Apocalypse Escape Box Demo (Pocket Investigation)
Apocalypse Escape Box Demo
- Played June 2018
- 60-90 minutes
- 1-5 players
- What People Say
Editor’s Note: The following review is of a demo game for Apocalypse: Escape Box by Argyx Games, which is currently seeking backers on Kickstarter. As such, the quality of the demo may not be representative of final product. The Kickstarter page calls the demo we received a “pocket investigation” which you can receive in some of the reward levels.
Upon opening the packaged envelope you’re greeted with a few components and a cryptic letter urging you to find a “red owl”. The contents of the envelope are a red nail file, a small tape measure, some printed paper sheets, and a box of matches. Upon closer inspection, some of the props are covered in bloody finger prints, and the serial killer threat suddenly seems creepier. The quality of the props themselves (the nail file, tape measure, and matches) isn’t anything to write home about; they seem they might be easily purchased in bulk from a craft store. In particular we noted the inclusion of the nail file was a bit odd; there was no real reason the specific prop had to be a nail file. It could’ve simply been replaced with a piece of paper. (But perhaps a nail file is relevant to the full Escape Box release? We have yet to tell.)
Alternations were made by hand to the aforementioned props to transform them into puzzles. Small colour-coded clues were painted on or written down here and there, giving it a distinctly hand-made feel. Some of the painted-on numbers were a bit hard to make out, although most of the alternations were effective in doing their job. The quality of the brown paper letter delivered in a scarlet red envelope really sets the scene. The letter is cryptic enough to keep you guessing, but urges you onwards towards the end. The back-and-white print outs, which were cut by hand, left a lot to be desired in comparison. Ultimately, although the demo props and printouts were as described above, we don’t know if it is indicative of the quality of the final Kickstarter product.
The story of the Apocalypse Escape Box demo is fairly vague. A letter arrives: its foreboding message warning you of a serial killer and insisting that you find the Red Owl. The remaining puzzles all provide appropriately thematic clues and answers, but ultimately (and perhaps purposefully?) you and your group don’t learn any more information in relation to the plot. Does the serial killer use measuring tapes to tie down his victims? Maybe he kills with arson? We don’t know the significance of any of the clues, and maybe there’s none, but we hope to find out. Not having a mini-plot play out in the demo is expected, albeit a bit disappointing. We do wish we could’ve unearthed something plot-wise in the case; it would have definitely improved the immersive experience of the demo. If you are a player prefers puzzles over story (à la Journal 29) then this demo game is similar in theme.
For a single envelope, this demo contains a decent amount of puzzles. The puzzles started out strong; a couple puzzles were inventive in ways we hadn’t seen before. Other puzzles required the use of devices such as a smart phone or laptop. Those puzzles, especially if they require searching, sometimes run the risk of queries going too far down the wrong path. One improvement that the puzzles could use would be increased consistency in clues. For example, one of the puzzles needed a colour coded ‘message’. Most of the solution was colour coded the same way as the puzzle, but one part was mysteriously a different colour for seemingly no reason. We were quite confused when we finally realized the solution. Similarly, the tape measure puzzle would be improved if the ‘alterations’ added to it were consistently applied along the entire tape.
Although we aren’t in love with the demo game and elements of the experience could have been improved prior to release, everyone agreed the overall experience and puzzles were engaging enough for us to look forward to the final release and Kickstarter product.