Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters “Third Game” [Reaction]

Location: at home

Date Played: January 19, 2022

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: about 60 minutes

Price: about $29 ($14.99 each for Kira’s Story & Isabel’s Story)

REA Reaction

In this third (nameless?) game, unlocked by solving both Time Drifters: Kira’s Story and Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, we collaborated across a video call to reunite our two heroines. The premise was adorable, and perfect for a pandemic era of virtual, distanced play. The puzzles relied primarily on communication, and this worked well.

Box art for Time Drifters, Kira's Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.Box art for Time Drifters, Isabel' Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

The game excelled at reusing game components from Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story in entirely new ways. Furthermore, knowledge we’d gained solving these previous stories was relevant in the third game. The flow of information went in the right direction, with each story informing the combined experience, but the combined game never impeding the individual games.

The biggest let down during our play was Mattel’s website. The solution was not able to be internally confirmed in any way, and the website where we would confirm it (and see hints) was down for at least a number of days.

I wish that Kira’s Story and Isabel’s Story were sold together, with the option to supply to separate mailing addresses. It would be a letdown to only purchase one, and not enjoy this sequence of collaborative communication puzzles, which was revealed upon completion of either game. The product felt like 3 games in 2 boxes.

Close up, a panel atop the game box reads, "Stop! Don't lift this panel until you are ready to start the game."

Tips For Players

To play this “third game,” you need to have solved either Time Drifters: Kira’s Story or Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story. Set up a video call with friends who have solved the other game and combine your knowledge and materials to solve this game.

  • 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 Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided samples for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story [Reaction]

Location: at home

Date Played: January 17, 2022

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: about 60 minutes

Price: about $14.99

REA Reaction

Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story was able to deliver a surprising level of complexity and variable gameplay, considering how few objects were seemingly contained in the box. Every item, both in and on the box, was cleverly used in multiple, varied ways, keeping us on our toes. The items were tangible and fun to play with, and worked well as puzzle-solving tools and mechanisms. 

Box art for Time Drifters, Isabel' Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

Many tabletop games lean towards word puzzles presented on paper, yet Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story went hard in the logic puzzle category. This was a welcome change for our team of logic-obsessed puzzlers, but may not be for everyone. While not too challenging for experienced players, this would be a great way to engage puzzle-curious friends and family members. The game contained a subtle yet effective way to lead players from puzzle to puzzle without being overbearing. 

While the puzzles included were fun, and the flow of the game worked, the experience felt short. We were left longing for another handful of puzzles after the first portion of the game. 

Assorted paper and plastic components. There's an interesting looking box with 4 switches on it.

Time Drifters: Isabel’s Story felt incomplete without Time Drifters: Kira’s Story, as the gameplay came to an abrupt halt after solving the final “solo” puzzle. At this juncture, we were presented with multiple additional puzzles with only half of the information. 

I absolutely love that this game came out during these crazy unprecedented times, with the option to go on Amazon or stop by your local Target to pick up half, while someone 3 time zones away could pick up the other half. Although the box notes you can have a friend purchase the other half, this should be more strongly portrayed as only a partial game without both copies. The game can also be easily reset and passed onto another group, with the option to print paper components you may have written on. 

Time Drifters as a whole is a great option for distance puzzling with friends and loved ones you can’t typically puzzle with in person. 

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: Isabel’s Story, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided a sample for review.

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Kira’s Story [Review]

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

REA Reaction

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.

Box art for Time Drifters, Kira's Story, depicts a woman working on a the exterior of a steam punk-ish time machine.

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

Why play?

  • 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

Story

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.

Kira's Story box open beside the story, rules, and a caution panel.
Continue reading “Escape Room In A Box – Time Drifters: Kira’s Story [Review]”

Escape Room in a Box – Flashback [Review]

Escape Room in Box: Flashback is included in our recommendation guide for Tabletop Escape Games. For more of the best remote escape games in this style, check out the recommendation guide.

Update 3/16/21: If you enjoy Flashback, we hope you’ll check out our interview with game and puzzle designers Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin (The Wild Optimists) on The Reality Escape Pod.

Cameo

Location:  at home

Date Played: July 27, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $20.99

Publisher: Mattel

Disclaimer

I’m going to open by being especially up front. We know the creators of Escape Room in a Box very well.

There’s a mutual respect and friendship that we need to be clear about. David has collaborated with the women behind this product on a television pilot… and there’s enough affection in this friendship that Juliana and Ariel named the main character of Flashback Dr. Lisa David.

No one is hiding anything.

We wrote as honest a review as we would for anyone else, but if you’d like to disregard our thoughts on this product, feel free to stop reading now.

REA Reaction

Mainstream, mass-produced tabletop escape games are almost exclusively made from paper; Escape Room in a Box is the exception.

We were big fans of Escape Room in a Box’s The Werewolf Experiment and we’re huge fans of Flashback. Anyone can open this box and just play it. There aren’t laborious rules, quirky apps, or unusual nuances to understand. That’s how escape rooms are supposed to work.

The weakest points in this game were two of the puzzles that felt like they needed a little more work. One lacked precision; the other required lighting conditions that won’t always be present. Neither of these broke the game in a significant way.

From the writing, to the art, to the puzzles, Flashback demonstrated that Escape Room in a Box wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. These are still two of the strongest, most escape room-y tabletop games on the market.

Whether you’re new to the genre or you play them all, we recommend Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Solid puzzles that are far more tactile than most tabletop escape games
  • A cute story and strong writing

Story

We’d received an urgent letter from Dr. Lisa David warning us that we were in grave danger. One of her friends had descended into madness and was coming after us.

We had to delve into her past in order to determine what was wrong and remedy the situation.

Setup

Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback was a natural successor to The Werewolf Experiment. The game was loaded with tangible components and played like a real life escape room. We opened the box and the progression of play was self-evident.

There were minimal rules and no software to futz with.

Flashback was structured in three 30-minute segments (blue, red, and purple). They could be solved in any order or in parallel; each stood on its own as a unique path. For reference, we completed all 3 paths in about 45 minutes.

Gameplay

Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback was a play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ The folks at Escape Room in Box write their games in a playful, entertaining voice. They leaned into this with Flashback, delivering an adorable story through fun and relatable banter.

➕ Flashback relied heavily on tangible props, more so than the majority of boxed escape rooms. One of these interactions will likely stop some players cold (rest assured, it was well clued). In this way, Flashback felt more like an escape room than many of the play-at-home games in this style.

➕ The colored puzzle tracks were clear. We could play them sequentially or simultaneously, and we never felt lost. We enjoyed how the tracks were themed by puzzle type, which was grounded in the narrative. The gameplay worked well.

➕ The game looked and felt polished. We appreciated the quality paper materials. The art looked great, especially in the purple track.

➖ While some of the artwork was adorable, it didn’t carry throughout all of the puzzle tracks. More memorable art throughout the game would have further supported the narrative.

➖ A few of the puzzles lacked precision. In one instance, the prop didn’t match its cluing quite closely enough. In another instance, we didn’t have the environment that the puzzle demanded or enough direction as to how to create it. These puzzles felt unrefined.

➕ With Flashback, Escape Room in a Box integrated the narrative and puzzles more closely than in their original game, which was a delight.

➕ The hint system was easy to use, self-service, and comprehensive.

Flashback was easier than many of the play-at-home escape rooms on the market. This will be a quick playthrough for experienced puzzlers, though no less fun because of it. If you’re looking for meaty puzzles, however, look elsewhere. Flashback would be a great choice for beginners and families.

➕ At $20, the value of this game is insane relative to other similar products made entirely of paper.

😏 Objectively speaking, Doctor Lisa David was a most excellent character name.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pencil, paper, access to a kitchen
  • I would recommend playing the puzzle tracks sequentially. There’s no real reason to rush though this game. Savor it.

Buy your copy of Escape Room in a Box’s Flashback, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Mattel provided a sample for review. 

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

Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment – The Mattel Edition

The Werewolf Experiment is included in our recommendation guide for Tabletop Escape Games. For more of the best remote escape games in this style, check out the recommendation guide.

Update 3/16/21: If you enjoy The Werewolf Experiment, we hope you’ll check out our interview with game and puzzle designers Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin (The Wild Optimists) on The Reality Escape Pod.

This is the third edition of this game to arrive in the mail.

We wrote about the first one in February 2016. It was a prototype, sent to us in the hopes that we would promote the Kickstarter. Spoiler: we did.

We wrote about the second one in October 2017. We’d backed the Kickstarter and now we could play the game that Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin had created.

Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment's black, white, and yellow box.

Now Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment has arrived yet again. This time, it’s manufactured by Mattel and available on Amazon for $29.99.

What’s the difference?

Price

At $30, the new Mattel edition is $15 – $30 less expensive.

In-game: The initial opening of the box, a number of components are obscured by a piece of paper that reads, "Keep out."

Components

The Mattel edition has a new aesthetic. It’s still playful, but its color pallet shift leans a little more brown.

In-game: a green biohazard box locked with a plastic 3 digit lock, a gold plastic warded lock, and art depciting a female werewolf.

Most noticeably, from my vantage point, the locks – combination and key – were made from plastic. Typing this, it sounds like a criticism, but it isn’t. The locks work well. They don’t need to be durable; they aren’t security devices.

Mattel swapped out a few props for new items. This was for ease of manufacturing and to eliminate the destructible element.

In-game: a pad of paper and a pencil.

Puzzle Variation

A few of the puzzles in the new edition are different from the original. Some changes are minor improvements; some are a minor downgrade. Either way, nothing has changed enough that it’s worth buying a new one if you’ve already played the old one (unless you want some plastic locks).

A close up of many components, "Start your timer now!" scarwled

Should I Buy Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment?

Three editions in, we stand by both our previous reviews of Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment. If you’ve already played the Kickstarter version, you’ve seen what this game has to offer. We still think that it’s the best that the play-at-home escape room market has to date.

If you haven’t played Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment, it’s now available at a fraction of the price and with 2-day delivery.

Learn More About The Making of this Product

We interviewed the duo behind this game in late 2017. The creators of Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment, Juliana and Ariel, gave a ton of interesting insights into the marathon that was bringing this game to market.

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