Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 7 [Review]

Sweet victory

Location: at home

Date Played: April 29, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run Box 7 wrapped up the On the Run series. It had some solid puzzles and a satisfying conclusion. Yet again, we were thwarted by a website form inconsistency that soured our experience. Given a bit of distance, we’re pleased with the variety in the series and the story we unraveled through the boxes.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Players who have completed the previous On The Run boxes

Why play?

  • You can play at home
  • Because you’re already invested in the story
  • The conclusion of the saga
  • Chocolate

Story

Dispatch by Breakout concluded in Box 7 with a visit to the land of chocolate and dubious banking: Switzerland. This final chapter closed out the On The Run story arc and resolved all of the major storylines that we had explored over the past seven months.

While this was the end of the line for On The Run, it was not the conclusion of Dispatch by Breakout. A new standalone two-box story follows it.

Chocolate resting atop an envelope from the Bailey Detective Company.

Setup

Our Swiss conclusion to On The Run was loaded similarly to the previous boxes, with a collection of documents and one unusual item: a bar of chocolate.

Gameplay

Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run Box 7 played similarly to the previous box, opening with a run of puzzles that gave way to a series of game-concluding deductions.

Analysis

+ The puzzles played well.

+ The deductions felt justified, even if some of them seemed like they came crashing back into the story from the setup seven months ago.

– Like the first box, there was yet another Instagram account that felt phoned in.

+ The story of On the Run resolved cleanly.

– I hit yet another snag inputting a name into a web form. This false negative left me spinning for an hour and reevaluating my read on the case, until I gave up and asked a friend who had already finished the box. He pointed out that I had it right all along. The frustration and lost momentum that this caused was unnecessary and killed the otherwise positive mood.

+ The chocolate was a lovely prize for having completed the On The Run gauntlet. The escape room community often debates about what makes for a good prize for winning teams. While I don’t think that a prize is necessary in escape rooms… I wouldn’t mind an industry standard based around chocolate.

A final thought: Overall, On The Run has been a shaky, but generally improving, series of boxes. I’m looking forward to seeing where Breakout takes this series. I hope that they clean up their digital inputs and add a structured self-service hint system. Slack just isn’t cutting it. If they can continue to tell a compelling story and figure out how to make sure that their games don’t needlessly dead-end, then I will keep coming back for more.

Tips for Playing

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’sOn the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complimentary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 6 [Review]

Return of the Jigsaw

Location: at home

Date Played: April 29, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run Box 6 was exciting because it started to wrap up the plot threads from previous boxes in the series. Although we were incredibly frustrated by inconsistencies in website forms, we were eager to see resolution start to take shape.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 6 with a jigsaw puzzle, a scroll, and assorted papers from the box.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Players who have completed the previous On The Run boxes

Why play?

  • You can play at home
  • Because you’re already invested in the story
  • The series starts to conclude

Story

The next stop in On The Run’s globetrotting puzzle conspiracy was Greece. On this leg of the journey we tied off a variety of loose ends, drawing ever closer to a complete understanding of the murder mystery that we’d been exploring for half a year.

Setup

In keeping with tradition, On the Run Box 6 contained an assortment of documents and evidence, with two unusual props: a small scroll and a jigsaw puzzle.

A blue and white jigsaw puzzle.

Gameplay

Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run Box 6 once again deviated from the previous boxes. This episode began with a few traditional puzzles and then shifted its focus to exploring the evidence, deducing, and unraveling the conspiracies that were the impetus for the series.

Analysis

+ The puzzles were clear and well clued.

– I love jigsaw puzzles, but I’m kind of torn on the presence of one in this series. Regardless of whether it belonged, I wish that the jigsaw puzzle was more exciting and aesthetically pleasing as it was a drab puzzle with a lot of visual noise likely to ramp up its difficulty.

– One otherwise fine puzzle suffered from imprecise printing where the font and ink/ paper selection combined to create a situation where it was incredibly difficult to tell + and ÷ symbols apart.

+ I liked the deduction portion of this box. It followed in the footsteps of the closing interactions of the previous box and it finally felt like we were doing detective work.

+ It was fantastic to finally close out some of the storylines and begin to get some closure.

– We had been meeting up with a friend in a convenient Manhattan Panera to work on the previous Dispatch boxes. As of this box, we had too much content to carry around and our friend had to trek over to our home. The On The Run boxes were mostly self-contained, but not entirely, so we felt that we had to have all of the boxes on hand in order to puzzle. This also meant that we were constantly worried that we had missed or forgotten a detail that could have been hidden somewhere among all of the previous content.

– We lost a shocking amount of time because we didn’t include a middle name in a website’s form field. This wasn’t the first time that we’d had the correct answer, but didn’t format it exactly as the website demanded. This had been annoying in the past, but in this instance it was game-shattering. Breakout, please, sort out your naming problems. Upper/ lower case shouldn’t matter. Middle names shouldn’t matter. Or if they do, establish that early and keep things consistent. 

Tips for Playing

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complimentary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 5 [Review]

The Encipher Strikes Back.

Location: at home

Date Played: March 20, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On The Run Box suffered from its position in the middle of the series. The puzzles drew on ciphers from the previous box more often than they offered new challenges. It also didn’t provide anything new in terms of story. This box was a lull in the middle.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 5 assorted papers from the box and a post card that reads, "I believe there is a on the front written in masonic cipher."

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Players who have completed the previous On The Run boxes

Why play?

  • You can play at home
  • Because you’re already invested in the story
  • To get to the Box 6

Story

On The Run Box 5 took us to Tanzania on our quest to save our BFF from a tangled conspiracy. This chapter marked a shift in the narrative as the number of new questions slowed and we started to uncover answers.

Setup

On The Run Box 5 included an assortment of paper articles and documents, and as well as the website-based content that we’d come to expect from the Dispatch series. In keeping with the format, this box’s main event was a Mancala puzzle complete with a bag of glass beads.

The Mancala board with glass beads and a burlap bag to hold them.

Gameplay

Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run Box 5 felt like Groundhog Day as we looped through an assortment of common ciphers as well as a greatest hits list of the ciphers from Box 4.

This was a grueling middle chapter if I’ve ever seen one.

Analysis

– The cipher that had overstayed its welcome in the previous box returned with vengeance. Revisiting it did not reignite dormant affinity.

– The cipher that had suffered from an ambiguity problem in the previous box also returned with 4x the content. What had started as a great, if slightly fuzzy, concept turned into a grind in the purest sense of the word.

+/- The Mancala puzzle was an awesome concept and a fun prop. The puzzle itself needed a stronger clue structure.

+ The concluding sequence of interactions and content was strong and a saving grace for this box.

Tips for Playing

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complementary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 3 [Review]

Commit Sudoku.

Location: at home

Date Played: March 5, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run, Box 3 followed in the style of On the Run, Box 2. It was a narrative-driven, puzzle-focused game. Compared to the previous boxes, we liked a few of the puzzles a lot less, and we enjoyed other puzzles a whole lot more. The box was a mixed bag.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The puzzles are tied to the narrative.
  • You can play at home.

Story

Box 3 continued Dispatch’s On the Run Box narrative, taking us to Japan to continue our investigation into the murder of our best friend’s wife. While this chapter provided some additional clues to our main narrative, we found ourselves focusing most of our energy on a fire in a local hotel.

An assortment of documents and items from Dispatch Box 3.

Setup

Box 3 looked similar to Box 2.

We were given an assortment of largely paper-based items that were printed on various types of paper stock and in a wide variety of styles. These paper components were augmented by a couple of more tangible props.

Gameplay

In addition to looking similar to the Box 2, Box 3 also played similarly. The gameplay was derived from exploring documents, websites, and props, identifying the thematically relevant puzzles, and working through them.

Box 3 concluded with a video that both indicated the end of the box’s puzzles and recapped everything that we were supposed to have uncovered.

Standouts

Box 3 contained the rarely seen thematically- and narratively-appropriate Sudoku puzzle, and Dispatch put a fun twist on this.

Box 3 continued the trajectory established by Box 2 and provided an even more interesting series of puzzles that fit the story and setting of the game.

This was a good team game, as there were ample opportunities to parallel puzzle.

Shortcomings

There was another lengthy and tedious process puzzle that dramatically overstayed its welcome. It was complicated by ambiguous cluing and functionality. We were counting the minutes until we could end this task. Plus, we’re pretty sure that there was a typo that confused the conclusion of this puzzle.

We struggled to fully connect the events of this box back to the overall narrative.

Between the typo and struggling to get started with the aforementioned process puzzle, we found ourselves wishing that Dispatch had a better self-service hint system. They have Slack channels where players can discuss the puzzles, but it was a clumsy tool and once there, it was filled with spoilers that we couldn’t avoid or unsee.

Tips for Playing

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complementary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 2 [Review]

Ya gotta dumpster dive, and then you solve away.

Location: at home

Date Played: February 20, 2018

Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend  2-4

Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles

Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription

REA Reaction

On the Run, Box 2 provided more puzzles and less narrative than On the Run, Box 1. It was only recognizable as the sequel in so far as it was part of the same story. While we didn’t enjoy all the puzzles equally, we appreciated how they generally tied into the fiction.

If you are on the fence after the first box, this ones plays really differently. Try it.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The puzzles are tied to the narrative.
  • You can play at home.

Story

After the events in On the Run, Box 1, we were following a lead in South America and exploring additional evidence in the mysterious murder of our best friend’s wife.

An assortment of documents and items from Dispatch Box 2.

Setup

Where the bulk of the Prelude involved reading a journal, this time we focused on smaller, less exposition-y pieces of evidence. We had some garbage to explore as well as other mysterious items and documents.

Most of the items in Box 2 were paper based with varying paper stock and printing style. There was one beautiful metal item. As with Box 1, we needed a web browser to access key content and interactions.

Everything helped us learn more about the conspiracy underpinning the murder.

Gameplay

Box 2 used the story established in Box 1 as a backdrop for a more puzzle-focused installment. This was a considerably more tangible and puzzley box to play through.

The shift in gameplay was a significant improvement over the first box.

The chapter concluded with a video that both indicated the end of the box’s puzzles and recapped everything that we were supposed to have uncovered.

Standouts

Box 2 was a lot more tangible and interactive than Box 1, which was almost entirely exposition.

The puzzles felt like puzzles.

Box 2 advanced the story, while adding to the mystery.

The items and interactions seemed like they belonged in the story.

Shortcomings

While all the puzzles came together and made sense, and we enjoyed ourselves, it also felt tedious. Most of the key interactions were process puzzles. Once we had the aha moment, we had a lot of work to grind through in order to complete the objective.

Tips for Playing

Subscribe to Dispatch by Breakout’s On the Run, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Dispatch by Breakout provided a complementary subscription.

(If you purchase via our link, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)