Note: This will be a spoiler free review of Escape Room: The Game.
By now you are probably familiar with the Escape Room craze in tabletop gaming. What was once a tiny niche is quickly reaching a saturation point with plenty of options for the puzzle solving gamer to choose from. However, as I love exercising those mental muscles, I’m always happy to check out a newcomer. That brings us to today’s review of Escape Room: The Game. This is the third escape room game we’ve reviewed on BGQ, so let’s find out what makes this one different.
Escape Room: The Game is a puzzle solving game for 3-5 players that takes about 60 minutes to play. Escape Room: The Game plays well at all player counts.
If you’ve played an escape room before, you know the basics. The goal is to solve the mission (or escape the room) in 60 minutes. Each mission of Escape Room: The Game has three parts, and to finish each part, you need to insert 4 keys into the “Chrono Decoder”. The large device comes with the game (batteries not included) that acts as the timer, puzzle decoder, and also checks your key solution.
You start the game by opening the first envelope. A series of puzzles will be inside, which will eventually lead you to using 4 specific keys to insert into the Chrono Decoder. If you are correct, you will hear a chime and can then open the second envelope. Make a mistake and you are deducted time and must keep trying.
Some puzzles are also marked with an ER and require you to use one of the decoders on the side of the Chrono Decoder. Finally, the game will give you hints at certain timed intervals. These are through cards that are slid into a red film holder to show the hint (think the old Password game from the 60s). If you run out of time, the decoder will start counting up, showing you how much you went over.
The main thing that sets Escape Room: The Game apart from the other games in the genre has to be the Chrono Decoder. This little contraption will count down from 60 when you start the game, and will check your work once you insert 4 keys into it. While I think the decoder box is neat, I also think it’s a pure gimmick. The game could have worked just as well (probably better) with a digital phone/tablet app.
That being said, my only real qualm with the Chrono Decoder is that there is no way to pause the game. I know you don’t get a pause in real escape rooms, but sometimes life gets in the way. Doorbells ring, kids do stupid stuff, questions about the rules arise, etc… It would have been nice for a way to stop the timer should the need arise, but that’s really minor quibble.
The real star of these games though are the puzzles, and I think that Escape Room: The Game has a solid batch. They range from easy to hard to absurdly out of left field. But that also seems to be the norm in this genre. However I was pleasantly surprised with the variety in the puzzles. Some you can do just by looking at them, while others will have you destroying components.
Yet publishers Spinmaster wisely only had you writing on components that you can easily reprint. In fact, they have files on their website where you can print out anything you may have marked up. All those puzzles are marked with a printer icon, letting you know that it’s OK to ruin the components. I like this approach MUCH better than EXIT: The Game, that has you throwing the whole game in the trash after you’ve played it. Now I can safely write on parts of this game, knowing I can still share it with friends later.
Another feather in the cap of Escape Room: The Game is that it comes with 4 puzzles. With a price point of about $30, that makes this game much cheaper than the competition (whose price is ally around $11-$15 per puzzle) on a per puzzle ratio. The missions in the game also gradually increase in difficulty and complexity. This lets players get used to the game without throwing them right into the deep end.
Escape Room: The Game ended up being a solid entry into this fast growing genre. I really liked their hybrid approach to puzzles, where you could still write on the ones you needed to and then reprint them later. While the Chrono Decoder itself was neat, it wasn’t really much more than a gimmick that could have been better used as a digital app.
That being said, we’ve still enjoyed the game and found the puzzles to be mostly clever and engaging (other than a few outliers). Escape Room: The Game also boasts the best price point compared vs gameplay of any of the games in the genre, so if that’s a concern, this one is your best bet. I really don’t have much to complain about with Escape Room: The Game, it’s a solid puzzle solving game and if you are a fan of the genre, then you will enjoy this one.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A nice take on the escape room genre, that has a great price point and expansions already lined up.
• Chrono Decoder feels like a gimmick
• No way to pause the decoder