- Designers: Juliana Patel, Ariel Rubin
- Publisher: Mattel
- Players: 1+
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 90 minutes on the box; our game took 86 minutes with 3 players
- Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Mattel
Escape Room in a Box: Flashback is the newest mass-market escape-room-in-a-box release from Mattel. I had actually just seen this in my local big-box store, and lucky for me, my copy arrived later that week in the mail. My group had a very good time with the original game in this series – which we played in both Kickstarter prototype version as well as the finished retail version.
From the original review:
Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment attempts to package the real life “escape the room” game concept into a box that can be played by a group at home rather than having to pay to go to a commercial “Escape Room” or “Breakout” location. Not familiar with this type of game? No problem; here is some background…
“Escape the room” or “room escape” or “escape games” began as video games as far back as 1988 in which the player must exploit their surroundings, use objects, find hidden clues, and/or solve puzzles in order to break out. Myst is the probably one of the more notable computer games of this type from back in the day, but this type of game quickly gained popularity as app implementations were made available for mobile platforms. Around 2006, the escape game idea jumped from the virtual video game/app environment into the real world. There are now escape rooms all over that offer the real life game experience. The concept is still the same though: A group of people are physically locked in an actual room and they must work together and use the contents of the room to find clues and solve mental and physical puzzles in order to find keys/codes to unlock the exit and escape from imprisonment.
In general, each escape room game scenario has a theme and some have a story line, sometimes with subplots. There is also time limit in which the players must escape, otherwise they lose. There are usually hints available in some way and sometimes there are ways to get more time. Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment packages all of these escape room concepts into a boxed, take and play anywhere scenario.
How to play Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment is quite easy; just open the box, read the rules, choose a leader, start a countdown timer, solve the puzzles, open the locks and then win (hopefully). It’s that easy!
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This second game in the series proudly proclaims on the box that there are “3 paths”. Without giving anything away, this is a nice feature because it allows you to split the game up into three distinct sessions if you want – allowing you to fit the game into shorter segments if that is all you schedule will allow. There is no overlap for each of the paths until the final puzzle, so you really could just work on one through to the end. They are color coded: blue, red, purple – and all of the bits are color coded, so you always know which pieces go with which path.
There are a variety of different puzzles included in this box, and while I don’t want to spoil any of the content – it was nice to see that each of the three gamers in our group were able to contribute to solving some of the puzzles as each of us has different strengths in the types of puzzles we like to solve.
If we had gotten stuck, there is a whole booklet of hints available to help you along. If you get seriously stuck, there is also an answer booklet provided to make sure that you don’t get irrevocably stuck. We really didn’t need to refer to either, but it’s nice to know that they’re there.
There is a bit of time pressure, but you’re on your honor to set it for 90 minutes… and if you end up breaking this into different sessions, I’m not sure you could really stick to that time limit as you might normally be working on multiple paths in parallel, and your group would be able to multitask in their puzzle solving by working on multiple puzzles at once.
The difficulty level of the puzzles is easy to moderate – about the same level of difficulty as the first game in the series. But, for a mass market product, I think this is the right level. Also, the components are really nice. Like the first, there are actual locking boxes included here! Sure, they’re made out of plastic – but having real locks to unlock definitely gives you the feeling that this is an escape room – you actually cannot progress at certain points in the game without unlocking things. I’ve seen the game as low as $35 online, and the component quality and quantity is really good for that price.
I should mention that the one thing to make sure you realize before you start (and it’s clearly spelled out in the instructions, so I don’t feel like this is a spoiler) – you really need be in proximity to a freezer or ice. So, don’t go buy this at GenCon and try to play it in the dealer hall. At least go back to your room. Or maybe to a nearby bar or restaurant. You’ll thank me later.
The game is also sustainable – there are instructions online on how to repackage the game, as well as files available to reprint anything that you might have written on. So, if you’re one of those people that likes to keep a pristine box, you don’t have to use the original materials. Also, unlike many of the other escape room games, you should not have to permanently destroy or mark anything here – well, or at least not be able to replace it with a new print out. Thus, you can pass the game along to a friend, or in my case, I can have the rest of my family play the game after my run through it. While it limits some of the puzzles that can be made (there are clearly some neat puzzles in the EXIT series that require destruction of the materials); the puzzles here are still quite good while remaining reproducible.
I think that this is a very accessible escape room game, and one that I would be happy to keep around to use as an introductory game to the genre. It could also be a great rainy day activity for summer camps or maybe a family reunion, and the fact that I can keep reprinting puzzle sheets is a big boon. I’ll admit that I’ve had a few recent negative escape room game experiences where I felt that the difficulty level has grown to the point where it became more frustrating than fun to play – so this was a great change of pace to be able to work through puzzles without having to use all of my lateral thinking skills or pull out a magnifying glass to find the light grey hidden number on the medium gray background. This is a series that I highly recommend, and one that provides a great experience!
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Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it.
- Not for me…