Escape the Crate is a bi-monthly subscription-box-based game that puts all the fun of an escape room in a box delivered right to your door. Every other month, Escape the Crate delivers a new adventure from time travel to a murder mystery, with puzzles designed to be solved at home.
The Cost: $29.99 every other month plus $9.95 shipping
"Retired games" (boxes that are no longer part of the subscription) are often sold as one-time purchases on the Escape the Crate site for $39.99.
I saved the game for a holiday when I knew both my husband and teenage daughter would be home to play with me. My daughter and I are big fans of escape rooms, but because of the pandemic, we haven't been able to visit one in several years. This was a chance to regain a little bit of pre-pandemic normal!
This was my first Escape the Crate, and I was more than a little curious about how they were going to manage to turn a box in my living room into a full escape room experience. The box arrives in a protective white plastic envelope, and once you discard that, you realize the box in your hands is actually part of the game.
Turn it around, and there are instructions on the back about items you'll need to gather from around the house — pencils, scissors, scratch paper (we used a notepad from my teenager's most recent YumeTwins box!) and an internet-connected device — and I noticed there were numbers along the side of the box. Opening it to reveal a number of papers and other gameplay items, I realized there were more "clues" written on the box's inside. It's pretty clear the folks at Escape the Crate subscribe to the "nothing goes to waste" mentality.
As we could see on the cover of the box, the theme of this box was Escape the Gold Rush Robbery, indicating we'd be solving a mystery set sometime back in the 1840s and likely somewhere along the western coastline of the US.
What's Inside the Box
Inside the box, there were several envelopes which warned that they shouldn't be opened until instructed (more on that later), plus a small jewelry bag, rubbery chunk of "gold," a small "nuggets" of gold, and nearly a dozen different cards and pieces of paper with pictures and writing on them.
Initially, nothing made sense — kind of like walking into a real escape room!
The instruction sheet from the "clockmaker" instructed us to go to an Escape the Crate website, including a password. That's where we'd end up finding instructions for first-timers plus a whole extra set of clues via videos that had been recorded by the Escape the Crate team as part of the story. And to keep you from cheating, the site is set up with password-protected pages, akin to the locks you typically have to unlock by solving clues in a real escape room.
Good to know: We started out using my teenager's phone but quickly realized that everyone on the team would have to watch the videos. Pulling out a laptop with its bigger screen is a good idea, or you can airplay to your TV if it has the capability.
In a nutshell, the story you're tasked with is solving the issue of a miner's missing gold. He's struck it rich, but while he was celebrating, someone made off with his loot. Your goal is to suss out which of five suspects stole the gold ... or so you think!
Some of the videos are a little corny. The actors try to talk as if they lived in the old West, and they try just a bit too hard. But the overall production quality of the videos is good.
The game is broken into chapters, with more and more puzzles to solve, and even after you've finally fingered the no-good crook who stole the gold, suddenly you realize there's more game to play and another mystery to solve!
Escape the Crate gives you options of timing yourself or just playing for fun, and I'm glad we opted to forgo the timer. At the risk of bragging, my daughter and I both have always gotten out of escape rooms before the time runs out — but some of the Escape the Gold Rush Robbery puzzles were Hard with a capital H!
Even with our three brains put together, we ended up having to turn to the Escape the Crate website for hints. That's another bit of good news for escape room fans who are used to having someone on the outside who can "help" if you run into trouble. There's no human being answering you, but the website has hints already set up, and you can take as many or as few of them as you want. The hints start out pretty vague but they become increasingly more useful and detailed if you need that help.
Not having it timed also meant we were able to get up, take bathroom breaks, let the dogs out, and do the sorts of things you do when you're playing games at home. Having the game broken out into chapters is also useful — you can play just one, then come back to the game on another day. We ended up playing two chapters— it was a holiday after all — then coming back later in the week to finish it all out.
That's another point of value for Escape the Crate over a typical escape room. The "in-person" type of puzzle adventure would likely cost three people about three times the $29.99 price tag of this box, and it would also be shorter. Most of the live escape rooms are just 60 minutes long while solving these puzzles took us several hours.
Despite the corny voices, I really loved this game. It gave our brains a workout and was the perfect thing to keep us busy on a very snowy day off from work.
Maybe, more importantly, it was a great way for my husband and me to bond with our teenager. It gave them a reason to come out of their bedroom and spend time with us, plus solving the puzzles meant we all had to work together. With a child who is inching ever closer to flying the nest, bonding moments like this are extra valuable to us.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist.
More You Should Know
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? No, if you order now your first box will be "Escape: Secret Agent". However, you can purchase this box (as well as most previous boxes) as a standalone purchase for $39.99.
What do you think of the Escape the Crate "Escape The Gold Rush Robbery" box?
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