save the scary stuff Athens is very well known for, for later.
Knowing that we would be fully immersed in the world we were about to enter for three hours, we arrived at The Bookstore armed with pastries, coffee, and an abundance of lovely fresh fruit we had found at a street market outside our flat the day before. Following the instructions we received at The Mansion the previous evening, we knocked on the door. A piece of paper slid out from underneath it, and once we had read up on the rules, the door unlocked…
We entered The Bookstore and found ourselves in a space that, had it been a real bookstore, I would have happily spent many hours in. (Well, we actually did happily spend several hours there, but the time was filled with puzzle-solving, not browsing books.) The space was beautiful, quirky and cosy, and beautifully decorated. As we settled in, a screen came to life, and the story picked up exactly where The Mansion left us the previous night, and the game began in an unexpectedly dramatic fashion. Once again, we found ourselves fully immersed in the game almost immediately, as we set about exploring.
Unlike The Mansion, where we had access to much of the house from the outset, the scale of The Bookstore isn’t immediately apparent. Rather than being overwhelmed by the possibilities of where to start, we discovered new and different spaces to explore, each one different from the last. Every space was full of clever tricks, twists, and turns, and even a healthy dose of whimsical fun. As we plunged further into The Bookstore and the story behind it, we found ourselves being dawn further and further into the world Paradox Project have created, following a narrative that built in intensity, and then turned itself on its head with a climactic twist, dramatic finale and thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
Of course, a three hour game will be absolutely brimming with content, and I could probably write an entire post just about puzzles. I will try to keep this succinct, but in case you tire of me waffling on, just know that the puzzles throughout the game were plentiful, varied and fair. In other words, they were pretty much all you could want from an escape room, with plenty of options to appeal to most players: logic, spatial relations, word play, lateral thinking, teamwork, communication, clever mechanisms, tactile tasks… you get the picture.
The Bookstore had a puzzle flow that was both linear, and not. While on the one hand there were technically only a handful of tasks to achieve throughout the game, each of those was intricately layered and multi faceted, containing smaller puzzles within the larger task, making it feel as though there were hundreds of puzzles, and ensuring that there were plenty of things to keep everyone on the team occupied. This structure gave The Bookstore the feeling of an open game with the inevitable choke points, as each layer needed to be completed before the next puzzle presented itself.
As with The Mansion, clues are delivered using both the screens in The Bookstore and on the mobile phone that should be kept with you, throughout your journey, just in case you encounter any trouble in an area that doesn’t have a screen. In keeping with the immersive nature of the games at Paradox Project, clues, of course, do not come from your GM, but rather from someone else…
In reality, we knew that the perfectly timed assistance was coming from our GM, Dimitris, the owner and designer of the games at Paradox Project. We certainly kept him busy, but for the most part, it was usually down to our own stupidity, for the puzzles, although cleverly sneaky, were invariably fair. Once again, Dimitris was the perfect host, not only timing his clues perfectly, but also giving us a thorough debrief of our game, along with even more recommendations for the rest of our stay in Athens having had more thoughts overnight.
If you want a short review, then I’ll simply say The Bookstore is a beautiful game. The puzzles are perfect, the narrative is interesting, twisty, and ever present, and it’s all housed in a beautifully designed, quirky space. Athens may be known as a destination for excellent horror games, but those certainly aren’t the only excellent games you’ll find here.
Team: 4 players – escaped in around 2hrs 57mins
Address: Charokopou 93, Kallithea, 17676, Attica