Arthur DiBianca’s games tend to be minimalist, puzzly, and whimsical. Most of the last several games of his I’ve played lean heavily into the puzzly aspect. Grandma Bethlinda’s Remarkable Egg leans much more into the whimsical — more so, in fact, than any game of his I’ve played — including even the original Grandma Bethlinda’s Variety Box.
The story is straightforward: An amateur magician, you’re practicing your handcuff escape trick when you discover that you’re not as good at it as you had thought. Hands trapped behind your back, the only thing available that might help you out is the “Remarkable Egg” that your cousin had recently brought over. As you interact with the egg over the course of the game, you activate more and more of its features, hoping for something that will enable you to escape. (The setup, of course, really exists to explain why you can’t use the normal set of IF commands to interact with objects in the game.)
With previous DiBianca games like The Wand, The Temple of Shorgil, and Sage Sanctum Scramble in mind, I was expecting to have to solve a large collection of clever puzzles in order to escape. That turns out not to be the case. There are puzzles to solve, but they’re both fewer and easier than I had expected. Instead, the focus in Remarkable Egg is more wonder and delight than hard-core intellectual challenge. Every time you make progress in the game you gain access to a few new commands for the egg. These commands can make the egg turn colors, give off scents, do chores, play games, and discharge a variety of mechanical devices. Many of these abilities don’t help you escape the handcuffs, but as I played the game with two of my kids (aged 13 and 10) we frequently found ourselves laughing: The egg can do that? And that?
This being an Arthur DiBianca game, there is more to do after you’ve technically won it. In fact, it appears DiBianca has moved most of the hard-core puzzling to this additional stage. Winning unlocks a large list of “extra credit” options, each of which earns you a point. All you get from the game are the names of these extra credit points, not what you must do to earn them. The puzzly challenge, then, for those who really want one from Remarkable Egg, lies in deciphering the actions that earn the player these extra points merely from their names. It’s a bit more guess-the-Arthur’s (*) mind than you normally see in a DiBianca game, but since it’s all optional it doesn’t detract from the primary gaming experience. I found six of the twenty-one extra credit points before stopping. If I didn’t have dozens of other games in the competition to play I might have spent more time trying to earn these extra points. (I did save my game so that I could go back and easily try again.)
Overall, Grandma Bethlinda’s Remarkable Egg is another minimalist, puzzly, and whimsical game from Arthur DiBianca. It leans harder into the whimsy than it does the puzzling, but there are still plenty of optional challenges for those who want them. However, I’d recommend going into this one with the attitude that the egg (and the game itself!) is a toy to play with rather than a puzzle to figure out.
(* Sorry for the bad pun. I couldn’t resist!)