Man Get Out! The origins of the puzzle game Mangetout
Unlike many of the games that I have made in the past, this didn't come fully formed and fully packaged, but rather from a disparate collection of different objects and items that I thought would make an interesting puzzle concept.
Many people might not realise that Mangetout is actually the second in a three part series of puzzle games. If you play Mangetout, you may realise that one of the characters that you are trying to break out of is a criminal from a previous Enigmailed game (bonus points if you've spotted that)
The third part of the trilogy, a bank heist, came first and I love the idea of a puzzle being supplied in a book hidden away in a cutout section (Note to readers: this is on the future runway). I loved the idea that each month you'd get more information to find out about the bank heist through puzzles, so that if people found this they wouldn't discover anything secret or nefarious.
At the same time as I was planning this, I explored how I could fold up a piece of paper to make it more interesting; how different pages overlaid on each other could reveal different things. For example, if you get an ordinary piece of paper, and fold two halves to the middle, there's a way of showing three different things with the different folds. Was this possible to build into a game?
I tinkered for ages with different paper types and different paper styles and came up with what I've called a puzzle fold. It's essentially an A5 piece of paper folded so that you have six distinct sections. In fact, you have seven but I've kept it as six as that felt comfortable enough for a range of puzzles that I wanted to create at this price point.
I then thought about how that would work within the prison escape concept from the trilogy. I thought that the easiest and most interesting way would be to create a set of seed packets, which would have the puzzle folds inside them. I developed this further when I heard my family talking about a lady who for years had thought that Mangetout to was pronounced man get out! I thought that that was a perfect vehicle for a prison escape. You were literally trying to help a man get out of prison.
I came up with the Prison Garden Trust including the logo which was an ambigram (and for those of you who haven't spotted it yet, turn your packet upside down and you'll see a word hidden). I loved the idea of supplying seeds with it. This developed into adding something else into the packet each time, just one or two items, most notably the sticks that you write and label seeds and seedlings with, as they've got a wealth of opportunities in terms of using them for puzzles. I flagged up early on in all the paperwork with Mangetout that players should keep absolutely everything, because there is so much content that is going to be repurposed and reused over this episode series. It really is valuable for us to discover all of this and I'm looking forward to seeing what people do when they get to Part Six.
I launched this as part of the April Mystery Games, because it was a concept that I really liked but found it hard to explain. It's a hard sell - buy a small set of puzzles disguised as a seed packet. It is a bit of a weird one - I do get that!
My puzzles by nature are things that are hidden in modern life. I think that 20 years as a teacher has put me off the tea-staining genre of puzzles as I've tea-stained things probably two or three times a year for different display features. It just screams out to me that it feels like schoolwork. I want these games to be hidden in real life, like we did with Flatpak. However, these puzzles don't sell well visually. If I had advertised Mangetout in a conventional manner, people would think it was literally a packet of seeds, as the US Customs did recently when they destroyed the seeds inside the first game for one unlucky player!
I needed to sell this below the profit point in order to get people interested in playing the games and speaking about it. I'm really excited to hear what people are thinking about it ahead of its episodic launch in July. It will be sent out once a month and then it will be available in December as one package. I'm really excited for Mngetout, and would love to hear feedback and people's thoughts and opinions. Most especially about all the different design features that I've added in that maybe people have not realised are part of the bigger picture. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, look closely at the piece of paper that you're using in the fitst puzzle fold, perhaps even under a light - there are a lot more secrets going on, might be at first realised...