Base price: $40.
2+ players. Might even be best with multiples of 3.
Play time: 30 – 90 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1. Like all escape room games, it’s kinda a one-and-done.
Full disclosure: A review copy of Escape Room in a Box: Flashback was provided by Wild Optimists.
Alright alright alright, we’re doing five reviews a week through Gen Con to try and preemptively clear the queue, probably, is what’s happening. What’s more likely is that I overcommitted in the past and am now trying to make up for that by overfilling my schedule, but what can you do. Thankfully, some reviews aren’t terribly tough to write. Either way, this particular escape room game is similar to Doctor Esker’s Notebook, in that I’ve mostly written about EXIT games but am trying to broaden my horizons, a bit. Let’s dig into it.
In Escape Room in a Box: Flashback, you’re being hounded by an angry werewolf scientist, and your best chances of not getting eaten alive are to figure out a way to turn Doc Gnaw back to her former self. You’ll have to craft an amulet, solve some puzzles, learn some literature, maybe read a poem, and, of course, solve some more puzzles. As you do. Will you be able to craft the amulet in ninety minutes? Or will you just end up devoured?
No setup. Open the box, and you’ll see this:
You should grab a pen and paper and you’ll uh, need access to a freezer or some ice water. Why? Mysteries. But you’ll definitely need that, so don’t start the game if you don’t have access to one.
So, this is a pretty common paradigm by now; the escape room game! You will have many puzzles to solve and not a ton of time to solve them. Solving these will reveal clues that are frequently numbers, words, or shapes, generally associated with the problem’s number (P1, P2, etc).
Player Count Differences
I think the best way to play this is with at least three players. At that player count, you can have groups independently working on each path to try and pipeline the work. At two, you can still do that, but there just aren’t enough people relative to pathways. Beyond that, I’d say three is probably ideal, as I never really found the puzzles required more than one person. If I got stuck, I’d just ask my co-player to trade puzzles with me, and that usually covered our bases.
- One of the locked boxes opens by twisting the top and then lifting it off. There, I just saved you 15 seconds. You’re welcome. It’s not a spoiler, it’s just not something I knew to do.
Beyond that, you’re kinda on your own. It’s a puzzle game, as mentioned; I don’t want to tell you how to solve anything.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the branching paths. It’s a totally replayable game, if you do it correctly. Have each player work on a different branching path with no overlap, and then have them come together to solve the final of each of their tracks without looking at each others’. You’ll end up with a game that you could technically play three times, if you do it that way. The finale might be a bit messy, but that’s not too bad. I think it’s a great way to keep a group occupied for a while, and I love that you can essentially do the parts of the puzzles completely independently with no consequences! It does make the game a bit more challenging at lower player counts, since they have to do the branching things sequentially, but that’s probably fine, so, whatever works.
- The box art looks great. I was kind of hoping it was going to be a retrofuture neon aesthetic, and it wasn’t, so that was a bit disappointing, but overall I did really like the look of everything.
- It comes with real locks! That’s super fun. It really makes the game feel like an escape room, which I suppose is a major component of the experience. Very nice tactile experience.
- The replayability is definitely a cool factor. I’ve been starting to feel a rising dread as I look at the like, remains of 11 EXIT games and need to throw them away because they aren’t worth that much anymore (since they’re unusable). This one comes with repacking instructions online so you can pass it along, if you want, or you can try playing it again along another path so that you’re solving new parts of the same large puzzle, which is good. It feels like it’s more sustainable this way and it’s possible to have a longer-form experience with it, which I really like. Reusable puzzle games are solid.
- Very family-friendly. It’s definitely not the same level of difficulty as the EXIT series, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It might be a good family-weight version of the escape room games, especially for players that aren’t quite ready for the themes or intensity of the EXIT games.
- I liked the various tactile things for clues. There’s a bunch of different types of puzzles to solve, and that’s really cool. I think this will be a really solid title for getting younger gamers engaged with puzzles and escape room-style challenges, and that’s awesome.
- Some of the cutesy internet-speak was a bit much for me. I live on the internet, though, so that probably is just me finally achieving “old man yells at cloud” status. Who can say.
- It’s probably worth mentioning you can print out versions of everything you use online up front. We spent a fair amount of energy trying to not use up anything, which was very challenging, so we have essentially a pristine box. If I had known we could just reprint things, I would have done that. Oh well; the more you know.
- Not really a convention game. It’s sort of like how one of the EXIT games requires you to be in a dark room. A strict requirement of “adjacency to a freezer” can make this game a nonstarter in the wrong contexts, and I assume it’ll be sold at Gen Con. If that happens, just play it in your hotel room or go to a hotel bar and ask for some ice water. It’s not not doable; you just need to invest a bit more work into making sure you can do it. (Even then, being honest, you don’t explicitly need the freezer, but how many puzzles can be solved via a freezer? That’s so cool??? Why wouldn’t you solve it that way???)
- The lower difficulty level relative to some other escape room games may turn off some hardcore puzzlers. I don’t know, personally, I think it’s nice. It’s still challenging, it’s just not to the point where I want to rip my hair out. It does mean that some clues might be guessable from context, which I don’t really love, but also, just … don’t do that? Force yourself to solve everything rather than just trying to guess-and-check.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’m a big fan of Escape Room in a Box: Flashback! I think it’s an absolutely lovely entry-level escape room game that does a nice job of having things in it for everyone. Similar to the EXIT games, it has a wide variety of different types of puzzles, but, it doesn’t hinge on being a single-use game, so you can pack them up, replay them, and even attempt different paths to complete the solution! Just so we’re clear, though, you do have to complete all three paths before the game is done. I really appreciate puzzle games with nonlinear paths, as it helps the game scale to higher player counts without it being a lengthy exercise in watching someone else do puzzle magic (which is less fun). Additionally, I appreciate the three paths having their own themes; it made me feel as though I were playing different puzzle games each time I took up a new path. Some players may not like that you play mostly independently on the path, to which I’d just recommend increasing the player count so that you have two+ people working each path and working together, if that works for you. While I do appreciate some of the more unconventional puzzles, requiring a freezer is in line with The Catacomb of Horrors’s strange requirement for a lighter, and both limit the available environments that you can play the game in. It’s worth knowing that in advance; last thing you want to do is to try and pick this up in a place where you’re going to struggle to solve one of the puzzles because you’re missing a critical component. I know that it mentions it inside the box, but it’s also a bummer to open up a new game and then have to close it because you can’t play it with your current group. I’d like to avoid that, so, here’s secret knowledge. Regardless, I had a blast with this escape room game, and if you’re looking to get started or you, like me, just really like escape room games, Flashback may be a great one to try! I had a lot of fun with it.