Box One Presented By Neil Patrick Harris [Hivemind Review]

Update 6/15/21: If you enjoyed Box One, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Neil Patrick Harris on The Reality Escape Pod.

Box One is a tabletop escape game presented By Neil Patrick Harris.

Hand holding a gold Box One challenge coin over the game's box art.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop escape game

Required Equipment: an internet-connected device

Recommended Team Size: 1

Play Time: While active playtime was under 2 hours, you will not be starting and finishing this game in a single evening; don’t try.

Price: about $29.99

Description

Box One is a tabletop escape-room-esque experience that describes itself as “an ever-evolving game of trivia, codes, puzzles, and discovery – only from the mind of Neil Patrick Harris.” It was explicitly designed for a single player to enjoy on their own, but there is nothing about the game that prevents more players, beyond designer’s intent (which ain’t nothing). Saying much more than that about its structure will spoil things that ought not be spoiled.

Red, black,and gold, with NPH's eye peering through a keyhole Box One packaging

Theresa W’s Reaction

I was genuinely shocked by how beautifully executed this experience was, considering it was a mass-market game. This review is incredibly hard to write as everything that was great is a spoiler. You’ll just have to trust me on this one – this game is way more than meets the eye, and has quite a bit of depth. Box One only took a bit over an hour of active play time, but is one of the most polished and tight games I’ve seen. There are quite a few parts that genuinely caught me by surprise, and that I had not seen in similar experiences before. If you’re near a Target, this is definitely worth grabbing!

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Box One is one of the most ambitious and creative mass-market puzzle offerings I’ve ever played, and I would heartily recommend it to both newbies and expert puzzlers alike. While Neil Patrick Harris’ previous playing card offering fell quite flat for me in the puzzle department, Box One is a well-designed 1-2 hour solo experience packed with tons of discovery and mini ahas. I can’t say much more about the game without spoiling it, but if you’re on the fence as to whether to buy yet another card-based trivia game, just know that there’s much more to this one than meets the eye. As an added bonus, no components get damaged while playing, and a video at the end provides easy instructions on how to reset the box for the next player.

Box One open, a letter, pad, pen, and challnge cards cleanly displayed.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

I had a lot more fun playing this than I expected! The production value of this boxed game is high, and they managed to incorporate the joy of discovery. The puzzles are not overly complex, but the design of the entire experience was immersive and engaging, and even the subtitle of this game is like an inside joke. It’s a pity I can’t replay this game, but for a little while, I felt as though I was really playing against the mind of Neil Patrick Harris himself!

David Spira’s Reaction

Box One feels like a watershed moment in tabletop puzzle experience design. The components, puzzle, and game design were remarkably refined. While this game was not challenging, it was overflowing with craft, style, and care… and that’s what I crave.

My only significant knock against Box One was how easy it was to break sequence through innocent curiosity. This ties back to a small but significant failure in the game’s brief instruction page. It needed to be clearer about how much you need to follow the explicit clues in this game. Getting curious about even things that felt obvious from the first moments caused us to jump sequence. It was easy enough to right the proverbial ship, but it diminished the magic. (Update 11/25/20 – In subsequent print-runs, the producers of this game have made a small but significant update that has helped improve this issue. Respect.)

That aside, Box One gets my strongest recommendation. I cannot think of a tabletop escape-room-esque game that has broader appeal. This thing was a work of art.

30 thoughts on “Box One Presented By Neil Patrick Harris [Hivemind Review]

  1. We LOVED this game. I was blown away by what they accomplished as a mass produced game. It’s easily in our top three – because of the delight it gives.

    1. Yes, we removed the stars from hivemind reviews of boxed games. Since these games are designed for at-home play, regardless of quarantine time, the hivemind “scale” didn’t really work. I did, however, forget to remove the text that explains the star scale when this review first originally published, but that’s fixed now. 🙂

    1. Only if you’re playing in different physical locations over Zoom. We were very happy solving as a couple.

  2. Had never even heard of this before simply stumbling upon it while shopping at Target today (though was aware of the NPH / theory11 collaboration). As soon as I got home I just immediately tore into this thing, and with a small bit of time skipping, finished it about 2.5 hours later with a huge grin on my face. What an unbelievable solo experience for $30, one of my favorite solo game experiences maybe ever. I can’t believe how much stuff they were able to cram into this seemingly light box. (Although I was fairly stupid and used the pen to write on the initial cards, not even thinking about anyone playing it in future lol. That’s fine, $30 for another fresh copy of this game for a friend or family member is money *very* well-spent.) Excellent idea, even more brilliant execution.

  3. I’m curious – what was the revision they made? I just finished and highly enjoyed the game, wondering which version I had.

  4. I recently played this and was looking for some info to share with friends without giving anything away. I like this “hive mind” approach. Very cool. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. It can be repackaged and passed along, but the game is the same each time.

      I suppose you can put it on the shelf until you don’t recall most of it and try it again.

      It truly is worth it. It’s a fun journey.

      1. Hi David. If the game is the same ‘every time’ is this a case of simply paying £50 for 2 hours or enjoyment, then its done? Would you really ever forget and be surprised by it again?

      2. I don’t think that this game can surprise you multiple times. It really is an experience.

        My advice would be to split the price with a friend or 3 and each take a turn. It is fully resettable (so long as you are kind to the components).

  5. Would this game be any good to be played by several family members (who have previously collaborated in “real life” escape-the-room games)? Or is it just for a single player?

    1. Good question. This game really is best for one or two people to play at a time. It can be reset, so multiple people can take a turn.

      It can be enjoyed by larger groups, but it really does require the group to be very restrained. This is a puzzle experience… but it’s pretty different. If you start searching the box like you would an escape room, you’ll undoubtedly find things out of sequence and make a mess of the experience.

      I hope that answers your question.

    1. We have a Tabletop Recommendations Guide – https://roomescapeartist.com/2018/12/02/tabletop-escape-game-recommendations/

      4-6 is a larger group for a tabletop escape room. With that in mind, here are a few options:

      Escape From Iron Gate from The Escape Game is a fun, competitive party game meets escape room. https://roomescapeartist.com/2019/11/22/escape-game-iron-gate-review/

      If you’re looking for something more traditional and puzzley… The Curious Elevator from BlueFish might work for a larger group: https://roomescapeartist.com/2020/06/26/bluefish-games-curious-elevator-review/

      If you’re looking for something more family friendly, Scooby is a good time: https://roomescapeartist.com/2020/09/08/scooby-doo-escape-haunted-mansion-review/

  6. I know the recommended age is 14 but is that for difficulty or content? Would my 12 year old and I enjoy solving it together or is there content that would be inappropriate for him?

    1. I cannot think of anything in the game that would have been a problem for myself at 12. I think that I would have enjoyed it.

    1. There are instructions online, but in the case of some components, if they got bent a bit too much, it might be difficult to get them fully restored to factory-fresh.

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