OVERALL PRODUCT RATING: 2 Keys
Spin Master’s first entry into the Escape Room home game market is an ambitious one, packing not one but four different, completely unique full length games inside the box. Unfortunately this proved to be an exercise in quantity over quality.
We’ve chosen to present this review in a bit of a different structure than the Escape Authority standard. Spin Master’s Escape Room: The Game is actually four completely unique, completely freestanding escape room home games inside a single package. Each of the four – Prison Break, Virus, Nuclear Countdown and Temple of the Aztec carry clearly unique themes (most of which are among Escape Authority’s Four Unforgivable Themes™ for how over-used they tend to be.) More importantly, and somewhat surprisingly, they also provide distinctly different qualities of experience, ranging from one we enjoyed to one we tolerated, one we disliked and one we completely hated.
You’ll notice there is one “OVERALL PRODUCT RATING” – which we’ve combined together to give a 2 Key score. Each individual game will get its own rating below, but the overall 2 Key score is what we advise you to weigh when considering whether or not you choose to add this game to your home collection.
We’re starting with the OVERALL section, which typically closes out each of our reviews in order to provide the big picture information about this product, which, needless to say we sadly do not recommend you purchase if you’re looking for an Escape Room home game. (Instead, consider giving one of ThinkFun’s fantastic games a shot.) Although there are four completely different games to play, they must be purchased as a single product, so we feel one review makes the most sense in general.
From there, we’ll bounce to one general SCENIC section for the entire product – as all four games have equal quality materials and graphics used.
In place of the traditional STORY and PUZZLES sections, we will be replacing them with four mini-reviews – one for each included game.
Spin Master’s product feels significantly lower quality. Thinner paper, flimsier materials, less graphical details. This home game felt a bit too home made for our tastes, and might as well have been printed on our own computer (which, incidentally, it will be if you want to play any of its four games more than once; Gameplay will require damaging the paper pieces – but links are available to print your own replacements.
A benefit to the Spin Master product over the generally superior ThinkFun game is the inclusion of an actual functioning game timer, called the Chrono Decoder, though it should be noted that it does not include the two AA batteries required to function. It doubles as several different cipher keys you’ll need throughout the games, which felt a bit clunky and awkward at times. During game play, to unlock “rooms” (again, sealed envelopes holding your next location and puzzles) you’ll insert four different plastic keys – aligned in the correct order – into the physical game clock itself. Get it right and be rewarded with a chime; but if you’re wrong, you’ll be chastised by a buzzer sound effect.
This adds an interesting sense of technology to the Spin Master box – but the unfortunate truth is that on more than one occasion, our game clock malfunctioned, denying correct answer combinations repeatedly. To make matters worse, each wrong answer physically takes time off your clock – a move intended on paper to discourage brute forcing the codes, but in practice during a clearly broken game only serves to even further frustrate its players.
A recommended companion, Spin Master has created an official (free) app for your mobile phones and tablets, which includes custom background music loops to play during your experience, as well as appropriately themed photo frames for each of the four games. Again, unfortunately, this feature barely worked for us, and I found at the end of the day that I was forced to photoshop the frames onto our own pictures later as only one would actually take from within the app as designed. And to make matters worse, that one that did take was impossible to frame us correctly, cutting off half of what should have fit in the picture because there was no live preview option to see how we fit inside the graphic.
From a hint perspective, Spin Master provides scrambled hint cards that – when slipped inside a red decoder sleeve will become readable. We found these hints to be much less helpful and much less clear – and thus much more frustrating to deal with than the ThinkFun online hint system method, resulting in yet another overall point taken away from the Spin Master product.
The four games allegedly have varying degrees of difficulty, and Spin Master insists you play them in the proper order. We did, and sadly found the first to be one of the worst. From there it was a literal roller coaster ride of fun, logic leaps, tedium and more logic leaps across the remaining three. We will present them here in the order they are intended to be played:
RATING: 1 Key RESULT: Win REMAINING: +1:42
Your standard “escape the jail” fare in theme with a story that really had little impact on drawing you into it. Like all of the Spin Master games, be prepared for a very wordy, very dull exposition prior to diving in to the puzzles.
Prison Break – the first game in the Spin Master collection is definitely not a good first impression. Logic leaps, a crossword puzzle and math – this game represented all the things we hate about physical escape games, packed into a box that might as well have been a proverbial trojan horse to sneak them into the comfort of my home. We found this game to be so non-enjoyable that it became a difficult task to will myself to try the remaining three from the set.
RATING: 4 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 15:49
Next on our tour of Unforgivable Themes, we must find a cure to yet another virus. Another backstory kicks off your adventure with far more information than you could possibly care about, none of which has any impact on your gameplay.
Thankfully, and to be honest surprisingly, Virus was a complete 180 in experience from Prison Break. A clever collection of puzzles, some of which even physical in nature and in a way we’d never experienced before. This game was fun, logical and intuitive. Interestingly enough, it’s the only game in the box that we can fully say that about, and coincidence or not, when you compare our game times between the four, you’ll notice a fairly shocking discrepancy among them – further proving how Virus was indeed the logical and enjoyable outlier in Spin Master’s product.
If Spin Master sold its games individually, Virus would come highly recommended by us. The problem is, unfortunately, they do not.
RATING: 3 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 2:48
It’s time to defuse another bomb. One of the classic thematic tropes that I just hope to never see again now knows where I live. Fantastic.
Nuclear Countdown was a mixed bag. There were some legitimately enjoyable puzzles in this one, including some that mixed in a few physical elements. The problem is there were others that were such logic leaps that we needed to use several clue cards to get past them. That is to say, several clue cards for each single puzzle. That’s not good.
Logic leaps like that leave a bad taste in players’ mouths, and sadly sully the few fun moments this game deserves credit for having.
Temple of the Aztec
RATING: 0 Keys RESULT: Lose REMAINING: 0:00
An “Indiana Jones” flavored adventure into a lost Aztec temple is unquestionably the most unique theme of this set, and for that reason was the one game out of the four I was most looking forward to trying. Sadly, it’s also the one game that pushed me to the point of literally saying “I just don’t want to play anymore.”
That’s right. We actually stopped playing Temple of the Aztec without even fully running out of time. There were so many ridiculous logic leaps in this game that we completely exhausted every single clue card provided, still had no idea how to get past certain puzzle steps and had to take to the internet in hopes of finding some guidance that made a bit more sense.
There was one slight shining star puzzle here – a physical task involving snakes that I found to be a very clever execution, especially for a home game. Beyond that, I’m sorry to say that Temple of the Aztec would have looked better in my fireplace, but unfortunately for our team, I don’t actually have a fireplace to begin with.
To this date, we still don’t actually know how this game even ends, and don’t particularly care to find out.
So there you have it. Escape Room: The Game proves that not all escape room home games are created equal, and is definitely not a product we recommend to our readers. For better or worse, Spin Master promises expansion packs of new games will be released in the future, compatible with your existing Chrono Decoder for additional game play. It is our sincerest hope that the quality of gaming experience is greatly improved by that point, because I just don’t think we can solider through another four games like the ones included in the initial box.
Venue: Spin Master Games
Location: At Home Game
Number of Games: 4 (all included in one box)
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 5 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers
Cost: $31.99 (Amazon.com)