GeekDad: Puzzle Out Your Path As You Navigate These ‘Twisty Little Passages’


Loot treasures, defeat monsters, and navigate mazes as you build towards your ultimate confrontation with Mordrach the Demon King.

What Is Twisty Little Passages?

Twisty Little Passages is a single-player puzzle book, ages 12 and up, and takes between 15 and 75 minutes to play, depending on the puzzle. The content is family-friendly, so younger kids that are good at math could likely play. It is available to purchase from Caravel Games’ webstore and costs $34.99.

Twisty Little Passages was designed by Mike Rimer and published by Caravel Games, with illustrations by VShane, George Patsouras, and Greg Shipp.

Twisty Little Passages Components

See that spiral-bound book up above? That’s it! Each page of the book is laminated cardstock, which allows you to use a dry-erase marker while working out each puzzle. You have to provide your own marker; I pulled one out of my copy of Railroad Ink to play.

The pages are well-laid out, and are filled with gorgeous illustrations and lushly-colored puzzles.

One of the later puzzles. Image by Paul Benson.


How to Play Twisty Little Passages

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to puzzle out the correct solution for navigating each of the levels.


Open up the book to the level you wish to play, read any special rules, and get to solving the puzzle!


Puzzle instructions. Image by Paul Benson.

Each level is a puzzle that most often has only one solution. You will begin with whichever stats and inventory are listed on the map: swords for attack value(ATK), shields for defense value(DEF), keys to open locks and hearts for hit points(HP).

As treasure is limited and monsters will remove your hit points, you must figure out the optimal way to make it from the START location on the map to the GOAL without dying.

When you come to an item, you immediately will acquire it, circling it on the map to show that you have taken them. Elixirs add however many HP are listed on them, so you add that number to your current HP and write that in the stat box. Simarly, weapons will add to your ATK value, and shields to your DEF value.

Navigating the first level. Image by Paul Benson.

Locks must be unlocked with keys. When you open a lock, mark it with an ‘X’ and remove a key from your inventory. You will also occasionally find special items, whose use will be described for the specific level in which it’s found.

A special item. Image by Paul Benson.

In each level, to achieve your goal you will inevitably have to fight some(though not all) of the monsters. The player is always assumed to strike first. To resolve the combat, you would consult the monster table for the particular level. Choose the row for your current ATK value, and then move down that row to the column for your current DEF value. That would then tell you how many hit points you lose to defeat that enemy. In the example below, if your current ATK was 11 and your DEF was 6, you would lose 8 HP defeating a Goblin Cleaver. Also note that some foes will have special abilities, like the Goblin Guard.

Game End

You end a level when you reach the Goal without dying. On most but not all levels, you will need to face and defeat a Boss to reach the Goal, who is much more powerful than the other monsters you have fought. As seen below, the Boss in the first level did 12 damage, reducing me to 1 hit point. But I survived(with a scant 1 HP), so successfully solved the level 1 puzzle.

Defeating the level one Boss. Image by Paul Benson.

If you die before reaching the Goal, erase the page, and start fresh. There is usually only one solution to each level.

Why You Should Play Twisty Little Passages

As I’ve been increasingly finding during these trying times, it’s nice to have games and puzzles that you can enjoy by yourself. Twisty Little Passages takes the roleplaying gaming trope of the dungeon crawl, and turns it into a brain-bending puzzle book. And much like a traditional roleplaying game, your character has a backstory. You’re an Elkassi spy, sent on a mission to infiltrate the evil Mordrach’s lair and defeat him. However, your party is surprised and slain, with your character being the sole survivor. You are imprisoned, but must escape, and somehow complete your mission.

This gives you a nice framework to progress sequentially through the levels, each of which also has a few paragraphs of story at the start to continue your ongoing saga. So not only do you want to finish each puzzle, but you are moving your own story forward as you play. And much like in a roleplaying game, you will grow increasingly more powerful as the levels progress…as will your foes.

Map and metapuzzle. Image by Paul Benson.

As an additional incentive to play, you will gather clues along your adventures to solve a separate Metapuzzle, as seen above. And if you ever get stuck or just hopelessly frustrated with a puzzle, you can find solutions for every level in the back of the book.

And you will get frustrated from time to time. Some of the levels can be fiendishly difficult to figure out, and all of them require that dreaded of all skills: math. You’re constantly juggling numbers trying to figure out which items you will need, and how many enemies you can afford to face, while staying alive. This also makes Twisty Little Passage a very sneaky tool to encourage kids to use math for practical applications.

Michael Rimer has blended a traditional fantasy RPG dungeon crawl with challenging puzzles, and created a very appealing package. If you’re the type that enjoys a solo challenge, take a look at Twisty Little Passages. You can even download the first few levels to see if this book is right for you.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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