Immersive Puzzle Books

Christopher Manson’s MAZE, released in 1985, is the first and, as of yet, the only immersion puzzle book. There have been a multitude of illustrated puzzle books in which the images hide clues to an overall puzzle, some of these even use rooms or locations as a backdrop for the clues, but these books provide no form of immersive navigation between locations. Similarly, there are a multitude of “choose your own adventure” type novels that have some limited navigation. But these novels are built on a branching path structure and do not allow freedom of movement.


MAZE’s modular structure and almost complete freedom of movement allows the reader to do something never possible in a book before, it allows readers to explore. The process of exploring Manson’s MAZE acts no different than if one was actually exploring the depicted location it in real life. [see Introduction to MAZE]

In 1985 Christopher Manson’s “MAZE: Solve the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle” was released and took the nation by storm. It was, most likely, the world’s most popular visual puzzle until the computer game MYST was released in 1993 which was based on the MAZE archetype.  MAZE was also the first of a new genre of puzzle, the immersive visual puzzle. Paving the way for games such as MYST, Tomb Raider and Portal.

MAZE is a picture book filled with 45 black and white hand drawn rooms. On the facing page is a conversation between the visitors and the guide. Each room, and the bit of conversation that goes with it, contains several puzzles. Sometimes the puzzle indicates the correct door to take. At other times that you have taken a wrong turn, or that all hope is lost.

2013-01-13 01.48.39

MAZE is “played” by turning to the page number indicated on the door to pass through that door. Despite having only 45 rooms, the number of connections between the rooms makes mapping MAZE practically impossible. The structure of the maze is multi-goal, non-continuous, overlapping, objective, static, and conceptual (see Maze Theory).

But mapping the MAZE is peanuts compared to the puzzles. Solving more than a handful of the puzzles is monumentally difficult. Mr. Manson’s MAZE, true to its title, is probably the world’s most difficult puzzle. The subtlety  depth and variety of the puzzles is incredible. Mr. Manson made use of every basic form of puzzle available (see Puzzle Theory), and he invented several sub-types.

MAZE contains an astonishing number of puzzles, more than 116.