“Box ONE is an ever-evolving game of trivia, codes, puzzles, and discovery – only from the mind of Neil Patrick Harris. There’s tons of great party games — but unlike the rest, Box ONE is designed to challenge just ONE person: YOU! And you alone.
Prepare to set out on an exciting adventure like no other as you discover, decode, and unlock the secrets of Box ONE. Look closely, though, as with all things – there’s more than meets the eye…”
I talked a bit in my Floor 13 post about how that game and the proactive nature of my bestie lead, sort of inadvertently, to the creation of this blog. Box One marks the second chapter of that story, where I further fell down the rabbit hole into the world puzzle games. Between my bestie pointing me towards puzzle books like Tachyon and Journal 29 and an article from Ars Technica leading me to pre-order The Emerald Flame, I knew there was a whole community of enthusiasts out there I need to find, but I was still somehow having a hard time finding my way to it. In hindsight it was—appropriately enough— like I was on a puzzle hunt, but just couldn’t figure out the google search terms needed to progress. But then Escape the Review posted their Play at Home Escape Game Flowchart, a couple of my friends shared it on Facebook, and it felt like the skies opened. That flowchart is a work of art and gave me everything I needed to finally find my way to the community. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have taken so long, I should have been able to find my way in sooner, but I’m happy to have got there at all.
Anyway, I asked the friend who had posted the flowchart for some recommendations, and one of his first recommendations was Box One. That surprised me, it’s a mass-market game, created by a meme-y celebrity, and is only sold at Target; so not the type of game that I would normally give a second glance to. But, I trusted him, so I went ahead and ordered myself a copy and played through it later that week!
That game was a blast, exceeding my expectations and surprising and delighting me along the way. Much like Solve Our Shirts, there were more surprises baked into the game than one would expect, some of which were completely unexpected. One was so good, that I had to take a video of it and send it to my bestie. It was an exciting ride, and a great value for the cost. There was only one misstep in the entire experience: very late in the game it makes you take a very long, non-optional break. Once the break is over, and you are allowed to get back to the game, you are basically at the ending. I would have preferred that the break be optional or, if they felt the need to keep it, that it be closer to the halfway point of the game. It’s a minor quibble, in an otherwise excellent experience.
The game presents itself as a simple trivia game; I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that it is much more than that. I really don’t want to say anything more specific about the nature of the story, but it’s there, a big part of the game, and very well written. The time and effort put into the story shines in all of the aspects of the game.
There are some really neat puzzles hidden in the game, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as particularly challenging. As a mass market game, I got the idea that they wanted to focus more on a thrilling narrative experience than a super challenging puzzle experience, which is almost certainly the right call for something like this.
All of the puzzle components in this game are expertly manufactured and so nice that several of them made their way to my bookshelf as nice souvenirs. As a bonus, I’m still using the included pen and notepad as a scratch pad when I’m solving other puzzle games. Seeing the Box One logo on the notepad makes me smile each time I see it, as I remember the fun I had solving this game.
If my glowing review wasn’t clue enough, I give this game a full-throated recommendation to anyone who is interested in playing an at-home puzzle game; both beginner and enthusiast alike. The game insists that it’s designed for a single player but, while that definitely seems true, I don’t think having a second player to share in the experience would hamper the game at all.
One final piece of advice that was given to me before I purchased it: don’t try to get ahead of the game, it can be easy to jump the gates, but you’ll have a much better time if you don’t.