Even out here in the Southwestern US, we’ve had some spurts of nasty cold and rainy weather which has lead to a lot more “indoor activity” days for the kids. Like a lot of families, we try to keep some limits on how much screen time we let our kids have which can lead to a scramble for new stuff for the kids to do while stuck inside. Luckily, I got offered a chance to review some of the new 2020 puzzle releases from Ravensburger. I’m a big fan of puzzles. They’re clearly an activity that promotes brain power, and I’ve always found something relaxing about putting them together. Puzzles are engaging without being high stress, and there’s always a logical solution. Ravensburger sent me four of their new newest releases: Dinosaur Land (200 pieces), Mystical Dragons (500 pieces), and two of their “Escape Puzzle” titles, Forbidden Basement and The Curse of the Wolves (759 pieces each).
Overall, I love Ravensburger puzzles. The art work is lovely and the pieces are nice, sturdy, and click together well. They’re a puzzle brand you simply can’t go wrong with.
Dinosaur Land (MSRP $14.49)
We put together Dinosaur Land first. It’s a 300-piece puzzle that’s geared at kids ages 8+ and takes a couple of hours to put together. Our boys are nine (A) and six (W) at this time, but our nine-year-old got into a gifted program for his grasp of spatial orientation, so puzzles are something he often takes to decently. The artwork for “Dinosaur Land” should appeal to any kid who loves dinosaurs, and I felt like there were enough distinct areas that it wasn’t too overwhelming for a kid to figure where to start. W attempted to work on the puzzle with help but had an easier time finding and putting together edge pieces. He’s decent at puzzles, but this one was a bit above his skill level to do alone quite yet. A took to it pretty decently and probably could have done it on his own but we chose to do it together. One of the things I love about puzzles is they aren’t so demanding that you can’t chat while working on them, and these are the kind of activities that we can often do while I just check in with the kids and listen to what’s going on in their lives. A had a lot of fun finishing up the puzzle, and it was a great activity to have on hand when there was a half-day at school. You can find it on the Ravensburger site here.
Mystical Dragons (MSRP $15.49)
Next up was the 500-piece Mystical Dragons puzzle which is aimed at puzzle building fans ages 10+ and took us about an evening and a half to put together. The puzzle has beautiful artwork that should certainly appeal to fantasy fans. There’s a bit more going on in the picture, but we found enough distinctive areas to get a good foothold on putting it together. A joined me on this one, and while I’m not certain he could do it completely alone yet, he was able to make a very decent contribution to the overall project and didn’t want me building it without him. It was super relaxing which was nice after a few crazy days, and like the other puzzle, I felt that we could still chat while making progress. It did take a chunk longer to put together, so unless you can devote a long afternoon and evening to the puzzle, you may want to get something like the Stow & Go Puzzle Mat if you don’t want it to get messed up and don’t have a safe place to leave it out. You can find the puzzle on the Ravensburger site here.
Escape Puzzles (MSRP $20.99 each)
Finally, we worked our way up to one of the Escape Puzzles. These are a really cool concept. The puzzle is like an escape room in a box. GeekMom Jenny previously reviewed one from the 2019 release line. We decided to try the Forbidden Basement puzzle first. The box comes with the puzzle pieces, a booklet, and a sealed envelope. The booklet sets the mood with a scenario. In this case a distant wealthy relative has died and you are summoned to their estate to prove your worth to try and gain the inheritance.
Now, it’s time to put the puzzle together. Like Jenny described, the finished picture is close to the box picture but there are some very distinct differences. We’re the type of builders that put the frame together first, but we ran into some challenges. Some pieces of the frame fit with several other pieces, so we had to look at the picture much more carefully. We probably put a good twelve building hours into the puzzle by the time we finished. There’s a lot of little sections and things going on in the puzzle itself, but we always seemed to be able to find a section identifiable to work on. A was able to help us pretty decently even though the puzzle is aimed at ages 12+, but I will say he did better finding pieces or putting together pieces for a section once we’d sort of IDed them for him.
Once the puzzle is complete, you have to search the puzzle for seven different mysteries which each result in a number solution. Those numbers correspond to the edge pieces. Once you have all seven numbers, you pull those pieces from the puzzle to create a “key” to solving the scenario. We figured out three of the puzzles on our own, identified two more but could not figure out the solutions, and were lost on identifying the final two puzzles. Luckily there’s a place online you can go for some guidance. Now that we have a better feel for the types of puzzles and solutions, we suspect that we’ll have an easier time with the next Escape Puzzle. A wasn’t quite as able to help with the mystery part, but he did have fun watching my husband and I sort it out. Once you think you have the solution, you can open the envelope up to confirm. I certainly believe we’ll be buying other puzzles from this line.
The Escape Puzzles are super fun, and I think they would make a great activity for a date night in or for an alternate activity if too many members of your gaming group can’t meet on a particular week. If you have older kids, it would certainly be great for a family activity night or two. You can find Forbidden Basement here and The Curse of the Wolves here.