EscWelt: Orbital Box Constructor & Space Box | Review
“3D Puzzle Orbital Box is a new form of intellectual logic game designed to play the story and scenarios of the EscapeWelt quest. After assembling the constructor, get to the secret compartment with your loved ones without leaving home! Double the fun! A thrilling experience, tricky traps, and intricate puzzles of the quest room await you. 3D Puzzle Orbital Box is designed by experienced engineers who have developed unique puzzles and multi-level challenges.”
Completion Time: 1 hour each (to solve), 2 hours (to construct)
Date Played: December 2022
Party Size: 1
Love ERs? Love flat pack furniture DIY? Want to meld the two into an afternoon’s entertainment and/or frustration (depending on your level of dexterity and patience)? Then the Orbital Constructor set is ideal for you.
I’ve waxed lyrical about my love for wooden puzzle boxes before when I reviewed EscWelt’s House of the Dragon. And I still get real childlike pleasure from finding them in IRL escape rooms, especially in any of the brilliant games at Escape Plan where carefully themed and hand-crafted puzzle boxes frequently replace the erstwhile padlock. So I was first with my hand up when EscWelt asked us to take a look at two of their other puzzle games – Orbital Constructor and Space Box.
Where to Start?
Orbital and Space Box sit alongside EscWelt’s range of hand built, complex 3D puzzles and you can buy them already set up and ready to go. But if you fancy a double challenge you can also buy their ‘constructor’ kits and do the building yourself. Which is what I sat down to do one grey day in that confusing nowhere time between Christmas and New Year. From the very start it’s easy to see why EscWelt is proud of its reputation for quality hand-built puzzles because right from the get-go it was obvious that putting the Orbital together was going to be some mean feat.
With the box open, the sheer number of pieces of laser cut puzzle parts was suddenly quite daunting, as was the rather hefty instruction/build manual that accompanied them. The puzzle pieces come in 6 sheets and my childish, ‘I don’t need to read the instructions’ instinct meant I wanted to start popping out all the parts straight away. I can only say this is very much not a good idea. Resist the popping urge. The pieces are numbered but sometimes the numbers are on the surrounding sheet rather than the piece itself so had I given into my initial instinct I would have had one big pile of pieces and no clue which was which. Thankfully I did actually read the instructions (my late DIY loving dad would be so proud of me!) and realised that I needed to do this build in an organised and coherent fashion.
The actual build process is fairly simple if you follow the instruction manual carefully. For those with middle aged eyesight like me the writing and the pictures are pretty small and you do have to be able to see the detail as some pieces are very similar and can fit in ‘wrong’ places. But if you pay attention, double check you’ve got the right piece facing the right way, then it’s a step by step process clearly laid out. There’s no glue, sticking, cutting or similar involved as all the pieces slide or click into place. The only extra you might want to have on hand is a candle as some of the parts that you’ll need to slide or rotate when playing the actual game will be easier to move if they’ve been waxed. (This is one part of the instructions I missed and it did make it difficult to move a few integral parts later on).
Once you’ve done all the construction you’re left with a substantial little box that has a hinged opening lid and space inside to fit a gift or surprise if you intend to hand this on to someone else to solve. You insert a couple of ‘keys’ and the box is locked until either you or your giftee has solved the 3D challenges that it poses.
You might think that having built the box from scratch, the ER puzzle-solving part of the Orbital box would be spoiled or far too easy. But it’s really not. Yes, you might already know that you need to slide a few pieces around, rotate a disc or two but that’s all the help the construction process gives you. Once the box is locked, getting back into it is still a challenge. The puzzle part is similar to EscWelt’s other 3D challenges, and other similar products on the market – figure out where to start to generate a code that you can enter into a certain part of the box to release the lid and plunder the goodies in side. The only thing missing for me with the Orbital was the narrative element. When I played ‘House of the Dragon’ there was a leaflet explaining a brief narrative reason for the game but my instructions for the Orbital didn’t include anything similar. When I had to go to the EscWelt’s website for a hint in solving the box (see, I told you it wasn’t easy even after you’ve built it yourself!) I realised there was supposed to be a space theme but, for me, that isn’t clear in the box itself. That’s a minor niggle though. The box can be played simply as a collection of mechanical puzzles to solve and is just as enjoyable.
I also played EscWelt’s Space Box (already constructed) at the same time. The mechanics are very similar to Orbital (and House of the Dragon) and will feel familiar if you’ve played any 3D challenges before. Both offer enough of a challenge to get you thinking (finding the point to start can take a while) but aren’t so thorny that you get frustrated and give up. And the EscWelt’s website offers video hints to help you on your way if you do get stuck.
As I said at the start, I love a puzzle box and these from EscWelt are satisfyingly challenging to solve. If I’m honest, I think I’d skip the ‘construction’ part in future, I’d rather get straight to the puzzles, but if you’re of a model making mind then this is a good way to get two fun hobbies out of one item.