Room-in-a-box, Nov 2018
Not to be confused with the similarly named line of home games from Spin Master Games, this product consists of a plastic padlock with four coloured dials, plus a set of sixteen different puzzles to solve. For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t read past the first paragraph of this review, the main thing to take away here is that this is a terrible product and you should definitely not buy it. (I’ve seen it sold under at least three different brands with two versions of the packaging: Paladone, Purple Monkey and The Games Club.)
Both of the reviews currently on Amazon for this game complain about problems they had with the padlock. Our first attempt to set it to a different answer somehow managed to get it into a state where it opened regardless of what you set the dials to, but with some fiddling we got it working as intended. I actually don’t hate the padlock; it’s a chunky plastic version of a real padlock and only has four options on each dial, but I can actually see myself repurposing it and using it again – perhaps if I were creating some simple home-grown puzzles for a young relative.
It’s the puzzles that are really bad. There are sixteen, grouped into four sets of four envelopes, each set of four being a different puzzle type. These are listed everywhere I’ve seen the game on sale, so I won’t hesitate to say what they are: you get four riddles, four physical puzzles that are variations on jigsaws, four maths algebra questions and four other puzzles. The intention is that a game consists of four puzzles, one from each category; you have an hour to solve them, with a recommended team size of 3+.
Played in that way, you get up to four play-throughs before puzzles begin to repeat, which is what the packaging means when it says you can play ‘game after game’. However, we had little difficulty in solving all sixteen puzzles in half an hour, most of which was taken up by the jigsaws. Despite its claims to be replayable, there’s less content here than almost any of the other play at home games I’ve tried. In addition, the content it does have is woefully unoriginal and tedious, repetitive and utterly lacking in any imaginative spark.
You could argue that we found it so easy because this is intended for kids – except that the box states that it’s for ages of 14+, and frankly, giving this game to kids borders on child cruelty. I’d complain about how the design means you need someone else to set up the game for you, and how the small number of possible answers makes many of the puzzles easy to solve by elimination, but those are the least of its flaws.
Since the padlock only has 256 combinations, you can comfortably brute-force a solution in under ten minutes. Sitting there and trying one combination after another until it opens is almost as fast and about as fun as opening it by solving the puzzles provided. Maybe I come across as unnecessarily harsh, but the best spin on this product is that it’s a well-meaning attempt to create an escape product by people who have no idea how to create interesting puzzles. Much more likely is that it’s a cynical attempt to cash-in on the escape game craze by people who have no idea how to create interesting puzzles. Give this to a beginner if you want to extinguish their interest in escape games.
It avoids the minimum rating only because some of my teammates proved surprisingly willing to play all the puzzles without giving up midway in disgust. Even so, I try these things so you don’t have to – don’t make my suffering in vain through making the mistake of buying it.