ParadigmQ – Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery [Review]

Outfox some wise guys.

Location:  at home

Date Played: January 23, 2021

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2

Duration: 60-75 minutes

Price: about $60 per box

REA Reaction

Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery is a tabletop game for escape room players, by an escape room company. It combined a mailed box with a digital interface, and the two paired well together, delivering a high quality tabletop product.

The puzzles solved relatively quickly, with satisfying aha moments. They were approachable and attainable for newer puzzlers, but still enjoyable for more experienced players.

Closeup of game components. Everything is in black & white. There's a magnifying glass, and film reel.

I like tight, deliberately designed puzzle games that run 60-90 minutes. I value intentionality and games that also respect my time. I recommend Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery. That said, I need to address the price point of $60.

At $60, Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery is fairly expensive when compared with similar mostly paper-based tabletop escape rooms. For your money you’re getting a refined product that feels professionally designed, but it’s not a keepsake and you cannot easily repack this game. (You destroy most of the components over the course of normal play.)

At half the price, this would be a must-play. At its current price, it’s a strong recommend if you are in a position where you won’t miss the money. Deal hunters should look elsewhere.

Who is this for?

  • Detectives
  • Escape room players looking for at-home puzzles
  • Film noir fans
  • Any experience level
  • Great for less experienced puzzlers

Why play?

  • Fun puzzles that solve pretty quickly
  • High quality, styled video scenes
  • A fun aesthetic
  • To support an escape room business

Story

Our friend Tracey had been investigating a big case… until he ended up dead. Now this box had arrived and it held the clues we needed to figure out what had transpired.

Film Noir Black Box Mystery box.

Setup

Setup was simple:

  1. Empty the contents of the mailed box.
  2. Open a browser to the game URL on your computer or tablet (not mobile device).
  3. Have a pen, paper, and scissors handy.

Most of the gameplay occurred in the physical components, while much of the story and answer verification happened in the web app.

Black & white digital interface depicts a city mapy with places of interest that include, "Office," "Crime Scene," & "Payphone."

Gameplay

ParadigmQ’s Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery was a standard play-at-home escape game with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery flowed well. It was straightforward to match puzzle components with the digital interface, so the effort went into solving the puzzles, never what we needed to do next. We never felt lost. The digital interface gated the puzzles we had accessible at any given time, but we still had options, so it felt like we were in control of our mystery.

➖ You cannot play this on a mobile device. The digital interface will not display correctly.

➕ The film clips between each puzzle set the tone. They were high quality, engaging, and fun. They were quick too, telling the story without detracting from the solving.

➕ ParadigmQ justified the black-and-white printing with the staging. It never felt cheap for lacking color. It was a deliberate product.

➖ “Black Box” branding notwithstanding, I feel like with a few minor changes, this game could be distributed in either an envelope or even in print-and-play format. Either option could lower the cost without damaging quality or margins.

➕ The puzzles were varied and solved cleanly. The difficulty curve made sense, starting with an easy, interactive on-ramp, and leading to more complex solves later in the game. We especially enjoyed one puzzle where we built paper components into something else, before extracting the solution.

➖ The final puzzle required a lengthy process after the aha moment, and we lost a bit of momentum working our way to the last solution. We enjoyed this conceptually, even if the execution was a bit laborious.

➕ The hint system was solid. It wasn’t particularly granular, but it was as detailed as the puzzle structure warranted.

❓ At $60, the price is steep for the amount of tabletop gameplay. Your decision to purchase Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery is a value judgment.

Closeup of a wrapped present tag reads, "Secret Brett."
I received this game as a gift from my Secret Brett, the REA Hivemind’s version of Secret Santa named after Brett Kuehner, who has all of the best toys. 

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: computer or tablet, pen, paper, and scissors

Buy your copy of ParadigmQ’s Film Noir: The Black Box Mystery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Thank you to my mystery Secret Brett! And thank you ParadigmQ for wrapping it so beautifully for me!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.