Puzzled Escape Games – The Box From The Future [Review]

Mucking about with spacetime.

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 24, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 2 hours

Price: $50

REA Reaction

I wanted to like The Box From The Future more than I did. I loved the concept, and truly enjoyed the videos that carried the game’s narrative. As an overall experience, however, it felt weak and disjointed.

Assorted components including, a dry erase marker, a thumb drive, a world map, and a DVD labeled "Future Man"

The puzzles were largely a collection of generic puzzles, the kind I see in my Facebook feed and rarely stop to solve. There were exceptions, like a sequence near the end that honestly could have been expanded into a far more interesting and cost-effective game.

The physical components in The Box From The Future mostly seemed unnecessary. That was a fundamental flaw, considering that there are stronger games at a fraction of the price, and that competitors in this price range do some really special things.

Creatively, I respect what Puzzled Escape Games was striving for. I just wish that it had been edited and focused on the interactions that made it special.

Who is this for?

  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The video interludes were adorable and clever
  • One of the late game puzzles felt like an entire game could have been built around it

Story

A box wrapped in hot foil had hurdled through the space-time continuum and landed on our doorstep PO box. As we opened it we found a message from a man claiming he was from a catastrophic future. He needed us to make changes to our present to prevent what would come.

We were tired of our cataclysmic present, so it felt like a worthy endeavor.

A foil-covered box with an orange warning that reads: "Open with extreme caution. Contents insid can cause cataclysmic events in the future. Mishandlign will doom mankind."
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Exit: The Game – House of Riddles [Hivemind Review]

House of Riddles is a tabletop escape game created by Exit: The Game.

The assorted items from House of Riddles laid on the floor.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop escape game

Required Equipment: scissors, pen & paper

A mobile device isn’t strictly necessary, but there is an optional companion app.

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: about 60 minutes

Price: ~$15

Description

This game uses the standard format for novice Exit: The Game games. You have access to a puzzle book, clue cards, various “strange items”, and a decoder wheel for entering the solutions to puzzles. In the novice games like this one, the puzzle book walks you through one puzzle at a time. As in all Exit games, you must embrace destroying various parts of the game to solve some of the puzzles.

Room Escape Artist has reviewed many games in the Exit: The Game series. Our first review in the series explains the core mechanics and structure of play in greater detail.

Bluefish Games – The Curious Stairs of Mr. Hincks [Review]

Step up

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 5, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

Price: $17

REA Reaction

If you liked The Curious Elevator of Mr. Hincks, then I suspect that you’ll love The Curious Stairs of Mr. Hinks.

The timeline and order of things here is a little funky, and it took playing to resolve our confusion:

  • Stairs is a narrative prequel to Elevator
  • Stairs is a functional sequel to Elevator
  • You should play Elevator first because Stairs is noticeably more challenging

For all of the tabletop puzzle game companies producing new products, there are next to no games that build upon one another in difficulty or complexity. Every game is its own standalone thing; some just have the same rules. Stairs, however, built upon the style, if not the ideas, in Elevator, with more complex puzzles, not longer or bigger puzzles, and it worked.

Assorted componnts include a n 8 bit "Dino Hop" strategy guide, unusual playing cards, a pizza menu, and some unusual flattened cardboard boxes.

We really enjoyed this series, and recommend it for the more puzzle-minded tabletop players. It looks good, but this isn’t a game that you buy for beautiful props to display; you get it to solve it. Play The Curious Elevator of Mr. Hincks first, and if that’s your type of game, The Curious Stairs of Mr. Hincks will feel like a step or two up.

Who is this for?

Why play?

  • Elegant puzzle design
  • A strong self-service hint system

Story

Before Mr. Hinks built a puzzle elevator, he created a shorter, more challenging set of puzzle stairs. We had been invited to climb them.

Yellow "Curious Stairs of Mr Hinks" box sitting inside the "Curious Elevator's" box/
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Box One Presented By Neil Patrick Harris [Hivemind Review]

Box One is a tabletop escape game presented By Neil Patrick Harris.

Hand holding a gold Box One challenge coin over the game's box art.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop escape game

Required Equipment: an internet-connected device

Recommended Team Size: 1

Play Time: While active playtime was under 2 hours, you will not be starting and finishing this game in a single evening; don’t try.

Price: about $29.99

Description

Box One is a tabletop escape-room-esque experience that describes itself as “an ever-evolving game of trivia, codes, puzzles, and discovery – only from the mind of Neil Patrick Harris.” It was explicitly designed for a single player to enjoy on their own, but there is nothing about the game that prevents more players, beyond designer’s intent (which ain’t nothing). Saying much more than that about its structure will spoil things that ought not be spoiled.

Red, black,and gold, with NPH's eye peering through a keyhole Box One packaging

Society of Curiosities – Mystery Subscription Box: Madok’s Lost Treasure [Review]

Historical Detective Story

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 10, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $19.50 per month, or save on individual boxes with a quarterly or annual subscription

REA Reaction

I am a huge proponent of game designers packing a little less into their games, but really getting what’s in there right. It felt like Society of Curiosities was coming from a similar school of thought.

Madok’s Lost Treasure didn’t have a ton of components, but everything that we received in the mail looked and felt right. When we interacted with digital components, they looked and felt natural. This is rare. Usually there’s some junky afterthought prop or a website that can’t even pass as a parody of a website.

A wax sealed letter and a gold coin.

When it came to gameplay, Madok’s Lost Treasure was different. We initially approached it like a tabletop escape room, looking for puzzles to solve, but as we worked through the game’s materials, it slowly became clear to us that we needed to think about things not as puzzlers, but more like researchers. The gameplay was largely in exploring the nuances of the world and applying the game world’s logic to itself. Once we shifted our mindset, we had a great time.

Our biggest knock against Madok’s Lost Treasure was that we felt like it needed to do more to guide us into its style of play.

Society of Curiosities is what I’m hoping to find from a subscription series: fewer high quality, detailed components, deliberately crafted worlds, and smart gameplay.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • ARG fans
  • Prop collectors

Why play?

  • Beautiful props
  • Strong world building
  • Detail-focused problem solving

Story

We received a collection of documents – both old and new – in the mail, along with a single goal. Solve an ancient mystery and figure out where to send our field team to recover the lost treasure of famed pirate Captain Edus Madok.

Continue reading “Society of Curiosities – Mystery Subscription Box: Madok’s Lost Treasure [Review]”