Room-in-a-box, Mar 2017
Escape Room The Game is one of the higher profile boxed escape games available, and comes as a boxed set of four scenarios plus a battery-operated decoder device. Although the four games can only be purchased as a single pack, I’m reviewing each scenario as a separate game
in a shameless ploy to increase the number of reviews on this site because that seems most consistent with other boxed game reviews, and since additional expansion scenarios can be bought separately.
The ‘Chrono Decoder’ is the most distinctive element of the game system, and acts both as a timer and as a solution verification device. It comes with a set of plastic keys, and each puzzle in the game resolves to a four value combination for which players must pick out the matching set of four keys and insert them into the device. A correct answer triggers a beep telling the players they may move on to the next stage, and an incorrect combination causes a hostile buzzing noise and a one minute time penalty. The device is a bit plastic-y but fun. While apparently the first version released had a bug that gave a false negative to one of the puzzles, for us it worked flawlessly. It’s also a nice touch that the plastic keys have not just a digit but also a letter, a Roman numeral, a shape, and various other distinguishing features, and the scenarios use all of these in different places; while solutions are still constrained to four values, it gives a lot more flexibility in the type of information you’re aiming for.
The decoder also has a set of cypher look-up charts on the sides of the box, each of which is used in a different scenario. Since these could easily have been included as scenario-specific clues, it’s a slightly odd decision to put them on the box instead, though it works well enough.
The first of the four bundled scenarios is Prison Break. A fellow convict has left you a trail of clues leading to a way out of the prison, which makes little sense, but the story here is only used for the initial stage-setting and the game theming.
In common with the other scenarios, and as mandated by the game system, there are three stages. At each stage, the players open a packet of clues and try to solve them to get the correct set of four keys. Some stages also have a ‘gameboard’, an illustration of the location which contains visual hints, and you can expect to spend plenty of time poring over the details of this.
I really like the way this game dumps an apparently unrelated set of clues on you and leaves you to figure out what to do with them. This is strongest in the second stage of the game, where disparate and cryptic clues gradually start to make sense and come together to reveal a solution. Also worth mentioning is the effort that’s going into making the initial set of clues look convincing, with imitation torn edges and handwriting – though sadly that’s not maintained for the rest of the game.
The final piece of the game lets it down with a rather arbitrary puzzle. We needed to take a hint after our perfectly plausible seeming solution proved to be wrong, and while the official answer fitted better we still felt it’s one that relies on you making the right assumptions about how to approach it.