This Cantaloop: Book 1 – Breaking into Prison review was made after playing through the story once (about seven hours, all two-player).
What is Cantaloop?
Cantaloop is played in a spiral bound book that contains the locations you’ll visit and the people you’ll interact with. You play as small-time crook Hook Carpenter, who wants to hire some uniquely-skilled people to help him get revenge against the most powerful criminal in the city. Your goal is to find the items you need and talk to people who can help you complete your mission.
The main thing you’re doing throughout the game is combining codes to push the story forward. You can combine codes on the item cards you find with codes shown in the locations and you can combine the codes on two different items. When you combine codes, you use the decoder to look at hidden text either on the location pages or on the Inventory sheet.
When you solve key puzzles, you’ll be prompted to cross off numbers on the Trigger Sheet. These triggers unlock other parts of the story. For example, if the text asks if you’ve crossed off a specific trigger, you might be able to ask new questions to a person or unlock a new location.
And that’s pretty much it. You can move to any locations you’ve unlocked at any time and you can freely use the items you find to try to solve the puzzles. You’ll “win” by making it to the end of the story.
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- To me, the coolest thing about Cantaloop is that it has a legit open world feel to it. You can spend as much time at a location as you want to and you can combine different codes just to see what happens. I really like the freedom the game gives you to explore.
- You pretty much always have multiple puzzles that you can work on, so you usually won’t get stuck and be forced to get hints like in most detective and escape room games. I like that because I prefer not to use hints unless I really need them.
- We were consistently proud of ourselves for solving the puzzles, which is exactly what I want when playing games like this. We were even excited when we solved the easier puzzles because we knew there was a chance that we’d unlock new content.
- I’m a big fan of the hidden text and having to use a decoder to check the codes. That’s a great way to avoid spoilers and it’s just old-school fun to use a decoder to reveal text.
- The hint system is very solid. You get a slightly helpful hint, then more helpful hints, then the solution if you need it. It works.
- I liked most of the dialogue in Cantaloop, and the humor was on point for this type of game, but the story was just okay. You don’t really get a backstory for Hook and there isn’t much of a payoff in the end. It felt more like the first act of a book than a complete first book in a trilogy. That was a bit of a letdown considering we put 7+ hours into this game.
- One puzzle tripped us up because the text on something we were supposed to look at was extremely tiny. That was pretty disappointing.
- There were some puzzles that could have been solved in multiple ways, but the game only accepted one solution. That’s not a huge problem, but I think it would have been better if the game told us why the puzzles couldn’t be solved in those other ways.
The story in Cantaloop: Book 1 – Breaking into Prison didn’t do much for me, but I still had a good time playing it. It captures the open world feel of a lot of point-and-click and RPG games, which couldn’t have been easy to pull off, and I like that it forces you to think outside of the box to solve a lot of the puzzles.
I don’t know if I’ll play the next two games in the Cantaloop Trilogy, but I can definitely recommend this one to fans of point-and-click-style games and fans of co-op puzzles. I’m pretty sure it works best as a two-player co-op game, but three might work too.
Update: Cantaloop was added to our Best Cheap Board Games page!