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.)

Unlock! – The Adventures of Oz [Review]

There’s no place like home.

Location: at home

Date Played: May 26, 2018

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes*

Price: $14.99 per ticket

REA Reaction

Space Cowboys really outdid themselves in The Adventures of Oz, one of the Unlock! series’ latest installments. As implied by the name, this episode took us on the adventures of Dorothy and Toto. It told the story and presented puzzles.

The Adventures of Oz was easily our favorite game in the Unlock! lineup thus far.

This, however, should not be your first Unlock! game. Newbies should learn the ropes in a less complex chapter.

Unlock! The Adventures of Oz box art features Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow waling the Yellow Brick Road.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Tabletop gamers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience with the Unlock! series

Why play?

  • Fantastic storytelling through gameplay
  • Beautiful card art
  • Fun puzzles inspired by and integrated with the story

Story

We weren’t in Kansas anymore. The Adventures of Oz followed the familiar story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; we puzzled our way down the Yellow Brick Road.

Unlock! used the original L. Frank Baum tale as the inspiration for this game, as the original is in the public domain… so expect silver slippers.

The folded map, the first card, and the magic mirror.

Setup

Functionally, the core game mechanics of The Adventures of Oz were identical to the previous Unlock! games that we’ve reviewed. If you want a more thorough description, check out our review of the first three games:

Unlock! Escape Adventure – The Formula, The Island of Doctor Goorse, and Squeek & Sausage [Review]

That being said, The Adventures of Oz added a few twists.

Character Cards

There were four character cards in The Adventures of Oz, each with its own quest or side-quest.

The Dorothy and Toto character card.

These were persistent cards that lasted all – or most – of the game and should be assigned to different players. (Double- or triple-up character cards if you have fewer players).

World Map

Upon opening the box, we immediately noticed a folded map of Oz. There came a point early in gameplay when we were instructed to unfold it.

Magic Mirror

There was a thick cardboard magic mirror with 4 bits of cardboard that need to be poked out. As with the map and character cards, the game instructed us when to reach for the mirror.

Story Focus

The Adventures of Oz put a heavy focus on narrative gameplay. It told a story rather than recreated the feel of a traditional escape room.

Gameplay

Unlock!’s The Adventures of Oz was an at-home escape room with a high level of difficulty. The puzzle difficulty varied. Added challenge stemmed from managing the Unlock! game mechanics.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, puzzling, and card management.

Analysis

The Adventures of Oz told a well-known story legitimately well.

+ The card art was beautiful. I found myself looking at cards not as a puzzler, but simply for enjoyment.

+ The character cards were a great addition. They had a variety of functions that added new dynamics to Unlock!’s gameplay.

+ The Magic Mirror was an inspired and versatile prop.

– One puzzle had us wandering through the woods to a dubious solution.

+ There were a few puzzles that put an emphasis on teamwork. These were among the highlights for us.

-/+ *While the game box noted that The Adventures of Oz would be a 60-minute game, the timer on the app was for 90 minutes. 90 minutes was a more realistic playtime, which was great since there was a lot of game… but this typo set incorrect expectations. 30 minutes can be a big deal when planning a game night.

The Adventures of Oz would have been brutally challenging to play without having at least one player at the table who was already comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of the Unlock! series.

– Pixel hunting for hidden numbers is an Unlock! standard… and it had a significant presence in The Adventures of Oz.

– It was challenging to keep track of discarded cards. In The Adventures of Oz, the discard icons were smaller than in Unlock!’s previous games (and they weren’t large to begin with), so this was even more challenging. This visual deprioritization made a bad problem worse.

A tutorial card compared with an Oz card. The "discard" icon is noticeably smaller.
The size difference from the tutorial to the actual game is striking and continues to be one of my biggest struggles when playing Unlock!.

– I absolutely hate that the Unlock! hint system offered no explanation of the solutions. Space Cowboys, could y’all see fit to issue an update to your app that fixes this?

+ All in all, this was hands down our favorite Unlock! game and one of our favorite tabletop escape games in general.

Tips for Playing

  • Inspect everything for hidden numbers.
  • Be sure to keep a close eye on which cards are in play and which cards should be discarded. A single lapse in this can wreak some havoc.

Pickup a copy of Unlock!’s The Adventures of Oz, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Full disclosure: Asmodee sent us a complementary reviewer’s copy of this game.

(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.)

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 4 [Review]

A New Hope

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

In On the Run, Box 4, we worked through quality puzzles. Although it was cipher-heavy, we mostly enjoyed solving these. What Box 4 lost in story clarity it made up for in puzzling.

Dispatch by Breakout – On the Run, Box 4 with a strange deck of cards 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 got more puzzley in Box 4

Story

In Box 4, On The Run visited Australia. In this episode we encountered a significant plot twist that introduced a potential new ally.

Setup

Based purely on its components, The Australia box was fairly bland. Everything was paper- or website-based. The main prop was a deck of cards.

From a puzzle standpoint, however… things were more exciting…

Gameplay

On the Run Box 4 had a lot more puzzle content than the previous boxes, with a wide variety of things to solve.

This box also introduced a blacklight. More on that in a moment.

Analysis

+ I really enjoyed puzzling through Box 4. Up until this point, my commitment to On The Run had been predicated on a curiosity about this story. The trajectory of the series, however, had been leaning considerably more puzzley with each box, and this one had a lot to chew on.

– One of the ciphers was fun, but overstayed its welcome.

– Another nifty cipher had a little bit of an ambiguity problem.

– At this point in the story, there were so many open plot threads that I’m not really sure that I was even following all of them.

+ The arrival of a blacklight made me cringe because I didn’t want to have to blacklight every sheet of paper that had come in all the previous boxes or would come in the future boxes. My gut reaction was unnecessary because Breakout included a persistent game mechanic that subtly indicated when and where to use the blacklight.

+/- However, there was no way for me to be completely sure that I could trust this blacklight indication mechanic… so I blacklit everything to be certain. To Breakout’s credit, my extra effort was unnecessary.

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.)