Room-in-a-box, Sep 2017
The second Escape The Crate episode places you on Blackbeard’s pirate ship, searching for an anomalous object that risks overturning the course of history, also advancing the larger story introduced in the first episode.
With many subscription-based services, there’s a tendency for the first delivery to set a bar that subsequent ones can’t match: the best ideas get used in the launch, and as the schedule settles in the quality subsides a bit. I suspect Escape The Crate may have instead peaked with their second game. It’s obvious as soon as you open the box that they’ve gone the extra mile with this one, with the contents being a lot more interesting than just a set of envelopes.
Playing through, I was repeatedly surprised by the quantity of interesting physical objects, several of a quality equivalent to the prize at the end of episode 1 – while the game is still more driven by paper clues than physical objects, all signs are that they blew the budget on this episode. It’s not just all the cool junk that comes with the game, either; there’s a plethora of nested envelopes representing different areas and containers to discover and explore. And I found the puzzles here to broadly be a step up in complexity and interest from those in the other Crate games I’ve played, including an purely physical task that strictly speaking isn’t necessary, but is satisfying to complete nonetheless.
A couple of puzzles use a little more maths than some players may like. I also thought there was a little ambiguity in how some of the answers should be entered into the website: while it clearly specifies that letters should be lower-case, and states the expected format in cases where there’s potential for confusion, we still ended up trying a number of different possibilities for entering the same intended solution.
The game structure is presented as non-linear, with multiple puzzles available for solving at a couple of different points. However, it’s much more linear than it appears, with no more than two puzzles actually solvable at any time, and typically only one. The worst side-effect of this is that you may take a hint on the website only to find that it’s for a different puzzle to the one you thought you were working on. Fortunately the multi-level hint structure minimises the possible impact of that.
Either way, this is my clear favourite of the Crate games so far. If you’re going to purchase any of their back catalogue, this one should be top of your list.