When I heard that Dave Dobson made a sequel to Doctor Esker’s Notebook, a puzzle game that I highly enjoyed, I knew that I had to try it. Check out my review of the original here: https://jorgezhang.com/2019/03/30/doctor-eskers-notebook-review-a-portable-puzzle-adventure/
When I played the original, I finished the game solo, and then replayed the game with two friends (as the hint-giver). Both times, the game seemed to be a success: players universally said that they enjoyed the game. So this time, I wanted to see how the game would play with six players, the end point of the advertised player range.
While it was still an enjoyable game for me, the feedback from my group was much more mixed. A lot of people felt like they weren’t able to contribute much, and paradoxically, we were much less efficient at solving the puzzles. This was because it was difficult to distribute the cards among so many people, and so sometimes a person could be missing a crucial card because someone else was looking at it.
Interestingly, once the group size was just 2-3 players, people seemed to enjoy the game a lot more. Thus, one definite recommendation I can make if you decide to play this game is to try and keep the group size to just 1-3 people. If more people want to play, just have the rest of the group play the game later! One of the great things about Son of Esker’s Notebook is that none of the puzzles are destroyed once you solve them, which means that they can be replayed as many times, and by as many groups, as you want.
Warning: the following photo has some potential (light) spoilers:
Differences from the Original
I was a big fan of the original, and the sequel certainly scratched the same itch without feeling even a little bit repetitive. One thing I noticed was that the sequel seemed to have more word-play puzzles, which I personally enjoy less than puzzles that utilize mathematical or spacial reasoning. One of the things that the Doctor Esker’s series does really well is making phenomenal and creative puzzles with just a deck of cards. For the sequel, I found myself missing some of the creative puzzles from the original that required players to spin cards or use them in some special way. While that is definitely still all there in the sequel, I felt that there could have been a few more of those included in the game.
I also thought that the sequel was a lot more difficult. I didn’t time my solve times (as I played the game with several different group sizes), so unfortunately I don’t have the exact numbers on this to compare to my solve times for the original. I am certain though that I spent a lot more time per puzzle on the sequel. For that reason, I recommend that people who are new to the series start with the original Doctor Esker’s Notebook before taking on the sequel.
I am always impressed by the quality and creativity of the puzzles in this series, and Son of Esker’s Notebook is no exception. Puzzle enthusiasts are sure to enjoy both games very much.
What is your favorite puzzle game? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!