A rift in the game continuum
Location: at home
Date Played: January 17, 2022
Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2
Duration: about 60 minutes
Price: about $14.99
Mattel’s Escape Room In A Box series emerged with a new two-part installment designed during the pandemic. The game was deliberately crafted for two players (or groups) to solve a portion of the experience on their own and then come together to solve a combined third act.
Built around a gearbox prop, Kira’s Story took us through a series of puzzles to repair a time machine. The blend of paper puzzles and tangible props was heightened by the truly strange gearbox prop.
Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story are sold separately for $15 each. Upon hearing that this game was going to be split in two, I figured that there was a chance that we’d be paying more money for half a product… but that’s not what Mattel did. Previous installments of the Escape Room In A Box series sold for $30. By keeping the pricing comparable to previous products, I think that they have delivered at least as much value, if not more, than in previous releases.
Individually, either one of these games feels like less than one product. Together, they feel like more. It’s a neat trick.
Who is this for?
- Puzzle lovers
- Any experience level
- Players with a friend in another location… who buys Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story
- It’s a well-designed puzzle game
- The props are among the coolest that you’ll find in mass market tabletop escape games
- This two-part game was designed to be enjoyed with another friend from a distance
Time traveling adventurers Kira and Isabel collided with a rip in the space-time continuum and it tore their time machine in two, sending each to a different time and place.
Each of them had to repair their own portion of the machine on their own… and then figure out how to come together.
Both Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story followed the same structure. Each contained their own larger prop, as well as envelopes of paper puzzles and small props. These all came together through a series of puzzle solves.
Upon completion of both stories, a third game became playable. By design, this game had a communication element. It was intended to be played by two groups who come together, rather than one player who tackles all of the portions on their own.
Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Kira’s Story was a standard play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.
It differed from other play-at-home escape games in that it had a companion product, Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story.
Core gameplay revolved around making connections and solving puzzles.
➕ Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Kira’s Story was primarily a game of solving puzzles. The puzzles were the focus, and overall, they delivered approachable, satisfying solves.
➖ The puzzles worked, but most weren’t memorable. Some of them felt more like fill needed to get us to the finale.
➕ The setup and story were succinct. It was easy to get started playing. We didn’t have to read much to understand the characters and their plight. It was minimal, but it was enough to support the puzzle-centric gameplay.
➖ We felt like we were solving puzzles, not like we were on a time travel adventure. It wasn’t relevant when or where we were in time. While we appreciate a puzzle-focused game, this felt like a missed opportunity.
➕ The paper materials were high quality. We could tell by the deliberate patterning and wear that care went into paper selection. The experience was better for this detailing.
➕ The end of the game was the strongest part, punctuated by a wonderful, tangible interaction.
➖ At the time we played, the hint website was down. We logged in multiple times over the course of a few days to see if we could confirm our answers. This prolonged failure was inexcusable. While we were able to solve the game without the hints, newer puzzlers will likely need some nudges. Without a working hint system, Mattel is alienating frustrated customers, stifling repeat business, and doing a disservice to the boxed escape game industry.
➖ The puzzles were not entirely self-confirming. We couldn’t always be sure our solution was correct just by progressing in the game. This made the lack of a hint system that much more egregious.
➕ The additional game materials for the combined game were well hidden. They did not disrupt Time Drifters: Kira’s Story and did not cause any red herrings. Instead, they appeared as a reward for solving the game. This gave us momentum going into the collaborative segment.
➖ While Time Drifters: Kira’s Story was a complete game, if you don’t also have a friend with a copy of Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, we imagine your experience would feel incomplete and frustrating. There should be a way to buy both games in one purchase, shipped to different addresses (or even the same address).
Tips For Players
- Space Requirements: a small table
- Required Gear: pen and paper
Buy your copy of Escape Room In A Box’s Time Drifters: Kira’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Mattel provided a sample for review.
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