Prose & Codes Demo Impressions – A Good Lesson in Decoding

The hardest part is pulling yourself away once you're on a solving's spree

You know in high school when they make certain books required reading for literature class, I was actually one of the few oddballs who legitimately look forward to reading more books, that might explain why I like Prose & Codes. Remembering passages from Jane Eyre shouldn’t be something worth celebrating… but I would lying if I didn’t go “heck yeah!” when I remembered the passage from memory.

Prose & Codes is a game all about deciphering lines from classical books throughout history. We’re not talking about Dan Brown levels of decrypting here. (At least for right now) The letters are just swapped out and it’s our job to replace them until it all makes sense. We have to keep repeating the process until either all 26 letters of the alphabet are used up, or the passage has been ciphered. In which case, the puzzle is solved.

Substituting ciphers is what you’ll be doing for the most part. After highlighting a blank space with your mouse, type a letter in the keyboard and that letter will autocomplete for the rest of the blanks. If you feel like you’ve made a mistake, you can press backspace to undo the action. Otherwise, you can click another space and replace that letter instead.

In the difficulty I was playing at in this demo, (progressive) the difficulty increased as I played through each genre. Meaning the more passages I solved, the harder the next one was going to be. Which I started to feel after solving around 6 or 7 passages. By the time I solved the next 2, I was ready to take a breather.

The hardest part of the game isn’t that you needed to have prior knowledge of any of the books, it was running out of options before you can start making sense of the passage. See, I didn’t need to know the whole passage, I just needed to reveal ‘A’ word. From that one correct word, I can start the process of elimination. If I solve enough individual words, I can fill-in-the-blanks until the whole thing was solved.

Of course, the hint system also helps. For 3 random letters, the cipher will lock in the correct ones. Even here it’s a double edge sword, even in progressive mode. Imagine expecting a bit of help, and the best it can offer is a singular ‘P’. Sure, it helps narrow the field down, but is it too much to ask for something a little more helpful, like a vowel?

There is a certain joy to this kind of puzzle solving. Even more so if the passage came from a book I was familiar with. Though I can’t deny the helpfulness of the ‘optional’ HINT button.

There are 3 levels of difficulty in Prose & Code: easy, progressive, and hard. I’ve already touched on progressive, so let’s go with easy next. The thing about easy is that every cipher you solve, another letter will solve itself. It’s basically letting you know that, yeah, you got the letter, here’s another one to say that you got it!

Hard is where everything gets thrown out the window – no solved letters and every cipher is completely encoded. Meaning that you’ll need to type out every single space to solve the puzzle. No automation, no hints to help you out. Just you and the cipher. Duking it out in mind games.

In this demo, there are 3 ciphers per category. As I do like the adventure genre, that one was the first to be completed. The other genres such as mystery, horror, and sci-fi are indeed staples. But it was the Notable classics that got my attention post adventure genre. The Notables are books that don’t neatly fit in the other categories. So, they make for some of the most interesting reads.

A few lines from Jane Eyre were present in that category. Personally, that book is memorable because I got top grade for its analysis. (Humble brag over.)

The bookworm in me is really intrigued by this game. I’m curious if I’ll find passages from other books I grew up with. Hopefully, there’s one from ‘The Good Earth’ or the books of Charles Dickens. Just the thought of it makes me look forward to more from this game.

And I haven’t forgotten that yes, at the end of day, Prose & Codes is a game. And I just played the demo. And I am playing it just for the score, right? Nope, that’s half the tale.

There are few brain teasers that draw so much inspiration from classical literature. But Prose & Codes goes above and beyond because a portion of all sales will go to Project Gutenberg, an online library of over 60,000 free e-books. Their cooperation is what makes this all the better because the ciphers you do solve, link to that specific book in their archives, which you can read FOR FREE.

Let’s end it there before I talk more about reading books. Look forward for Prose & Codes’ eventual release sometime in late 2021.

For more information about the game, check out our previous article about the game’s participation in Steam Next Fest. You can also visit the game’s official website too.