Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment

 Look! A real lock!

Look! A real lock!

Publisher: Mattel
MSRP: $29.99
Recommended ages: 7+
Time: 60 minutes
Reset: Not without Printing
Players:  2 - 8
Recommended Players: 3 - 8
App Required: No

If you are looking for the most realistic escape room experience then this is the one. The Werewolf Experiment has locks and other common escape room gizmos that would be a bit too spoilery to discuss. The game has a relatively strong narrative and is a neat twist on the mad scientist room.

The best thing about the Werewolf Experiment is the way they structure the puzzle chains; larger groups can stay engaged in puzzles instead of just one or two players like in many other escape activities. The Werewolf Experiment really works well with a group of up to six or possibly even eight, without feeling like it’s being stretched at the seams. The same puzzle structure makes it really tough to complete in the time allotted with only two players.

Speaking of puzzles, there is a good variety of puzzle form and quality for a tabletop experience. The designers packed some very interesting puzzle props into the box, and the puzzles range from easy and silly to quite challenging. Some will probably need more than one person to examine them before being solved, but that's the nature of escape rooms. 

If they hit a wall and cant proceed, the players have a hint booklet that they can reference a certain number of times during the escape “without failing”. It does a great job of spurring things along when players need help. There is a second hint booklet that appears later to help with the final puzzles, and dividing the hints that way helps to prevent accidental spoilers.

 Image used with permission of Escape Room in a Box

Image used with permission of Escape Room in a Box

The only significant problem with the Werewolf Experiment is the pain of resetting it for the next group. Which is even more of an issue because of some consumable items that, once depleted, will be impossible to replicate without just purchasing more. The box includes several refills, but they are a limited resource. (While the game requests you put a kettle on, or have a source of warm water while playing we managed to complete the session without doing so, but for kids it would be much cooler to have the warm water available.)   *** UPDATE: The puzzle which we were describing was for the original Kickstarter version only and was replaced in the Mattel version of this product. The replacement puzzle componants are not used up during the course of play.***   

While many of the other tabletop escape rooms play out like normal game experiences, it is easy to tell the designers want their escape room to be an something more. Nothing shows that more than the Werewolf Experiment website where they have party tips, printable labels, invitations, a "SUPER RAD SOUNDTRACK", a bonus puzzle, and repacking instructions. 

To sum up, Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment is the closest thing to a real escape room currently available as a tabletop experience. It would be an excellent core to an escape room event, but our recommendation is to buy two copies, play through it once, and laminate the pieces which require writing on the second set. This would provide additional backups for any elements that might go wrong. With a very high percentage of good quality puzzles and the ability to keep more than two or three people engaged at a time, this is recommended for a big event, if not necessarily as a permanent part of a circulating collection.

For additional information about Escape Room in a Box and the people who created it, check out On Board Games #  276: Escape Experiment where Donald Dennis talks with Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin, designers of Escape Room in a Box.

 Image used with permission of Escape Room in a Box

Image used with permission of Escape Room in a Box

This review is based on the first version of Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment. We have not played or examined the Mattel version.

Join us in the Library Escape Room Enthusiasts group to discuss this review or join in other conversations about using escape rooms in libraries.  
 

Article by Donald Dennis & Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
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Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Escape Rooms.