Escape Room in a Box – The Werewolf Experiment (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.99

Dr. Gnaw’s Gnarly Gn-experiments.

Theme:

From the Mattel Games website:

A mad scientist is plotting to turn you and your friends into werewolves. Only if you and your team members can solve 19 2D and 3D puzzles in an hour will you be able to escape with your humanness intact! You’ll have to work as a team—so put your heads together and let’s see if you can escape.

First Impressions:

I’ve been hearing about Escape Room in a Box’s The Werewolf Experiment for a while, it’s the Kickstarter success story that seemed like quite the sensation, but it took us entirely too long to get our hands on a copy. With the sequel, Flashback, already in stores, we knew it was time to finally pick one up and see what the fuss was all about.

20190903_1529057345816261661271138.jpg

There is so much secret stuff in here. Like loads.

High Points:

The story of The Werewolf Experiment is filled to the brim with so much great 80s slang, and though it caught us completely off guard, I thought it was immediately charming and brought a lot of personality to the missing Dr. Gnaw. In fact, the game presented a much lighter hearted, joke filled experience than I was initially expecting, and this was definitely a good thing. The whole adventure is extremely approachable, explaining things in theme while still ensuring that all the rules and puzzles are intuitive, ensuring the game is great fun for escapists young and old. Puzzles remain on the easier side of things, ensuring that this is a great start to any at home puzzler’s career, and the difficulty curve remains gentle, but increases the complexity during later levels of the experience. The game flow is great, and everything links into meta puzzles well. Every stage of the game presents new conundrums, and it is very clear what solutions go where without sacrificing the challenge of solving the puzzles.

Components in the box are great, and pack a lot into the game. The locks are plastic, but instead of feeling cheap, they work splendidly and do their jobs more than admirably. They’re a lot of fun to play around with, and though they aren’t going to win any awards for security, they’re an excellent way to add variety to an at home escape. Other props are just as enjoyable to manipulate and use during the adventure, and Escape Room in a Box packs some unexpected surprises into almost every prop we came across, no matter how innocuous it may have seemed at first. Cluing is fantastically done, and with a non-linear game flow, even a larger group will stay fully engaged from start to finish.

20190903_1529504680218594201185742.jpg

Real locks? Sold!

Low Points:

A lot of the puzzles in the box are pretty basic. In fact, the opening part of the game is more basic than usual, as many of the challenges presented are akin to those found in a family puzzle book. This will appeal to newer players, but enthusiasts will not be as impressed. Some answers are extremely easy to work out when looking at the master sheet used to enter words into blanks to complete each stage’s meta puzzle. While it feels clever to do so, it does cheapen the experience when the corresponding puzzle is bypassed. Adding in a timer is hit or miss for at home experiences, and per usual for us, we just ignored it in favor of having a good time. We do mark our start and stop times so we can get a handle on the play time for all experiences, and this one clocked in at around 45 minutes, so it isn’t too far off the mark on general play time. $30 may be a little steep for experienced players who will probably blow through the adventure. The climax of the game is a little anticlimactic overall, ending the story with less of a bang than we’d hoped for.

Verdict:

Escape Room in a Box’s The Werewolf Experiment is a lot of fun, but is definitely geared more towards new players and families seeking an approachable at home escape room experience. It still contains enough fun bits for enthusiasts, (and to be clear, we had a great time,) but may not present the best value proposition for players who might blow through the game quickly at the full $30 price. New players will have loads of fun with this game, however, and I absolutely recommend it to those players and puzzle veterans who are looking to induct new fanatics to the hobby. Purchase your Werewolf Experiment at your friendly local game store! We recommend the ever excellent Atomic Empire in Durham, NC, check out their online store here!

7/10 (Good)

Waxhaw Escape – Train to Nowhere (Review)

Location: Waxhaw, NC

Players: 2-6 (We Recommend 3-5)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Tickets, please!

Theme:

From the Waxhaw Escape website:

Go back to the exciting era of steam engines and mechanical automation. Famed Italian inventor, Giordano Neri, has shocked the world with his newest brainchild – a self-driving train! Rumors of his unorthodox methods and use of humans in his research has forced him to flee to America to continue his work, where he has just put the first autonomous train into action for its initial run. No one could have predicted what would happen on this first ride of the ominous “train to nowhere.”

First Impressions:

I’ve been very interested in a good steampunk room, but so far have been unable to find one. Waxhaw Escape’s Train to Nowhere looked like it could fit the bill nicely, however, and the site’s description was appropriately mysterious, so we were ready to book our train ride as soon as possible!

High Points:

Train to Nowhere is easily one of the coolest rooms I’ve done in terms of concept. The theme is quite original, and the execution creates something really amazing. The set itself really does instill the feel of being on a funky, old timey train and is a joy to explore. The story is great, and tidbits about what is really going on are worked into the puzzles themselves and sprinkled throughout the experience. A great twist during the game ratchets things into high gear by utilizing the set design to create some fun surprises to go along with the reveal. From there on, the experience is a high energy race to right the atrocities committed, and somehow escape! The room includes a bumpy, but very exciting climax that can conclude in one of multiple endings depending on your actions. The room is a smaller experience than some others, but the space is utilized to great effect, and comfortably holds all players within it’s snazzily designed walls. The design of each stage of the game is appropriate, and all the small details and props are brilliantly woven into the theme.

The game flow is also up to the task of including the maximum six players, as the game is mostly non-linear up to the end. One particular capstone puzzle keeps everyone involved with one of the best teamwork interactions I’ve seen. It isn’t a particularly difficult one, but it got our whole team involved and was an exciting way to move forward. All puzzles are highly intuitive, and as we worked through the challenges presented, everyone stayed engaged with the experience. A very high tech experience, the train really does feel like it’s a fully automated, responsive mechanical marvel. The feedback given by the conundrums housed within the train’s walls is fantastic, ensuring that we definitely knew when we were right or wrong about an answer. In fact, one general gripe I have about many escape rooms over using a particular prop is alleviated via the simple inclusion of one particularly elegant fix, ensuring we knew exactly what was going on. The adventure was overall an entertaining steampunk adventure, and delivered exactly what I wanted from such a clever theme.

Low Points:

Though having multiple endings is a great addition, you don’t really know that the final puzzle will trigger an unavoidable final timer until it has already been started, which threw the entire room into chaos for us. A warning note in theme might have been helpful, as once that timer started, we weren’t quite sure of what to do, and being placed on this timer when we still had plenty of time left deflated the end game for us. A couple of moments had us thankful we had a tall teammate in the room with us, I’m not sure we would’ve been able to progress as quickly without his help. There were a couple points at which we needed to hear an announcement being made during the room, but the volume was somewhat low unless everyone stopped and were as quiet as possible, so making these moments just a bit louder would be very helpful.

Verdict:

Train to Nowhere transports you into an amazing steampunk train, and keeps the puzzle solving adrenaline going with numerous surprises and a fantastic storyline. Highly approachable, yet teeming with clever challenges and great storyline surprises, players of all experience levels will find something to love about this room. I definitely recommend giving it a go! Book your time on the mysterious steampunk train here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full disclosure: Waxhaw Escape provided comped tickets for our group.