Before you can think outside the box, you have to get a box. In this case, that means buying Spin Master’s Escape Room The Game, which comes in a box. Putting the escape room experience in a box is a challenge. The best escape rooms have thematic decorations, immersive environments, and cool props that you physically manipulate to escape. A number of companies are now trying to package the experience, with varying success. See below for the full review.
While other games only have one escape room experience per box, Spin Master’s had four. Each of the four had a different theme (which happen to be some of the most common escape room themes: Prison Break, Virus, Nuclear Countdown, and Temple of the Aztec). You get more bang for your buck (or loonie) at about $10 per game.
The Chrono Decoder is also a nice addition. It gives you a visual representation of the countdown and audible confirmation that you got the code right or wrong. This also allows for add-on packs or expansions that can be sent in an envelope and don’t require buying a whole new box.
Great leaps of logic Batman! There were some real stretches in this game. This was the primary problem, especially with Prison Break. A lot of the clues and images are also very small, which may require close-up study, (although, maybe this is to mimic the difficulty with low light in many real escape rooms). You may want to get a magnifying glass and flashlight.
Back to that Chrono Decoder. When I played the second game (Virus), the decoder kept giving me the wrong buzzer when I really had the right code. I double-checked and tried again. It took a call to Spin Master (who were helpful) before it suddenly started working again.
Should You Get It?
You should only get it if you’re an escape room enthusiast and have already done Stargazer’s Manor and Dr. Gravely’s Retreat and you have $40 to blow. However, if you’re hardcore then you’re going to buy this game even if I say it’s not good.
Get Your Own:
This was our third at-home escape room game. Think Fun’s Stargazer’s Manor and Dr. Gravely’s Retreat were the first two. We enjoyed those games and were looking forward to see what Spin Master put together.
Reading the instructions (which is always tedious…kind of like listening to instructions at the beginning of an escape room. Yes, don’t stick a knife in the electrical outlet. But seriously, make sure you read the directions carefully. I skimmed the directions which caused us some avoidable delays).
Putting the batteries into the Chrono Decoder requires a small screwdriver, so get one of those handy. The decoder has multiple purposes. It acts as the countdown timer which begins as soon as you hit the red button. On the sides of the decoder are some decoding aids (including morse code, a Playfair cipher, Pigpen cipher, and Caesar cipher wheel), to help you solve the puzzles. The 4 slots on top act to test your 4-digit clues. There are a number of keys, representing numbers and letters which you insert before hitting the red button to see if you’re right or wrong.
The hint system was pretty good and the clue cards have times on them to keep you on track. However, they only applied to some of the puzzles. If you were stuck on one puzzle that the clue didn’t address, you’d have to go online to their walkthrough to figure out the answer.
This one didn’t start out well for us. But at this early stage, we were only stretching to get the right answers. When you find differences between two objects, it isn’t always clear which one is the right answer and which is the wrong answer. Another puzzle required you to pick the right numbers out of a multi-numbered clue. These puzzles assume you are thinking what the designers were thinking. We were definitely not. We needed the hints to finish this first part.
After that, things went downhill. One of the cards immediately said there would be a right answer and a wrong answer, so you had to pick the right one. There was a lot of to do to pick the right answer, which I didn’t really follow. It was mostly confusing. Actually, it was very confusing. If I said a picture of a size 10 tennis shoe was the clue, the answer may be: 10 (size), or 2 (a pair of shoes), or count the eyelets, or the shoelace looks like an 8. So just pick the one that the puzzle designer picked and you’ll be fine.
There was also some overlap and redundancy in the clues and puzzles, which is generally avoided in well-designed escape rooms. If you use the Playfair cipher once, you usually won’t have to use it again. If you get a number answer, you generally won’t have to plug it in twice into one formula, such as: (a x b) + c – a = ? After reading the answers in the walkthrough, there are multiple ways to get to the answers, which added to the confusion.
Some of these clues were very also small which required peering very closely at the poster to find the answers. I don’t understand how any more than 2 people could play this game at the same time.
Part 3 was just as bad. No. On second thought, it was worse. By this time we were just annoyed with the game. The 4 parts of this final part were not intuitive to us, or else we’d just given up. There were a thousand answers you could get. On top of that, after reading the walkthrough there are multiple ways you can come up with the seemingly random answers they’d chosen as the correct code. In my shoe analogy, maybe my new answer was N because they were Nikes. Or 14 because N is the 14th letter in the alphabet. Or 216 because tennis shoes = TS, which points to Tunisia on the map, and 216 is the dialing code for Tunisia.
Voila! You’re done! And you’ve wasted $40 which could have gotten you and a friend into an escape room! I did not enjoy the prison break experience, and I’d be surprised if any experienced escape room enthusiast did.
At the time of this posting, this was the first English-language escape room enthusiast review of Spin Master’s Escape The Room Game. Most of Amazon’s reviews are from reviewers who were given a free copy of the game, and many of them did not enjoy the game despite getting the game for free. Others seemed a bit over the top. One said they played the game with 10 people and had a great time. I find that very hard to believe.