Odes Unboxed – Suite Heart – 2023 [Review]

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary.

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 14, 2023

Team size: 2

Duration: The main experience is 2-3 hours. There are also a light intro and outro, each about 15 minutes, and meant to be experienced 1-2 days before or after the main experience, respectively.

Price: ranges from $1,000 – $2,500

REA Reaction

Suite Heart is a shared experience for couples, first available for Valentine’s Day 2023. Although we experienced it together, we had different roles: Gifter and Giftee.

Lisa (Gifter) Reacts

Suite Heart was an indulgence.

Its magic came from the format, the care of the creator, and what we gave to it… both ahead of time and in the moment.

As the Gifter, I had the luxury of time to reflect on my love for David and our relationship. We show our love daily, in little ways, but this was a decadence in celebration of each other that we rarely afford ourselves.

I was continually impressed by how smoothly this worked. The interactions were the vehicle to deliver to us our own exploration of our relationship. It’s not a puzzle game. It’s for a couple who want to engage with (very!) light puzzling, tangible props, and fun reveals to have an emotional experience.

I laughed. I cried. (I cried a lot, in a good way.) We spent time appreciating each other. That was the true gift of the experience.

A custom sticker of Lisa & David dancing in shadow pose.

David (Giftee) Reacts

Suite Heart was a moving experience, a motivated moment to stop and reflect on life with my wife of 7 years and partner of 9.

I knew that this was coming, but I did not know what to expect. Suite Heart took us on a journey of memories, senses, and emotions. It was an opportunity to revisit our past, appreciate our present, and think about our future. Suite Heart was a warm reminder that while I may have 99 problems, my marriage isn’t one of them.

Suite Heart was touching. The way that Odes Unboxed took Lisa’s memories and thoughts and turned them into an experience that surprised and delighted us as individuals and as a unit left my heart full. It also left me feeling a fair bit of pressure to adequately express myself back to Lisa.

In the end, there are a few artifacts of this experience that I intend to keep forever, and for that I am deeply thankful.

It’s with all of that in mind that I have to address the price… because we didn’t know the price when we experienced Suite Heart. We had no idea that we were in the midst of the most expensive single experience that we have reviewed on this site in 8+ years. Reading that Suite Heart sells for $1,000+ was a jarring conclusion because, and I am not ashamed to say this, we would never spend that kind of money on ourselves for a tabletop experience, beautiful as the experience was. And if we had known the price up front, we likely would have declined the review opportunity.

The price point left us feeling a fair amount of dissonance: a feeling that we loved the experience that we had been gifted, and a bit of shock that we had accidentally broken our rule of never accepting a free or discounted experience that we wouldn’t be willing to pay full price for. (In Odes Unboxed’s defense, they did not know that we had this rule, there was no subterfuge. They also hadn’t published their pricing yet.)

In the end, I’m left with this advice: Suite Heart is a beautifully crafted experience for loving couples to share. If the price gives you pause, you probably cannot afford it. Given our means, it would have been difficult to fully appreciate if I needed to reflect on it costing upwards of $250 per hour for ~4 hours.

If you can spend that money and not feel pressure, then it’s a beautiful opportunity to reflect on your relationship.

Closeup of an unlocked golden heart lock.

Who is this for?

  • Exactly 2 people: you and your romantic partner
  • Best for couples who have been together for some time
  • Couples seeking a shared experience
  • Individuals who are willing to open up about their feelings for their partner
  • Those who will embrace the experience and commit to giving it their all
  • Any experience level
  • Those who have the financial means to enjoy it

Why play?

  • To feel intimately and emotionally connected to your partner
  • To have your memories turned into a tangible experience and keepsake

Story

We were checking into a romantic getaway. We’d visit different rooms together on this journey.

The “story” was more of a framing than anything else, but it shaped the experience.

The top of a cardboard box that reads, "Welcome," in cursive font. Attached to the box is an envelope labeled, "Secret message for Lisa." It is all sealed with packing tape that is covered in hearts and roses, and reads, "Suite Heart."

Setup

The experience was shared, but one person was the “Gifter” and the other person was the “Giftee.”

As the Gifter, I filled out an intake Google Document. I provided information about myself, David, and our relationship.

This took a couple of hours to fill out. I kept it open in a browser tab for about a week, continually returning to it as I decided what I wanted to write.

A cardboard box with an assortment of illustrations on the side, sealed with custom packing tape that reads, "Suite Heart."

Gameplay

Odes Unboxed’s Suite Heart was an intimate experience, shared by a romantic couple. It was a tabletop experience, suitable to unbox in your home or perhaps on a romantic getaway.

“Gameplay” consisted of opening locks to reveal new content, and then having shared experiences through the materials we revealed.

Any puzzle solving was extremely light. If you’re a puzzle lover, consider this barely puzzley.

The true mechanic was engaging with each other. In this sense, gameplay consisted of thinking about our relationship and expressing our feelings. Most importantly, the experience asked us to be present and together.

A pile of opened sealed envelopes, locks, bags, and a cryptex.

Analysis

Suite Heart delivered a personalized experience through standard gameplay. This was the first time we’ve seen an experience achieve this balance. The same mechanisms that guided how we shared our memories, emotions, and love for each other also guided similar but entirely personal experiences for other couples.

➕ As the Gifter, I filled out the intake form alone. However, I was a full participant in the experience. The intake form didn’t spoil any surprises. In fact, I delighted in discovering how Odes Unboxed wove each of my responses into Suite Heart.

➕ The 15-minute intro (meant to be played 1-2 days before the main part) set the stage well and teased the experience to come.

A package addressed to David & Lisa wrapped in silver paper with a silver bow.

➕ Throughout the experience, the instructions were impeccable. We felt cared for and guided. We weren’t going to accidentally open anything in the wrong order. Hints were also exceptionally granular.

➖We opened envelopes within envelopes within envelopes. By the end, the volume of envelopes and their contents was feeling a bit overwhelming, despite the clear instructions. There were just so many instructions everywhere! The nesting envelopes could have been scaled back without lessening the reveals.

Suite Heart suggested that we stow our phones away in a little pouch to avoid distractions. We agree with that goal; we did not want notifications interrupting our attention. However, had we actually locked them up, we would have been continually burdened by getting them out to use them as timers, to take hints (if needed), and for other phone-based interactions. Do not disturb mode would suffice.

➕ Everything in the box was high quality; the presentation was stellar. From the magnetic closures to the printed materials to abundant wax seals, everything was thoughtfully designed and satisfying to touch.

➕ Little details delighted us. For example, I loved that they turned one of my favorite photos of us into a sticker.

Suite Heart incorporated all of our senses. These details helped us be present for every moment of the experience.

Suite Heart asked us to take risks, to stare into the face of vulnerability. It was elegantly crafted to ramp up to the most intimate moments, and then gently transition out of them.

➖ Throughout Suite Heart, we periodically returned to symbolism through interactions with a certain tangible object. We imagine this was meant to turn into a keepsake, but the interactions felt cheesy. These segments didn’t land for us. There were so many truly meaningful experiences and keepsakes created naturally through Suite Heart. This wasn’t needed.

➖ As we wrapped up the main portion of Suite Heart, we were presented with prompts to help us reflect and steer us into the denouement. These missed the mark. As much as Suite Heart was a shared experience, we were on uneven footing as Gifter and Giftee. As the Gifter, I found it awkward to give more when I had already given so much, especially since my prompt was too similar to those in the intake form. As the Giftee, David felt a lot of pressure to make his contribution in this moment count. This was the only setup like this for him. His prompt seemed disconnected from what he really needed to reflect on: what I’d given him. As writers, we both reinterpreted the prompts to make the moment land.

➕ The 15-minute outro gave us a way to reflect, and come down from a heightened emotional state together. It was fulfilling, and left us in the emotional state it wanted. We also unwrapped some of what we felt had been missing earlier in the experience, creating the keepsake that we truly wanted.

A padlocked cloth bag that reads, "Property of David & Lisa." Tied to the bag is a wax sealed envelope.

➕ Odes Unboxed enclosed self-addressed envelopes to send back any materials we didn’t want to keep. There were so many material elements to this experience. As people who don’t like to keep stuff we won’t use, but also hate creating more trash when materials could be repurposed, we really appreciated this extra thoughtfulness.

❓/➖ This first run of Suite Heart was designed to be experienced for Valentine’s Day. The timing of the intake form, box delivery, and suggested experience dates all coincided with Valentine’s Day 2023. This provided scalability for Odes Unboxed. That said, we would have preferred to experience Suite Heart on a day that is special to us, not on a day that Hallmark has declared special for all.

Suite Heart is expensive. For many readers, it will be prohibitively expensive. Odes Unboxed is still finalizing the price, but they expect Suite Heart to cost between $1,000 – $2,500. This is a lot of money.

I would never spend this amount of money as a surprise for David. This is an amount of money that we would decide together to spend. I would never spend this amount of money on a tabletop experience, no matter how elegantly designed, expertly crafted, and personalized. There is a market for this, but we aren’t part of it.

When I think about spending this much money on a gift, I expect a level of polish that was occasionally missing. For example, the website doesn’t convey “luxury gift” to me.

Furthermore, the price complicates the intimacy. I can see some Gifters feeling a lot of pressure already. Suite Heart asks you to be vulnerable, truthful, and intimate. It asks you to give of yourself. That’s scary. This is a price point that escalates that pressure.

For many people, the decision to buy Suite Heart likely comes down to your gifting budget.

🖋️ As the Gifter, I did a fair bit of writing during the intake process. This was beautifully and clearly guided. I put a lot of thought into my messages, and I love how they were rolled into the experience. After seeing this, David and I both agreed it would have been wonderful to have the option to handwrite this portion, as it would have been extra special to have my words appear in my own handwriting.

➕ We could feel the labor behind Suite Heart. Everything had been crafted with love, and with us in mind. The level of care was exquisite. It permeated every aspect of the experience. Creator Josh Rosenfeld has a unique ability to manipulate emotions… for the good of everyone involved.

Closeup of a rose wax seal that is touched up with colored markers adding red to the rose, green to the leaves, and a purple ring around it all.
David made one of the wax seals extra pretty for me.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a large table… the contents will sprawl
  • Required Gear: pen

Join the waitlist for your copy of Odes Unboxed’s Suite Heart, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Odes Unboxed provided a sample for review.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful review. It’s gratifying to know the experience moved you, and all the more meaningful because I’ve been influenced so much as a designer by REPOD and RECON.

    I deeply appreciate the critical feedback as well. It excites me that there’s room to keep making this experience more magical, and I have many ideas swirling around.

    I’m going to rework and adapt Suite Heart based on the feedback here and based on other couples’ responses too. As the next version develops, I’ll comment here with periodic updates.

    Thanks again for playing along with me to create a special Valentine’s Day for ya and for helping me level this up for more folks in the future!

    1. Thank you… for the beautiful experience and your the thoughtful reflection on the review. We look forward to learning how it evolves. Yes, definitely leave comments here with updates!

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