The Box (France) – The Diamond Heist (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 Players (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: €110 per room (About $129.97 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

Never work again? That sounds great!

Theme:

From the The Box website:

They say that diamond merchants safe boxes are tamper proof. In this escape game, we challenge you to grab the biggest treasure ever. Outmaneuver the Diamond Center security and become richer than ever!

First Impressions:

We’ve been doing a lot of virtual globe trotting with our virtual escape experiences recently, and we have added France to our Escape Room passport with The Box! A tried an true escape room theme, heist rooms are generally reliable and exciting, so we couldn’t wait to try this one out.

High Points:

The set for Diamond Heist was pretty great, with a sleek, streamlined design aesthetic that really hammered home the “ultra-modern bank vault/offices” vibe. A few really cool surprises kept us feeling immersed within the theme, and our doofy avatar Bob did a great job of following our instructions and getting generally freaked out by the alarms. We enjoyed interacting with him and having some improvisationally silly fun while solving the puzzles. The room effects were great, using sound and lighting to set the mood, and there were very few basic locks in the room, which relied on hidden tech to give the vault a believably high tech flair. Puzzles themselves consisted of a lot of research puzzles and making connections between props within the room, and also included a fun vault hacking mini-game that we enjoyed for the most part. The whole experience culminated in a fast paced, intense finale that had us frantically searching for our main goal within the vault itself, as well as trying to steal as much treasure as possible before the police arrived on the scene. The early game had some intense moments as well, however, and certain areas were secured in different ways, ensuring that we always felt as though this was a high stakes mission in which failure was not an option! Though the experience moved through different game stages linearly, there was enough to work on at each stage that our whole group could remain engaged with each step, dividing and conquering to tackle different puzzles together.

Low Points:

A lot of virtual escape rooms cast the avatar as “lovable doofus,” and while that is funny to start and allows for a reason why they can’t do whatever tasks are presented on their own, in the long run, it is a lot more fun, in our experience, when the avatar acts more as a teammate. It is especially frustrating when the avatar is “unable” to search on their own. Virtual games do not lend themselves well to hidden objects, and it generally needs to be streamlined as players cannot see the whole room or anticipate hiding spots well in this medium, so when, in this room, there were objects that were very well hidden, it took entirely too long for us to find while adding nothing to the experience itself. The inventory method for the game was via google docs, and access was given as we went. This slowed down the game substantially, and left us with loads of useless information near the later stages of the game. Telescape is the gold standard for inventory systems, and comparatively, google docs did not do near as well a job during this game. There is a large mix of digital and in room puzzling to do during the game, but they did not mix overly well, leading one or the other to be neglected while puzzles were being worked on. The final puzzle was good, but was repeated over and over several times, leading to burnout while trying to finish up the heist. There was also an element of randomness that could frustrate players on their last few minutes.

Verdict:

Overall, The Diamond Heist wasn’t a bad room, but didn’t quite go above and beyond compared to other virtual escape offerings available. A lot of streamlining would help bolster the game itself, but it is still good for an hour’s entertainment. Enthusiasts will get their fix from this room, but newcomers might find the presentation a bit overwhelming. On the whole, our adventure with Bob was fun, but not particularly mind-blowing. Book your time pulling off the heist of the century here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: The Box provided our team with a complementary game.

Finders Seekers – Mont Saint Clair (October Box Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players: We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

Theme:

Each month, Finders Seekers invites you to accept a mysterious mission from the head seer. These “finds” are located in cities around the world and involve high stakes, cryptic puzzling, and shadowy societies! You’ll need a clever mind and some google-fu in order to piece together the puzzles and complete the find! And when you do, you might even receive a reward! This month takes place on the island of Mont Saint Clair in Normandie, France! A site of great historical importance and geographical interest, it seemed like this would be a very interesting visit.

First Impressions:

I was a little disappointed to see that the props within this month’s box were quite a bit less involved and immediately engaging as those we received in last month’s superb Mexico City box, but since Finders Seekers had markedly improved from month to month recently, I wasn’t too worried. Then we started the first puzzle, and it all went mostly downhill from there.

High Points:

There’s one excellent and intuitive puzzle near the end that plays with perspective a bit, and is set up cleanly while still presenting a challenging interaction. Another puzzle dealing with perspective allows for a fun solve that also provides the only tactile prop within this month’s box.

Low Points:

Where to start with this? Of the usual eleven puzzles presented within this box, I enjoyed only 2. Usually, there’s a vague and/or frustrating puzzle within a Finders Seekers box, which is a symptom of having so many puzzles, but it’s easily overshadowed by the abundance of better puzzles and tactile interactions. Here, it seems like every other puzzle is built to frustrate through vagueness and artificial difficulty that is clearly the vast majority of the 4-5 hour recommended solve time. We took a little over 3 hours to solve this box, and unfortunately, most of that was wandering off to play with our cats because the hunt just could not hold our attention or interest for very long. By the end, I don’t think either of us cared any longer, because we left the last puzzle unsolved due to a combination of frustration and complete boredom with the whole thing. The hint system continues to prove subpar, and this boxes attempts at hints were a complete disaster when we needed them.

The initial puzzle I previously referred to is presented without any real context, and the solution is mind numbingly insipid. It’s a difficult one to figure out, but only because it breaks the usual conventions of a Finders Seekers Find, and gives you no reason to expect that it would. Further on, there’s an algebra puzzle of the type we’ve seen several times before and still groan upon uncovering, a maze filled with inexplicable red herrings, (and I actually like mazes,) a banal word puzzle of the sort one would find within a variety puzzle book for five bucks, and enough anagrams to fill an extremely boring lifetime. The box as a whole just feels like so much filler in order to pad the gameplay, and never really engages the player in any meaningful way. If anything, this experience is an exemplar of the fact that quality does in fact trump quantity.

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Longest advertised solve time, lamest puzzles.

Verdict:

Mont Saint Clair was bad enough that the poor quality of the game experience, coupled with the notice Finders Seekers put out stating that over the next two months, they would be rereleasing older boxes instead of new content, I cancelled our subscription. For 30 dollars, the experience just doesn’t hold up this month, and it’s bad enough to erase the good will built over the last few months. I don’t recommend this box, and would be wary going forward. If you want to subscribe regardless, you can order your next adventure here. If you sign up through our link, we’ll earn credits towards a free box, and can bring you more content! You can read the rest of our Finders Seekers reviews here!

3/10 (Poor)