Full disclosure: A review copy of Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Isabel’s Story was provided by Mattel.
And here’s the other half! Both, finally complete. As you might have guessed from last week, I quite enjoyed the Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters series, so I’m excited to talk a bit about the second game in the series (or first?): Isabel’s Story! I had a good weekend the other week and managed to play through a ton of escape room / cooperative games, so, look forward to those. Let’s get into this one!
In Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Isabel’s Story, you’ve got a bit of a situation on your hands. You were time traveling with your partner, Kira, and suddenly, your time machine … ruptured. Split in half, is probably the more accurate term. Now you’re stuck somewhere and somewhen with half of a working time machine. Not ideal, especially if you’re in a time before antibiotics. You’re decently sure you can fix your half, but it’s going to require sifting through a bunch of notes and figuring out some switch and diode settings. Thankfully, time is something you now have in abundance. Will you be able to repair your time machine and get your partner back?
None here! Open the box, start a 75 minute timer, and get ready to go!
In Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Isabel’s Story, your goal is to fix your time machine so that you can get back to Kira! Your time machine exploded and split in half, so now you’ve got to open it up, fix it up, and figure it out!
You’ll need to reassemble your console by figuring out the correct row and column locations for four different diodes. By solving various puzzles, you’ll figure out those diode locations, and by doing so, figure out the relevant settings on the switches that will fix the time machine! Try to see if you can solve them all!
You’ll likely need a pencil or pen and some scratch paper.
Opening the time machine will reveal another set of puzzles, but they’re not puzzles you can solve on your own! If you’ve also played Kira’s Story (or if you have a friend who has), you can combine these puzzles with the puzzles that the Kira’s Story puzzles reveal to play one bonus game! In that bonus game, both players work together to find the exact location (and the year / month / day / hour / minute / second) that they can meet up! The key here is that players can’t view each others’ paper puzzles, so you can play the combined bonus game over video chat (or in separate rooms). See if you can rebuild the time machine!
Player Count Differences
Just like the previous game, no big player count preference. I found that there felt like there was a bit more focus on the console, here, so maybe keeping your player count a bit more constrained would allow everyone to have a chance with it? But it’s not exactly critical; we kind of played this one while just sitting around, listening to music, and finishing up dinner. It’s a very chill environment, even with the timers. (For reference, we did Kira’s Story, Isabel’s Story, and then the combined bonus game back-to-back-to-back.) It all turned out pretty nicely with just two people. My opinion on the bonus game hasn’t changed; if you’re doing this over video chat, highly recommend just sticking to two people. If you’re doing this like we did, back-to-back with one group in my living room and the other in my dining room, you can probably afford to have more players, but the puzzles are, frankly, fun enough that I’d just as soon recommend having two as well so that everyone gets to experience every puzzle. The one hazard of nonlinear puzzle games, I suppose; there are definitely some puzzles my housemate solved that looked pretty fun. Slightly lower player count preference for Isabel’s Story, but it’s hardly a strong recommendation.
- As with Kira’s Story (and pretty much all escape room-style games), it really helps to thoroughly check everything to make sure you’ve got all the components and all the information. I just kind of generally recommend this and the hints thing on pretty much every escape room game? They’re good ideas. Here in particular, just make sure you take a look at everything. You never know where you’re going to find a puzzle or information that can really dial up your enjoyment of the game.
- The final puzzle isn’t really something you can brute-force, though I suppose 81 different combinations wouldn’t take you all that long if you wanted to do that. It’s one of those things where you could if you were really dedicated, but why bother? It seems like a very easy way to just ruin the game for yourself. Let the puzzles happen.
- I say this with every escape room / mystery / puzzle game that offers them, but actually make use of the hint system if you get stuck! This game is for your enjoyment, and I’ve seen experiences where players have a worse time because they don’t use the hints that are available. I really like the granularity of the hint systems, here. They treat the puzzles as distinct entities and then have a bunch of hints before the solution, which is nice. There’s a lot that you can learn from the hints without the solution, and I’ve found that my enjoyment of the game improves if, when I start feeling stuck, I check the hints just to make sure that I’m starting with the right mindset.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Of the two, I think I slightly preferred the puzzles of this one. Something about the structure of the puzzles and the types of puzzles really appealed to me! There are two in particular that help you figure out when and where you are that I enjoyed; it’s just a type of deduction puzzle that I find very fun.
- That said, I really like the theme of both games quite a bit! I’m already a sucker for time travel games, so, adding an escape room spin to the mix really just improves it for me. It’s fun to try and rebuild a time machine! The last Escape Room in a Box I played was time-travely as well, so, maybe it’s just a good fit for their type of escape room puzzle.
- The switches have a great feel to them, and inserting the diodes to learn the correct settings for the machine so it would open up is a lot of fun, as well. If there’s one thing that I really love, it’s good tactile experiences in an escape room game, and Escape Room in a Box always delivers on that front. The switches are fun and clicky and goofy, and I really enjoyed having to figure out the correct spots for the diodes and the switches.
- The narrative elements of the game are very endearing, as well. I like the whole story! It’s a bit light, as the escape room games tend to be, but the puzzles flesh out some of the details and I think it’s enough to appreciate.
- I appreciate that the hints aren’t just limited to puzzle-specific challenges, but also the path by which you get to some puzzles. The hinting system is very good! I think the site could use some optimization (it loads super slowly for me), but otherwise I think the hints are pretty useful! They even have additional steps for figuring out how to ground yourself before solving a problem.
- I love that this integrates with Kira’s Story for a third bonus game that completes the narrative! It reminds me of Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. For the … youths, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were two Legend of Zelda games developed by Capcom that, upon completion of both, unlocked a final, bonus story in pretty much the same way that these games do. They’re good games in their own right, and the bonus story makes them both that much better as a result. And the same goes for the Zelda games.
- Players end up passing the console back and forth quite a bit, which can slow down some of the otherwise-nonlinear puzzles. This is a minor gripe, but if you’re solving the puzzles in any order you want, you do often end up with with one person using the console when you need it for another puzzle, which also complicates the nonlinear nature of the puzzles. It, thankfully, doesn’t happen a ton, but it happened to us while we were playing to my mild amusement. Probably would have been funnier if we hadn’t been on a timer, but that ended up not being that big of a deal.
- I’m not a big fan of waste or additional paper, but having some puzzles printed on the back of other, critical paper components makes it hard for two players to solve the two separate puzzles at the same time, as well. This one frustrated me a bit because we ended up having to sit on the opposite side of the table and hold the paper up between us, which is a bit comical. I appreciate the Escape Room in a Box series trying to make the games nonlinear, but I’d have liked to see some way to make the puzzle documents not as … strongly linked as they were.
- For a game series that feels targeted at a slightly younger audience, the tiles feel both a bit small and fairly information-dense, which surprised me. I kind of would have liked the tiles to be a bit larger, just because there’s a lot of information on them, but the puzzles weren’t too bad as a result; just the occasional confusion about some type of object or wire or something.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I like Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifters – Isabel’s Story quite a bit! I think I prefer it slightly to Kira’s Story, just due to a few of the puzzles being slightly more my speed in this one. They’re good puzzles! I appreciate Escape Room in a Box’s consistent desire to have fun, tactile experience in every box, and I think they landed that pretty well here. The box and console are fun, the diodes are cute, and getting the switches in place is an enjoyable final puzzle to solve. The other thing I like a lot about these is that there really aren’t any instructions; you just open the box, start the timer, and go at it! Escape Room in a Box has the fundamentals down pat, and the series does a great job making escape room games approachable for a large audience (which is why I assume Mattel keeps publishing them). It’s a solid fit. Beyond that, though, the third bonus game is a lot of fun, too! It’s a cute finale to two solid escape room games, and the fact that it can be done remotely is a great extra add! We did it somewhat remotely (back-to-back in the same room, which almost counts). I appreciate that the finale is getting the two halves back together, and I think it executes on that goal quite nicely. All things considered, I was super pleased with the Escape Room in a Box: Time Drifers series, and if you’re looking for a fun and approachable escape room game, you want something that can be played remotely, or you just love fun tactile puzzles as much as I do, I’d definitely recommend the both of them!
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