Update 3/16/21: If you enjoy The Werewolf Experiment, we hope you’ll check out our interview with game and puzzle designers Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin (The Wild Optimists) on The Reality Escape Pod.
Back in the old, innocent days of February 2016, Lisa and and I were a month away from our wedding when we received a message from Julianna and Ariel, the creators of Escape Room In A Box. They asked, and I’m paraphrasing:
“We’re about to launch a play-at-home escape room on Kickstarter. Will you promote it?”
Now we were not sold on this and thought it seemed like a pretty terrible idea. We’d seen our share of bad escape rooms and the last thing that we wanted to do was blindly promote a pile of garbage, so we responded:
“Nope, we won’t promote it… but we would review it if you could get one to us.”
We thought that would be the end of the discussion, but Julianna and Ariel said “sure” and overnighted the game to us.
We gathered our regular team, plus a newbie (as we generally try to include fresh eyes). While everyone was skeptical at the beginning, no one was at the conclusion. This was the review that I wrote then (in our old, non-standardized format):
Revisiting The Werewolf Experiment
Some 20 months later we gathered a new group of escape room lovers, cooked them risotto, baked them cookies, and watched them play the Kickstarter First Edition of Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment.
While The Werewolf Experiment was our first attempt at a tabletop escape game, this new group of players had seen many of the at-home escape rooms on the market. We worried it wouldn’t hold up, but they had a great time.
I’m happy to report that we’re able to let that old review stand with a few additions:
- The packaging in the Kickstarter edition was dramatically improved from the prototype that we played.
- The art, illustration, and general presentation of the Kickstarter edition were cohesive and massively improved. (I don’t really remember any in-game art in the prototype.)
- I didn’t know enough about at-home escape room games to comment on the hint system at the time. Now I can add that the hint system is easy to use and a lot less annoying than most of the tabletop escape game hint systems.
- We also called out that many of the puzzles were paper based and felt a little homework-y. While I think that style of puzzle is more acceptable in a tabletop game than a real life escape room, I also think that those puzzle types will stand out even more nearly 2 years later.
- We found a minor typo in the hint & answer booklets.
- This game still has some of the most brilliant escape room-y moments in all of tabletop escape games.
Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment, Mattel Edition
This November, the retail version of The Werewolf Experiment will hit store shelves as the game was picked up by Mattel.
The new edition will cost $29.99 and we will run a test group through it as well.
Some closing thoughts on the nature of Kickstarter:
Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment shipped roughly 7 months late and some folks have expressed resentment to Lisa and me over this. Not directed at us, but in our direction.
I’d like to take a moment to praise Julianna and Ariel for shipping within a year of their expected ship date and handling their Kickstarter with professionalism and grace. They kept in regular contact with their backers and focused on delivering a quality product. They did just that.
Lateness and Kickstarter go together like steel toilets and hidden keys. I backed something in November of 2014 and it was supposed to ship in March of 2015… and in October 2017, the dude is still working on it.
Backing something on Kickstarter is like paying someone in advance to keep a pinky swear. When a Kickstarter ships within a year of its expected date and turns out to be what was promised in the initial description, that’s a win.
While we’re on the subject of Kickstarter, have a look at our analysis of escape room crowdfunding efforts: