Base price: $17.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~75 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1
Full disclosure: A review copy of Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Kira’s Story was provided by Mattel.
Now this is a series I’ve been looking forward to getting back to. Escape Room in a Box! I reviewed Flashback a few years ago, and I was really impressed by it. I think this is a great fit for Mattel, as well, since the puzzles are so physical. Naturally, when I got the opportunity to review a pair of linked Escape Room in a Box games, I jumped at the chance, and here we are. I’m going to be covering both, so look for the other review next week! I’m going to also try and use language to make this less temporally confusing (since I’m writing both at the same time), since the game deals with enough time for all of us. Let’s check it out, though!
In Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Kira’s Story, you’re in a bit of a bad way. On a bit of routine time travel, your time machine exploded, sending you (and half of the machine) into a distant place and time, far from your partner. Something’s locked in the center of the machine, so you figure if you get things up and running, you might be able to find a way to repair the machine (and get your partner back!). Easier said than done, though! You’ve just got your notes and some gears to rely on, so hopefully that will be enough. Can you kick it into high gear and restart the machine?
None! That’s kind of the best part. You just open the box and get right to it.
In Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Kira’s Story, your goal is to fix your time machine so that you can get back to your partner, Isabel! All you’ve got is half of a formerly-working time machine, so you’ll need to crack it open and figure out how to get inside to do some repairs!
Here, you’ll need to get the box open by figuring out exactly how the various pieces and panels fit on there. Then, you’ll need to get some gears placed so you can crack open your time machine and start doing repairs!
As with most escape room / puzzle games, you’d probably be best off having a pencil or pen and some scratch paper.
Once you open your time machine, you’ll find another set of puzzles, but you can’t solve those puzzles without additional help! If you’ve also played Isabel’s Story (or if you have a friend who has), Isabel’s bonus puzzles will be able to combine with yours to make a bonus game! In that, both players work collaborate with a new goal in mind. Here, they want to find the exact location for a meeting! Unfortunately, the pair can only meet up if they land at the exact same second, so in addition to a location, you’ll need the exact year, month, day, hour, minute, and second! To complicate matters, this can be done remotely! You cannot look at the other player’s paper clues, but you can share information as you need. See if you can rebuild the time machine together!
Player Count Differences
Not very many! Generally, these boxes are designed to be done by multiple people, so they’re kind of inherently nonlinear? You can pretty much do everything separately (or, as best as you can with the few pieces that do kind-of correspond to multiple puzzles, even though the puzzles themselves aren’t arranged linearly). I think two was a pretty nice spot for this one, but I don’t think having one or four players would bring down the experience at all! For the bonus game, I’d strongly recommend having two people, maximum. One doesn’t work, of course, but having more than that really depends on your video call software. Too many voices at once tends to not go over well, with those kinds of things. We honestly did the bonus game with our backs to each other in the same room, and that worked pretty well, too. But for the core game, no player count preference!
- As with all escape room games, be sure to check everything thoroughly! You never know where relevant information (or puzzles!) may be found, so you should make sure you’ve examined everything that you’ve been given. This is more general advice than game-specific advice, I suppose, but it’s always worth mentioning in some way.
- The pegs are a bit hard to remove from things, so be careful with those! Just don’t push them in extremely tightly, or get your fingers in between the rung and the machine to pop them out most easily. If you just yank on them as hard as you can, you might end up damaging the device in real life, which, again, not ideal.
- If you’re not sure what to do, check for some hints! The hint website is actually really good? It’s a good set of scaffolds to help you advance without giving you too much information, which I appreciate. It’s a bit slow to load, but, that’s the internet for you, some days.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I was genuinely delighted by the way you open the time machine at the end of the game. It’s a lot of fun! It’s a great solution and a very entertaining, tactile solve. This is one thing I love about the Escape Room in a Box series; they always do stuff like this and it always rules.
- I really like this theme a lot. I love time travel as a theme, and I really like it as a theme for an escape room. There’s just so many things you can draw from! Do you focus on the mechanical? The historical? The futuristic? The prehistoric? There are so many different ways to go about it that I imagine you could make even more than just two games with this theme, though I really do love the idea of two time travelers trying to get back together.
- I also appreciate that the adventurers are two ladies exploring time? I think that’s fun. Science ladies! Always nice to see as a theme for a game. Honestly, this game makes me wonder what their deal is. What were they up to before now? What adventures have they been on? That sort of thing.
- The bonus game is a really cool concept, and I particularly like that it was developed as a way to keep playing escape room games with your group during the pandemic. As someone who was pretty bummed out by not being able to play games with his group during the pandemic, I absolutely love how this was implemented. We were trying everything, from Board Game Arena to overhead cameras to over-the-phone replications of the same game state. Not all of it worked, and some of it was just straight-up bad. This was actually really good! You can show your co-player the physical machine, but you have to keep the puzzles and the prompts to yourself, letting you both participate in the puzzle in different ways! And it gives you both something to do with both halves of the game. You can solve each puzzle individually and then swap them and then solve the bonus game together! It works out nicely. Also the box connects to the other box! I love it when games do that.
- One thing that Escape Room in a Box does really well is the tactile parts of the game; it’s very fun to mess with the plastic components and the actual physical mechanisms of everything. I mentioned it with regards to the specific lock opening, but I really just think that Escape Room in a Box really gets why escape rooms are fun! It’s similar to the energy of the VR version of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Sometimes it’s just being able to hold something in your hands and twist it and look at it from different angles. They get that having different materials and styles and puzzles makes things a lot more fun. I really like this series, as a result.
- I wouldn’t necessarily call this particularly challenging, but I don’t mean that in a bad way; I found the puzzles fun, but approachable. First off, I think this is a wonderful way to get players (especially on the younger side) excited about escape rooms without having to shell out an arm and a leg for an in-person experience, but also, this obeys my First Rule of Things for Younger Folks: it’s still a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the puzzles (and was occasionally stumped!), but mostly because I just stop being able to read from time to time when I’m trying to puzzle things out. It’s a known problem. I found the difficulty curve mild and the problems very approachable, which meant that my housemate and I had a great time playing both titles and the bonus game in a row without experiencing puzzle fatigue, which was nice. Honestly, these may end up in my Christmas List (of things I give to other people).
- The Path to Ignition puzzle didn’t totally land for my group. I think it’s a quirk of the puzzle’s construction, but it took us a bit to be like “oh, that’s what they’re trying to do with this one”. It was an interesting concept, but the execution wasn’t quite enough for us.
- It’s surprisingly easy to accidentally goof open the time machine while trying to remove pegs; I might just be stupid strong, though? It’s sort of a perfect storm; the pegs are hard to remove, and the front cover isn’t super stuck on, so I kind of popped it off in the first couple minutes while I was playing with the pegs. Mental note: don’t do that, but also, it would be nice if the pegs were a bit easier to remove from the machine proper. There’s only so much granularity that I think I can expect, but it was a bit of a humorous bummer when I technically “solved” the puzzle by just accidentally prying it open. We did pop the front back on and solve it properly, though.
- (ROT 13) Bar punyyratr jvgu gurfr xvaqf bs tnzrf vf gung gurl bsgra znxr gurve pyhrf fbzrjung rnfl gb thrff. Va gur vagrerfg bs nibvqvat fcbvyref, V’ir boshfpngrq guvf bar, ohg V guvax bgure tnzrf yvxr gur RKVG frevrf boshfpngr gurve nafjref ol znxvat gurz flzobyf be qvtvg pbzovangvbaf engure guna nyjnlf fcryyvat guvatf bhg, whfg orpnhfr pregnva jbeqf (rfcrpvnyyl pregnva ahzoref) unir qvfgvapg funcrf naq fcryyvatf gung znxr gurz zhpu rnfvre gb thrff.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Kira’s Story is pretty solidly fun! There’s something distinctly entertaining about the plasticky tactile puzzles that the Escape Room in a Box series loves so much. It’s kitschy, to some degree, but in a way that’s heartwarming and satisfying. It reminds me of the toys I used to goof off with when I was a child. That said, while Time Drifters is approachable enough to play with younger players, it’s definitely not a simple escape room. There are some fun puzzles in here, though the construction lends itself (accidentally) to being short-circuited if one of your players is strong and not particularly attentive. Though the entirety of Kira’s Story landed well with us, one particularly praiseworthy part of the Time Drifters experience is the bonus game that can be accessed after completing both halves of the player stories. I think that’s brilliant, especially since it can be done remotely (making it inclusive of players during the pandemic). Games should be responsive to the times that they’re created in, and I think the Escape Room in a Box designers did a fantastic job being responsive. They took what makes their games great, packaged them up, and allowed players to experience them even if they couldn’t get with their entire game group right away. For a chunk of the pandemic, I was driving to my now-housemates’ place and dropping off random gifts; I can imagine this working well as “I play one, swap it with them, and then we team up for the bonus game”. It really ended up being a fun, memorable experience. If you’re looking for that, you want to get someone into the escape room game genre, or you really like a time travel theme, I’d recommend checking out Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters! I enjoyed Kira’s Story, as well.
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