Fox in a Box – The Prison [Review]

The puzzle prison with a sadistic warden.

Location: Chicago, IL

Date played: August 11, 2016

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $99 for 2-3 players, $132 for 4 players, $165 for 5 players

Story & setting

This escape room took place in a standard prison setting. It was as gray, sparse, and unwelcoming as one would expect.

Some benefactor started a riot in another cell block to provide us time and opportunity for a daring escape.

A line of gray lockers beside a prison cage. A pinup girl hangs on the wall.

Puzzles

The puzzles in The Prison were generally standard room escape interactions.

The early puzzles were stronger and relied on manipulating the environment of the prison.

Later in the game, the quality fell when unexciting interactions that were detached from the environment became the norm.

Standouts

The game started with the team split between two prison cells. This forced teamwork and communication.

The first half of this game included some nifty interactions.

I adore the name Fox in a Box. It’s memorable and clever.

Shortcomings

The Prison was brutally uneven. At one juncture in the game, half of our divided team had far more game play opportunity than the other. There was no game mechanism to ensure that both groups would continually participate throughout that portion of the experience.

At one point we stopped making progress and received a series of truly useless hints that actually led us further from the solution. Thus we spent a large portion of our game doing nothing. The fact that our gamemaster couldn’t read how miserable we were from our not-at-all concealed body language was a massive miss.

The second half of the game wasn’t up to the standard set by the first half.

Additionally, this game didn’t live up to Fox in a Box’s own standard. We had played Zombie Lab and Cold War Bunker at this company’s Los Angeles location, under the less creative name Room Escape Los Angeles. Those two games set higher expectations.

Should I play Fox in a Box’s The Prison?

The standard room escape puzzles weren’t particularly challenging or exciting, but the early game utilized the stark environment in some fun ways.

For players to truly enjoy this game, Fox in a Box needs to dramatically improve their gamemastering: the gamemaster should work to maximize the team’s fun. In our experience, the gamemastering was at best incompetent and at worst antagonistic.

If you visit The Prison, we recommend a team size of four, since you will be split into two groups, in an uneven setting that puts pressure on any player working alone. Choose a team of players who will ensure that everyone has a good time.

That said, regardless of your skill level, we recommend Cold War Bunker and Zombie Lab over The Prison.

Book your hour with Fox in a Box’s The Prison, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Fox in a Box comped our tickets for this game.

Room Escape Los Angeles by Fox in a Box – Zombie Lab [Review]

Another zombie! This one might have brains.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Date played: March 21, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 5-6

Price: $33 per ticket

Theme & story

The Zombie Virus has been released in Russia. A group of researchers discovered the cure, but succumbed to the disease before they were able to produce and distribute their antidote. It was our job to enter their lab, determine how to cure the Virus, and distribute the antidote before we were turned into brain-eating monsters.

The game was set in a lab-like environment with a creepy zombie apocalypse twist.

Flirting with horror

In the The Zombie Lab, Room Escape Los Angeles created a game that felt raw and just on the edge of horror. It never crossed the line to become really frightening, but there were moments where it felt like it was just about to do so.

Room Escape Los Angeles - The Zombie Lab
Grrr… argh

Cool tech & puzzles

Room Escape Los Angeles used an interesting variety of technology to craft a wide array of puzzles. There was something for absolutely everyone to solve and it made for a very entertaining experience.

Attention to detail

More than most games, The Zombie Lab rewarded attention to detail and punished those who wouldn’t take the time to seriously search and learn their way around the game space.

There was always something to do in The Zombie Lab.

Duplicative locks

Room Escape Los Angeles had one nuanced problem that we found in both of their games: they used too many of the same model key and combination locks.

This created needlessly tedious situations where we found ourselves having to try a key in a number of different locks or apply the same combination into too many locks.

Solving puzzles and opening things is fun. Applying the same solution over and over again because “1234” can fit in 5 different locks is a bit of a drag.

This is a very fixable flaw, but one that wore on our team.

Should I play Room Escape Los Angeles’s The Zombie Lab?

I burned out on The Walking Dead after season three. I avoid zombie movies like the plague. I am generally tired of all of the mindless shambling corpses in American popular culture… so I was skeptical going into The Zombie Lab. The skepticism didn’t hold up. The Zombie Lab was a fun game. It toyed with zombie tropes without becoming too much.

The variety of puzzles created an environment where every player on our team had more than one moment to shine.

The technology that supported the game was fun, interesting, and durable. The Zombie Lab was intense, well executed, and kept us guessing until the very last moment of the game.

Leave young children at home. Everyone else should be just fine in The Zombie Lab, even if they get a bit jittery at times.

Book your hour with Room Escape Los Angeles’ The Zombie Lab, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Room Escape Los Angeles comped our tickets for this game.

Room Escape Los Angeles by Fox in a Box – Cold War Bunker [Review]

Like a Tom Clancy novel… without the infallible character.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date played: March 21, 2016

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 4-6

Price: It varies by team size: $99 for 2-3 players, $132 for 4 players, $165 for 5 players, $198 for 6 players.

Monday morning

Room Escape Los Angeles isn’t usually open on Monday mornings; they opened specifically so that we could visit during our one remaining window of time in a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles. The staff were exceptional.

Story

A mad former Soviet agent had activated a nuclear launch sequence in this bunker. We had to disarm the nukes.

The “escape games” at Room Escape Los Angeles  aren’t actually escapes; the doors to the games were never locked. In this game, we completed a specific mission.

Room Escape Los Angeles - Cold War Bunker
Probably the most functional team of people we had just met. Ever.

Game design

Cold War Bunker was well themed on the Cold War. The game was outfitted with the appropriate props, many of which were also puzzles.

Both the story and props were tongue-in-cheek; this game didn’t take itself too seriously. The fun was derived in part from the levity with which the game approached a serious theme.

There was one particular mechanism for advancing the game that was brilliantly engineered, Cold War-esque, and incredibly fun.

Technology

The meat of the game relied on brilliantly executed technology that was far ahead of its time and has remained top notch. While not the newest or the most magical, it revealed itself as the game progressed and synced well with the game.

Game mechanics

Cold War Bunker required extensive searching in and about the different puzzles.

This game also incorporated many individually locked elements that opened as the game progressed. It relied too heavily on multiple instances of the same lock model, which necessitated a lot of trial and error input.

We enjoyed the variety of puzzle types that enabled each team member to play to their own strengths.

One stumble

One simple puzzle felt chintzy. I wasn’t even convinced it was a puzzle, except that there really wasn’t anything else that could have moved us forward at that point.

This game element was not on par with the rest of this highly polished experience.

Should I play Room Escape Los Angeles’ Cold War Bunker?

We brought a team of mixed experience levels to play the Bunker. Everyone had fun. Each of us found game elements that spoke to us, frustrated us, and wowed us. In that way, the Cold War Bunker achieved success.

The Bunker was a hands-on game. Be ready to dig through the set and interact with the different items in different ways.

Newer players will likely find many of the technologically driven game elements quite difficult. Experienced players shouldn’t have a hard time tackling this room. Everyone will be smiling throughout. It was a fun play.

Book your hour with Room Escape Los Angeles’ Cold War Bunker, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Room Escape Los Angeles comped our tickets for this game.