I think the Holiday Hijinks: The Pumpkin Problem could be the perfect board game to play on Halloween. My family bit the bullet and played it ahead of time, just so I could write this review and let people know if it’s worth picking up in time for the spookiest time of the year.
Read on to find out what we thought.
Disclosure: Big thanks to Marc from Grand Gamers Guild who took the time to stop off in Windsor to drop off a pile of his Holiday Hijinks games to review. Some links in this post will be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Learn about the Holiday Hijinks series and The Pumpkin Problem
The Pumpkin Problem is the third game in the Holiday Hijinks series of escape room-style puzzle games from Jonathan Chaffer and our friends at Grand Gamers Guild. This is a small pack, eighteen card, game that can be played in about an hour. It’s designed for one or more players of any age.
Each of the Holiday Hijinks games has a difficulty rating, with this one being a 2 out of 3, which seems right to me based on how my family did.
This is the third Holiday Hijinks game and coincidentally the third one we’ve played and reviewed. Check out our reviews of The Independence Incident and The Birthday Burglary for our thoughts on some other 18-card escape room-in-a-box games from Jonathan.
To play The Pumpkin Problem you will need access to the internet to be able to log into the companion web app. This is where you get the story of the game and enter your answers to the clues and puzzles you will face. You are going to also want some scrap paper and for this particular game I also recommend card sleeves and wet erase markers.
Just like with the previous Holiday Hijinks games we’ve reviewed the web app also includes a detailed step-by-step clue system as well as a set of useful information you may need to solve one or more of the puzzles in The Pumpkin Problem, including common cyphers like the Maritime Flag system and Letter Substitution.
Besides the web app you won’t need any outside information to be able to finish this escape room game. You don’t even need to know that much about Halloween to play the game, though you may be wondering why everyone is in costume.
In The Pumpkin Problem it’s Halloween night and the big night of trick or treating is under threat. Everyone’s candy has gone missing, including the treats you were planning to give out yourself. It’s up to you to save Halloween by finding the missing candy and figuring out who the culprit is. Could it be a real life monster?
Due to the fact this is a puzzle-based game I didn’t record an unboxing as I didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises. Though really, for this particular game, half the cards are just images that don’t mean anything without their accompanying cards. I didn’t know that until playing though.
Physically Holiday Hijinks #3 The Pumpkin Problem is a small shrink-wrapped card pack, that folds open and holds eighteen cards. The inside of the pack provides all of the instructions you need. The card quality here is excellent and the game does a great job of using only eighteen double sided cards to provide you with a full game experience.
A note on replayability: During this particular escape room in a box you are going to want to write on the cards. If you want to be able to pass this game on to a friend or family member you can avoid ruining the game by using either tracing paper or sleeving the cards. We went with sleeves and wet erase markers and that worked great.
In addition to protecting the cards for re-use, we’ve also found that the type of cardstock used for the cards isn’t the easiest to write, so using sleeves and markers made things simpler.
How The Pumpkin Problem Plays
Getting going with any Holiday Hijinks game is pretty simple. To get going in The Pumpkin Problem you just open up the card pack, take the cards out and be sure not to look at them, open up the web app, select the right game, and do what it says.
This will have you grabbing one of the cards from the deck, flipping it over and reading it. From this point on it becomes clear what you should be doing, which involves solving a puzzle and putting the solution into the web app.
The app then continues the story and has you finding and flipping over more cards giving you more puzzles and more answers to enter, leading to more cards and more puzzles.
If at any point you get stuck there’s a clue system in the app that was created in a way that it only gives you a bit of information at a time so as to not spoil things.
In this particular case we didn’t feel the need to use any clues but I highly suggest that you don’t be afraid to use them if you need them. In many cases, all you need is a little push to let you know what you should be looking at or what things tie together to give you what you need to continue.
For The Pumpkin Problem all you will probably need to know is what cards go together. Don’t let a feeling of failure due to using hints lead to long moments of frustration.
As you get deeper into the deck you will learn more of the story and eventually enter the final solution and get your reward. You are then given a score based on how long you took and how many hints you used.
We ended up with a 4.5 this time. That’s with no clues, but we did get one wrong answe, which really was due to not paying as much attention to detail as we should.
That’s pretty much all we want to say as far as how The Pumpkin Problem plays, as most of the fun with this style of game is the exploration and discovery that comes from playing through it.
Should you pick up The Pumpkin Problem?
The story is cute and the puzzles are particularly suited to be worked on by more than one player. At each step of the game you are presented with two or three different problems to solve. Each of these problems was separate from the others. This meant that as we were playing we could split up the work and team up when needed.
Due to this, of the three Holiday Hijinks games we’ve played, I found The Pumpkin Problem to be the best for groups of players. While you can play solo, this works really well with more players.
The puzzles in this escape room game are varied in style and type and there was nothing we were stuck on for very long. A couple times we were approaching things the wrong way but it didn’t take us long to get back on track. Most of the time this just meant another person looking at the same problem in a different way.
One of the most impressive parts of all of these Holiday Hijinks games is how the designer has used only eighteen cards in each of them. What he’s done, using both sides of each of the cards, has been impressive. For example the card backs end up being more than just a way to number the cards. I particularly liked how often we had to reference and use the backs of the cards in The Pumpkin Problem.
One difference I noticed in The Pumpkin Problem from previous Hijinks games we’ve played is that we didn’t need any holiday specific information to solve the puzzles here. You don’t really need to know North American Halloween traditions to understand what’s going on.
To further bring home the point, unlike the last two games in this series that we played, there’s no background info in the web app specific to this holiday. The additional info in the web app is the same cyphers and codes that have been in all of the Holiday Hijinks games.
I can’t help but be impressed by the variety we’ve seen over the entire Holiday Hijinks series. The Pumpkin Problem ended up being three sets of puzzles, with each puzzle being independent of each other. The Independence Incident felt like an interactive story, and The Birthday Burglary felt like a point and click adventure.
Of the three Holiday Hijinks games we’ve played, The Pumpkin Problem was the quickest one to get through, the best for more than one player (three seems to be the sweet spot), and the most accessible to the widest audience.
Plaything through this Halloween themed escape room was a very fun experience. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have played it on Halloween, I think my family would have really dug playing through this after the kids got home with their bags of treats.
If you are a fan of escape-room-in-a-box style games, you really can’t go wrong with the Holiday Hijinks series and The Pumpkin Problem is a great place to start. These are great, low priced, puzzle games that are perfect for killing an hour with friends or family or to play on your own.
Of course the theme of The Pumpkin Problem makes it great for playing on Halloween night while the kids are out trick or treating, while giving out candy, or maybe as a way to unwind at the end of the night with the entire family.
If puzzle games aren’t your thing, I can’t see this one winning you over. It’s not doing anything new or innovative. There’s nothing in The Pumpkin Problem to wow someone who doesn’t enjoy these types of games already.
There you have my thoughts on The Pumpkin Problem, a Holiday Hijinks escape room game from Grand Gamers Guild.
My family has really been enjoying these small holiday-themed puzzle games. At this point we still have a few more to play with the next one up being The Turkey Trial which we plan to play through on Canadian Thanksgiving.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts on that Holiday Hijinks game next week both here and on The Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast.