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.
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
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.
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.
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.