Escape Room in a Box is enjoyable out of the box thinking [Preview]

Escape Room in a Box is enjoyable out of the box thinking [Preview]

It’s easy to think that E3 was simply about video games. The “E3” acronym used to stand for Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the majority of the things at the show this year were either video games, peripherals, or something else — but still digital. Nestled off to the side of E3 was the Indiecade booth, a section of the show floor home to terrific and inventive indie games. Also electronic-based.

Except for one. One little table, off to the side and seemingly facing away from the rest of the ‘Cade, had a mess of materials on it and a wooden crate hanging off the side. It was easy to miss, looking more like something you might find in a high school gymnasium during the end-of-the-year carnival. What drew me over to it, however, was a set of 6 or so liquid-filled vials that sat in the middle.

The Escape Room in a Box booth at E3 2016 (photo via Instagram by Escape Room in a Box)
The Escape Room in a Box booth at E3 2016 (photo via Instagram by Escape Room in a Box)

“What do you do with these?” I asked.

“You smell them.”

“Oh…kay? Why?”

“It’s a puzzle. You need to know the scents to open the lock. And you need to figure out which scents you need, and in what order, based on the rest of the hints on this table. And you only have three minutes.”

“OH! Kind of like an escape room!”

“Yes, and that’s why we’re called ‘Escape Room in a Box’.”

Ding ding ding, you had me at “you smell them.”

Escape Room in a Box is exactly what its name describes: the popular outing where teams of people work together under a time constraint to solve all of the puzzles in one room, but shoved into a tabletop format. It’s a little like a mix between Clue and the Room series of video games, in which layers of puzzles reveal solutions to others, until eventually they funnel down to one password or keycode to open a door or get some object.

I’m addicted to the phenomena, having gone on a few outings already. Each one is themed, too, ranging from things like zombies to government conspiracies. In a recent excursion we were tasked with stealing a diamond by opening its locker, with one of the puzzles requiring us to turn the lights off in the cramped room to see a glowing code on the ceiling.

Recreating that level of interactivity would be difficult in a portable environment, but Escape Room in a Box could potentially come close, at least in pushing our brains and teamwork abilities and providing novel puzzles. While playing the hour-long game at E3 would be near impossible, developers Juliana Patel & Ariel Rubin *did* have a short experience on hand that mimicked what you may find in the box itself.


This mini-game revolved around a small box with a lock, and a discount code inside for the full game. To open the lock specific numbers needed to be used, and those numbers we associated with the aforementioned vials. To get the right vials in the right order, three paper puzzles were laid out on the table, each that would give a clue about a scent. For instance, one required layering and rotate pieces of clear acetate paper with scribbles on them, until they lined up and created an image of a young couple and a rose. I initially kept thinking the answer was “wedding cake” or “wedding bouquet”, but then realized that the layered image was flipped on the wrong side. It was “rose” and “marry”. Or, “rosemary”. The other two puzzles were similar in challenge, and it took us the full 3 minutes (and then some, to be honest) to finally solve the entire thing.

Though it might seem like simple brain games, the experience was actually a lot of fun and fulfilling. I like to know that I can solve puzzles, and the instant feedback inflates my ego to a very satisfactory point. There was no better feeling than saying “AHA! I’ve figured it out!” The main box, themed around a mad doctor and his werewolf experiments, would fit in with this style of puzzle solving in its entirety.


With the price of $60 roughly equalling the cost of just two normal escape room tickets, ERIAB is geared for several players, becoming an instant cost value. Even if we play just once, that price alone is less than if we go as a group to a full event. Rubin was on hand to further explain to me the idea that the company could release expansion packs to help keep the game fresh with each playthrough.

Escape Room in a Box might be one of the more novel tabletop experiences in recent years, pushing teamwork and intuition and hoping to do a solid job of capturing the excursion experience in the home. Look for it to release in full around late Winter/early Spring 2017. You can find more info on