Escape Room The Game
- Designer: Team Identity Games
- Publisher: Spin Master
- Players: 3-5
- Ages: 16 and up
- Time: 60 minutes
- Times Played: Once with 4 players
- Game purchased using personal funds.
“Escape room game [in a box]” has apparently become the hot new board game genre of 2016. From virtual versions dating as far back as 1988 to real world escape rooms being created around 2006, it seems inevitable that a hybrid version of the concept would find its way into the growing board game hobby. Cooperative puzzle games have always been of great interest to many people and capturing the escape room feeling in a box that can be played anywhere is an exciting evolution.
There are already a handful of “escape room in a box” games available and Escape Room The Game is latest having been released in late 2016 in the USA by Spin Master Games. However, there are a couple key differences that set it apart from the previous games. First of all, Escape Room The Game contains not just a single escape room game, but four different Adventures that have varying difficulties and all look, feel, and play slightly different. Secondly, the game utilizes a unique electronic “Chrono Decoder” around which the game unfolds. It also helps pull the players further into the game so that they are anchored more to the game and the make believe “room” being created rather than arbitrary location where the game is being played.
The game includes the following components:
- Electronic Chrono Decoder (3 AA batteries not included)
- 16 Keys
- Hint Card Decoder
- 4 Adventure Packs:
- Prison Break (Difficulty 2/5)
- Virus (Difficulty 2/5)
- Nuclear Countdown (Difficulty 3/5)
- Temple of the Aztec (Difficulty 4/5)
- Game Rules
Playing the Game
As with most “escape room in a box” games, learning how to Escape Room The Game the game isn’t difficult. Just open the box, read the Game Rules to learn how to use the Chrono Decoder (don’t forget the batteries!), open the Adventure Pack, read the backstory on the envelope for Part 1, check its contents, start the timer, and then start playing. The team then has 60 minutes to to win the game. It’s as easy at that! Well, almost…
The electronic Chrono Decoder is at the heart of Escape Room The Game. It’s really the gimmick for the game, but it’s also necessary to make everything work. It is used throughout the gave for several purposes, including:
- It’s the game timer. The clock starts at 60 minutes and doesn’t stop until time runs out or the team is able to figure out the final combination to win.
- It contains several ciphers. Some content in the Adventures needs to be converted using one or more of the ciphers molded into the sides of the Chrono Decoder. Don’t worry though, text or an “ER” logo in the game notes when this is necessary.
- It verifies the codes. In order to progress from one part to the next during an adventure, the team must figure out the proper code and input it into the Chrono Decoder using 4 of the 16 keys (see below). If the key combination is correct, there will be a confirmation sound and the team can open the envelope for the next part of the Adventure and continue. If the key combination is incorrect, there will be an error sound and 1 minute be deducted from the time remaining.
There are 16 plastic keys in the game and using them in the correct combinations at the appropriate times is the key to winning the game. There are 4 sets of different keys with each set containing 4 keys. For each set, the key has a unique combination of the following attributes: Arrow, Digit, Dot, Letter, Roman Number, Shape bottom, and Zigzag edge. The keys in two of the sets (8 keys total) have the same Shape bottom, so they are the same regardless of which way they are inserted into the Chrono Decoder. However, the other two sets (8 keys) have Shape Bottoms that will register differently depending on the direction that they are inserted into the Chrono Decoder. This is an important distinction and increases the number of key combination possibilities. Use the clues during the game to determine what keys (pay very close attention to ALL of the key attributes), facing which direction, and in what order is correct before trying them in the Chrono Decoder!
Phew, that sounds pretty tricky, doesn’t it? Yes, it is! But don’t worry, as with any escape room game, there are clues available along the way. In Escape Room The Game, clues are provided as encoded cards that can be decoded using the Hint Card Decoder. Each clue becomes available at a specific time noted on the card and the Chrono Decoder will also provide a beep-beep sound to indicate when a clue is allowed. No cheating is allowed, so be sure to make sure that you are looking at the proper clue card for the part of the adventure currently being played and that the clue isn’t being investigated before the allowed time.
Each Adventure has three parts, so it is necessary to correctly input three key combinations into the Chrono Decoder before the 60 minute time limit runs out to win the game. The Game Rules indicate that only about 75% of the players are able to get out of the room in time. If time runs out before the three correct codes are provided, there will be a losing sound and the timer will then start to count up. Don’t give up! Keep playing until the final code is solved.
It is also worth noting that Escape Room The Game also has a companion app and website. The app contains thematic music for each Adventure that can be played to provide thematic background music while playing. It also contains photo frames that can be used to post pictures of the winning team online. The Escape Room The Game web site contains additional information about the game, including Adventure overviews, rules videos, and frequently asked questions. The website also contains complete solution walkthroughs for each Adventure as well as printable PDF materials to replace those items consumed while playing the game.
My Thoughts on the Game
Craig V: Our group of four played through all four Adventures contained inside the Escape Room The Game box in order during a single afternoon. Overall, the game provided about 3 hours of gameplay with about another 1-1.5 hours spread between reading the rules initially, reading the story before starting each Adventure, and then repackaging each Adventure pack after playing it. We had a lot of fun as a group and I feel like the overall experience was a great value for the price paid.
The components for each Adventure seemed sparse and so I was a bit skeptical at first. However, there is actually quite a bit of exploration and trickiness contained within. Each Adventure definitely felt unique and played different when compared to the others. I haven’t decided which was my favorite as I liked various parts of each one, but can’t really describe them without spoiling the surprises (sorry!). Our group completed Prison Break with 24:39 remaining and not using any clues, Virus with 33:14 remaining and using 1 clue, Nuclear Countdown with only 04:46 remaining and using several clues, and Temple of the Aztec with only 04:15 remaining and also using several clues. The puzzles were all different and as illustrated by the the time we had remaining, the difficulty for each Adventure varied and seemed about right when compared to the relative rankings indicated on the game box.
As with other escape room in a box games, each Adventure continued in Escape Room The Game can really only be played one time by a particular player since the solutions will then be known. However, that doesn’t mean that the game is completely disposable. Some game components are used while playing, but it’s possible to go online and print replacements from the official web site. I greatly appreciate that feature and have fully reset all four Adventures so that the game can be played by other people. The only downside with this is that the game cannot be completely given away quite yet. Whereas games like Escape the Room: Secret of Dr Gravely’s Retreat and Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor contain a Solution Wheel specifically for that game that, Escape Room The Game utilizes the electronic Chrono Decoder that will be required for future Escape Room Expansion Sets already in the works. Those other games can be played, reset, and whole given away, but this game can only be lent to others since the Chrono Recorder is a critical component utilized by any expansion set.
So far, every game that I have played so far in this new genre has been something fresh, and Escape Room The Game continues the trend of innovation. It was another engaging escape room game that offered plenty of challenge and fun in a affordable and portal box. I am excited about the two expansion packs already announced (Funland and Murder Mystery) and look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to play them soon!
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: I have played all the previous Escape Room games that we’ve reviewed on the blog here with Craig. And, of all of them, this has been my favorite one so far. Partly because there were four challenges in the box instead of just one, and partly because the puzzles here were both complex and varied in type.
The puzzles here seem to be a bit more difficult than the previous puzzle games that we’ve tried, and the hint system is decent. The hints are timed, i.e. you can’t get into them until a certain amount of time has ticked off. We did encounter one issue in the 3rd puzzle where we had gotten off to a really good start. By the time we got stuck, the hint that pertained to where we were didn’t come up for about fifteen minutes. Sure, we had plenty of time to look over stuff, and in the end, all four of us had missed a pretty visible clue which got us over the hump. However, without having a live person in the box, there’s really no way to make all the clues be available at the right time. One other caution, the hints are supposedly obscured with red text overlying the hint, and you look at it through a piece of red film to read the hint – however, the plaintext is pretty darn visible through the red stuff, so you might inadvertently give yourself a hint if you look at the hint cards accidentally.
The Chrono Decoder is just an electronic gimmick, but it’s as good a way of giving solutions as anything else. The plastic keys used to plug in the answers have many different bits of information on them, but in the end, there are only 6 different ends on them. Thus, for the possible answers, there are 6^4 = 1296 different options. The machine has no way to distinguish what the correct answer is for any given puzzle, it only knows which solutions are “valid” and which are “wrong”. Though it is unlikely, you could actually be completely wrong in your solution to a puzzle, but as long as you put the keys in the machine in a valid orientation, you’ll be rewarded with the completed puzzle sound.
I’ll be interested to see how this works in any expansions. Have there already been multple “right” answers coded into the machine? Or will you get new keys in an expansion (with different pieces of info on them), but in the end, putting them in the same combinations will lead to the right answer?
Like all of the board game version Escape Rooms – this is no substitute for the IRL escape rooms – but that doesn’t take away from their enjoyment. IMO, they simply need to be viewed as a type of entertainment on their own. Our group of four had a very good time for an entire winter afternoon, and I think that it was good value for the cost. As Craig mentioned, this particular game cannot be given away when completed because you’ll likely need the machine to play any future expansions. But there’s no reason why you couldn’t loan it out OR you could serve as the gamemaster for an evening for friends who haven’t played it, and then you could serve as a more timely hint-giver when players get stuck.
Eric E: I have played other escape in a box games and this one was, for the price, the best so far. With 4 games in the box it becomes very cheap for each play and because of that I am happy it came out in this manner. Now it of course does not compare, for me, to the real thing. But the gimmick of the timer really helps put some tension to it even when other games say use a timer, the fact that I am using a machine and not my phone puts more tension in it for me. It makes it feel like I am more “into” it. I have issues with some of the puzzle strategies and the component quality but the puzzles were clever for the most part. They even ramped up in difficulty quite well. Overall I am probably going to play every escape room in a box game I can ever get my hands on because I am a escape room mega-fan having done over 20 “real” ones. This one is worth the recommendation to others whereas others have sometimes fallen short of that. I look forward to expansions.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. Craig V, Eric E
- Not for me…
For spoiler free reviews from Opinionated Gamers of other escape room games, please see:
- Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment
- Escape the Room: Secret of Dr Gravely’s Retreat
- Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor
- The Game Room Part 2: Mr Boddy