Escape Room in a Box: The Walking Dead
- Designers: Brian Yu, Mary Sadowsky, Nick Hayes
- Publisher: Mattel
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 90 minutes
- Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Mattel
- Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/30Zc4XK
One of the hallmarks of this series is that there are actual physical locks and other components that you have to deal with. I have found that there is something definitely satisfying about actually opening a combination lock and getting to see what’s inside a container as opposed to plugging in a code into a webpage and then seeing a “Completed!” graphic.
This new game is different from other available escape rooms. Inspired by AMC’s The Walking Dead series, players work together to try to break INTO a room rather than out! Escape Room in a Box: The Walking Dead puts you and your friends into the dangerous world of AMC’s The Walking Dead TV show. You and up to seven other players have 90 minutes to solve puzzles, crack codes, and unlock real, physical locks in order to finally open the giant locked door, gain access to the community, and win the game. While the game will surely appeal to fans of the TV show, you actually do not need any experience or knowledge of the show in order to play and enjoy this game. In fact, I am proof positive of that – as I have never watched a single episode of the show – none of the puzzles require you to know anything about zombies, etc. Given the mature(ish) theme of the show, the game is really targeted at the 14+ crowd; and this allowed the designers to make puzzles that are perhaps a little more complicated than the previous Mattel fare.
But before I describe the game a bit, let me get to the punchline first. This is perhaps the best at-home “escape room” game that I’ve played. I don’t say that lightly, as I’ve probably played more than 30 or 40 different ones now. What is the difference? I think it’s a combination of the puzzles (more complex/difficult than average) as well as the physical components. There are a lot of things included in this box, and being able to manipulate them, examine them, use them in various ways, etc – makes this game feel more like a real-life escape room than most. Sure, in the end, many of the puzzles are pen-and-paper based as you would expect; but the physicality of the others takes this game to another level.
We had a captivating 65 minutes of puzzle solving fun (though it really should have been closer to 55 – but we seriously over-thought one of the puzzles near the end) – and, the way that the box is set up, everyone remains active at all times. The time limit of this one (90 minutes) should give you some clue of the added complexity as it does seem that most of the games in this genre are pegged at 60 minutes…
SO in this game, as the story goes, you stumble across the Collective – which is a refuge for non-zombies. However, they won’t let just anyone in – only the best can make it, so there is a challenge for you to solve in order to enter their stronghold and join their group. When you open the box, you immediately see a green box with a combination lock on it, and a huge red plastic combination lock attached to the side of the box. There is also a bundle of puzzles and a couple of other props. There is a short guide to help you figure out how to organize your answers, but other than that, there’s not really much other guidance. Well, somewhere in the instructions, it tells you that you’re going to need some water…
Your group will have to figure out how to solve the puzzles (and possibly in which order). You can pass them around the table so that everyone can find one that they want to start on OR you might decide to work as a group on each one. It all depends on how you like to do things! As far as you can tell, your initial goal is to unlock the two locks that are before you…
The puzzles are each on a separate sheet of paper, and if you need, you can write on them to help you along. (Pro tip – keep a few sheets of scrap paper around – if you’re able to do your work on a separate sheet of paper, you can keep the puzzles clean, and then you can re-use or re-gift your game to someone else!). In this game, nothing needs to be destroyed or consumed.
As I promised no spoilers, I really can’t say anything more about the puzzles or what you might find within the locked box or in the bottom of the box once you’re able to open the red dial lock… but, let me just re-iterate that it was the best escape room experience I’ve had in a board game. The other two gamers that played with me agreed with this assessment. The variety in puzzle styles was great, and the use of both pen-and-paper puzzles as well as the physical aspects due to the great components really enhanced the overall experience. And, man, there were two or three awesome surprises that came along as we went through the game! I have chatted with one of the designers, and I have learned that all of the physical props were custom designed by Mattel – (Disclaimer – my brother is one of the designers of this game, but he has always been the better game designer in our family, and this game only further cements that distinction.)
Between the three of us, we were able to solve all the puzzles on our own. There were two or three that I simply didn’t “get”, but one of the other two puzzlers was able to work through it. If we needed, there is a Hints booklet included in the box as well. After the fact, we glanced through it, and it appears that there are adequate hints for each puzzle – each puzzle gets its own page in the booklet. The only issue I might see with this is that as you are flipping thru the pages to find the hint you need, you might inadvertently read a clue for something that you didn’t want to read just yet…. But, since there is no order to the puzzles, if you get stuck, maybe just move onto a different puzzle first, and only when you get to a stopping point in all the remaining puzzles – then you can look at the hints; and in that way, reduce your chance of reading a hint that you didn’t want to see.
I would heartily recommend this escape room to anyone interested in the genre. It is a fantastic experience start-to-finish, and it is rare to find one of these that has so many “A-ha!” moments in a single box. Surprisingly, the cost for this game is low – $30 at Amazon at the time I write this review – https://amzn.to/30Zc4XK – and it’s amazing to think about how they were able to produce all these components and still get it to stores at the price point. It is a great value IMHO, and this game gives a great escape room experience that can be safely solved in your own home.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan: I better keep it short lest I’ll spoil things. Really loved this one; a lot of fun.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y, James Nathan
- I like it.
- Not for me.
Click here to see a spoiler
This really was my favorite Escape Room game of the year so far!