BreakInBox Review | Three locked boxes one inside the other. Breakinbox Challenges weave together versatile knowledge worlds making the solution a complex unique experience.
Date Played: July 2023
Number of Players: 3
Time Taken: ~20 – ~60 minutes
I always get extra excited when I received puzzle games from far flung countries around the world, and Israel is a new one for me… Well, I’ve played a digital game or two from there – but never a physical one. How exciting! So when not one but two boxes from BreakInBox showed up, I couldn’t wait to get my regular group of puzzlers over to try something a little different.
BreakInBox is a company who specialises in perhaps the ‘purest’ form of tabletop puzzle games. They are quite literally locked boxes. Yep, you read that right. A cube with a padlock. Inside that locked cube is another cube with another padlock. You’ll never guess what’s inside that one: Another cube… With another padlock! In this way, you progress through a Matryoshka Doll- style experience, unlocking three layers of unique puzzles. Whilst each layer is locked with a padlock, the puzzles themselves are found printed on all the sides of each box. In this way, you’re encouraged to pick up and manipulate the boxes in your hands – turning them over and examining each one closely.
We played through two of the games available:
- The Blue Box
- The Black Box
As such, we’ll be writing about both in this review. There are some generalisations between the two, and there were some major differences. For example one of the boxes had more linear puzzles – one meant to be completed after another. The other on the other hand had much standalone puzzles that the three of us could tackle simultaneously. Similarly, one of them involved a unique sound puzzle – and the other had you send an email, which was exciting.
When the website explained the difficulty levels – they weren’t wrong. Blue is meant to be much easier, for beginner puzzlers, and black is meant to be a real head-scratcher. And yep, that’s absolutely right. We breezed through blue in around 20 minutes. Black on the other hand took all three of our collective brain power working together (and a clue or two) to crack the codes!
So, without further adieu, lets get into it:
The Blue Box
We played ‘The Blue Box’ over an evening and a couple of beers. It was sandwiched between a few other puzzle games, and it provided a very welcome break with some lighter, intuitive puzzling. In all, the Blue Box took us around 20 minutes. We think it would take the average puzzler around 30 minutes – but as mentioned, we erred on the side of “working simultaneously on all puzzles” where we could.
As such, it definitely felt more entry-level, but in a satisfying way with some particularly creative puzzles I always enjoy seeing in tabletop games like this.
The puzzles required the use of the internet. In particular, this box asks you to send an email in order to receive your next step digitally. In another way, the game also required the internet as there’s some pretty niche trivia knowledge needed – but thankfully there’s no rule against not Googling things. Unless you’re an absolute pub quiz boffin, it’s good to have your phone nearby to check some obscure detail or two.
The Black Box
We were so confident after playing the Blue Box we were all like “ahaha, this’ll be a breeze”. Oh how wrong we were. The creator, Avi, wasn’t wrong when he said to play the Black Box second because it’s significantly harder. But with the added difficulty, came the added fun. Of the two, we really, really enjoyed the second one. Each puzzle felt like a real mental workout.
In particular, I really enjoyed this game’s use of the internet. There was a fun sound-puzzle, and several puzzles which required us to absolutely scour Google Maps for very hard to find details! There was a nod to the UK we found particularly charming. But in general, it was the fact this box had so many satisfying ‘aha moments’ that scratched the itch of the kind of puzzles we love playing. As a team of three, we find ourselves taking part in a lot of online puzzle hunts, and this felt like a self-contained version of one of those – and well clued at that too.
In both experiences, there isn’t so much of a “story”, other than “here’s a mysterious box, good luck”. As such, even the puzzles felt “pure” in a way I can’t quite describe in any other way. They’re like puzzle-hunt puzzles – the best versions of themselves, without being held back with the need to fit into context. For me, the puzzles were the best thing about both experiences, and I almost think there’s a certain charm to the fact they haven’t gone for story-heavy. There’s no right or wrong answer, but since The Escape Roomer always consider the story and narrative, it has to be mentioned.
In terms of quality, BreakInBoxes are simply made – with the most ‘high tech’ things being the user interface on the internet, and the three-digit locks that close the boxes. Otherwise these boxes are light-weight, and simply built, with simple graphics and colours. They’ve taken the phrase “Less is More” to heart, but in a way that feels true to their brand.
In both experiences, we also received a little bonus treat at the heart of the three boxes – the less I say about this the better! But it was super fun finally getting through to the ‘finish line’ and finding something fun waiting there. In this way, I think BreakInBox has a unique edge in the market in that it’s fully resettable and replayable – but better than that, because if you planned to gift this on to someone else you could put whatever you want inside the box. You could fill it with sweets, or a prize, or even a birthday gift..! Cute!
Last but not least, in terms of value, this one is a little harder to quantify. It’s another thing we always consider at The Escape Roomer. BreakInBox is based in Israel, but they have a shop listed in USD for international customers. Each box is around $35 USD, so about £30. Shipping comes in at $13.80, making the whole cost of a single box just under £40. Now, this is a little steep – but given the *gestures vaguely at the world* current cost of living crisis, it tracks about “what these things just cost these days”. We had a lot of fun with the two boxes we played. But did we have £40 x 2 fun? Well, I’m not sure… Maybe? Perhaps?
The verdict? We did have a lot of fun playing this one. The Black Box slightly more than the Blue Box, but there isn’t too much difference in it – both games are good for their respective audiences, and I commend the designers for creating such an experience like this. It’s probably slightly more expensive compared to a few other comparable games, but the puzzles are delightful and unique in their application, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. In particular, the Blue Box would be great for a younger / less experienced audience. The Black Box is for more hardcore puzzlers who want a real challenge! I haven’t yet played the others in the series, but I imagine they’re well placed on the scale between these two.
The BreakInBox set can be purchased by heading directly to BreakInBox’s website here. The Escape Roomer readers may also use the code: TheER23 to receive $5 off their order.
We were not charged for our games, but this does not affect the content of our review.