theory11: Box One | Review

A game uniquely designed to challenge only ONE person – and it seems that person is you! And only you. Alone. Can you handle it?

Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 14th August 2021
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium

I’ve had Box One on the to-play shelf of shame for months. But every time I opened it up to peek inside I thought to myself “huh, is that it?” No. That is NOT IT. Expect the unexpected at every turn. For this reason, again I’ll reiterate – it’s really hard to talk in any detail about what to expect. In fact, one of the creators Neil Patrick Harris himself urges in the outro video for players not to reveal anything. So we’ll respect his wishes and instead just say: trust us on this. Box One is very special.

Photo (c) theory11

By One, For One

Box One is the brain-child of Neil Patrick Harris and theory11 who put their brains together to create a board game style escape room designed for one player. Yep, just one. By one, for one. This makes it pretty unique on the market, as many games can be played in a team of one, but very few are designed to be played as one.

This said, it’s not technically impossible to play in a larger group, but the game will constantly reinforce this idea. For example, I lost count of the number of times the game asked “are you alone”, for which I had to respond “yes”. I know many other folks have had great success playing in a team, but for me I did as instructed and played solo.

Extremely High Quality Materials

With two creators such as Neil Patrick Harris and theory11, you can expect high quality with mass market appeal. This is an understatement, as Box One is gorgeous! The inside is textured like black leather, it comes with a lovely pen and metal cipher wheel as well as several other beautifully printed trinkets.

Here in the UK it took a lot longer for Box One to hit our shelves. Whilst many distributors now stock it, at the time of purchasing the game we spend £70 all in all shipping it across the pond. This is compared to the approximate $30 (£20) for buying it from Target in the USA. Despite this… I’m not even mad! It’s a real keepsake box of excellent materials and one that deserved pride of place on my shelf.

Photo (c) theory11

How to play Box One

Box One is a very guided game, and at no point will you be left guessing what to to do next. Quite simply, you open the box and there’s a deck of cards each labelled with a number. You start with card number ONE and work your way through the deck following the instructions on each card.

Card One: Hold your breath. Card Two: Now let it out again.

Easy… Right? Well, not exactly!

In terms of difficulty the game is definitely designed for mass market appeal, meaning the puzzles err on the side of easier. But even if you do get stuck there’s a very handy hints system that manages not to spoil anything about the game. I used around 2 hints during the game – mostly on the more ‘trivia-style’ elements of the gameplay that were particularly American.

Speaking of the box itself, the creators have used the box in some very delightful ways which remind me a lot of EXIT the Game. In both games, the box is used in very unique ways, but I think that’s just another of the unique selling points of Box One. Everything is used in unexpected ways! Puzzles players can expect to come across include heat puzzles (both hot and cold ones), holding things up to the light, destroying things (in a manner of speaking), and hidden compartments. It’s a mix of online and physical gameplay packed with “wow moments”.

To complete the whole game took me under an hour. For the full experience, you’ll have to take breaks ranging from one hour to one whole day – so this would be the perfect game for someone looking for something more immersive at a leisurely pace… But I couldn’t wait to I cheated the system and jumped ahead. What can I say?! I’m impatient! If you need to know how I jumped ahead, I simply changed my computer’s clock. [Highlight to reveal]

theory11 Box One Review The Escape Roomer
Photo (c) theory11

The Verdict

Box One is lighthearted, and funny. It’s not often I can say this but it actually did live up to the hype and I’m surprised. If you’re a fan of the actor himself (I unfortunately haven’t seen him in anything but my partner kept passing by the screen like “omg wow NPH is talking to you!?”), you’ll absolutely love the witty, self-referential humour and Easter Eggs in this game.

In the escape room world, the creators break a lot of rules and do things outside (or inside) the box that regular players won’t expect and for this I commend them! They’ve gone the extra mile and it’s paid off. Box One was, at a time, one of the most sought after board games in lockdown. Thankfully now it’s a little easier to get your hands on but no less worth checking out the next moment you have.

Box One can be purchased from theory11.

Ratings

  • Theming
  • Puzzles
  • Immersion
  • Innovation
  • Fun Factor
  • Value
4

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