Game Name: Initiation
Business: Hunt A Killer
Location: Game in a Box
Date of Visit: October 2018 – March 2019
Number of Players: NA
Our Group Size: 2
Official Description: Welcome to Listening Friends of America! Our program allows one-way correspondence for individuals who have trouble functioning in the outside world. Rest assured your privacy and safety are among our top concerns. Each package you receive from your friend will be inspected. Any attempt to cause you harm will be removed. You’ve been assigned to a very special patient. He is not like the others. We fear he may not be a good fit for our system. Take your time to understand your new friend. You’re about to begin a very special relationship. Listen well, your friend believes in you. (Video)
Difficulty (official): Unannounced
Difficulty (experience): Varies from box to box, puzzles tend to be on the easy side
Time to Escape: Each box we received provided about an hour of play-time, longer for the initial boxes as we learned to navigate the systems on the website and what exactly we needed to do each month.
Review: We’ve played escape rooms in person and have a couple of escape board games sitting around (we probably should play those sometime soon), so why not try the new-ish format of a monthly escape-in-a-box?
We had seen the ads online and decided to splurge for Hunt A Killer. The mystery on the surface seemed intriguing—we both love Silence of the Lambs—and it’s hard not to feel a bit like Clarice while you’re piecing together the mysteries.
When our first box arrived, we settled into pulling out materials and trying to fit the puzzles together. However, we quickly realized that we were sent one incorrect item and had to log into the HAK hint system to figure out the error. Customer service responded the next day and sent us a PDF of what we needed. The service was excellent, however, we felt a little spoiled on future events due to the error.
Each box contains letters, toys, and other objects which connect to both the puzzles in the box and the larger mystery behind itt. So far we’ve been pleased with how Initiation tells its story, particularly how a certain character is portrayed. However, we had figured out a good portion of the main mystery by the second month. Despite that we’ve been enjoying the variety of puzzles that the boxes present, and we look forward to seeing the letters that we receive each month.
The puzzles themselves range from fairly easy to somewhat difficult, however most of that difficulty comes with how the puzzles are presented. We spent over an hour on one puzzle and turned to the HAK forums for help, only to find that the other members believe that the official puzzle solution is incorrect. We also believe this, and it cast doubt on future boxes as to the quality of the rest of the game.
We have heard that the other games that Hunt A Killer offers are better in quality; Initiation is their first game and it does so far show that. With the quality of escape games in a box constantly increasing, we hope that HAK will return to this game and bring it up to a higher standard. As such, we feel that the price point for the game is much higher than we would have liked to have paid for the amount of content and time spent on these puzzles. The overall experience was enjoyable but the formulaic nature of each box and the final solution became repetitive and the novelty of the escape waned by the end of the sixth month.
Hints Used: Due to the nature of the game, the hint system is the only way to confirm if you have finished the entire box each month. So, we used all of them.
Clue Quality : Varies. Some of the clues are quite cleverly put into the materials, others are very vague and require several different angles to figure out what is being indicated. One series of clues presented over several boxes was very clever and enjoyable and other clues were above average for what we have seen in some escape rooms. We would have liked to see more clues referenced between boxes as they relate to puzzles; most of the overarching bits of knowledge were useful in piecing together the story, but only one was ever referenced again for a puzzle.
Puzzle Creativity: HAK has a few moments of brilliance with their puzzles, but it does rely heavily on standard escape room codes and practices.
Rating: 3 / 5.
Fear Factor: None. A number of the clues and the story at the heart of the game can create some intense moments of dread, but if you’re playing this in the dining room as we did, the scariest thing is the pile of dishes back in the kitchen that you’re ignoring while completing the current month’s box.
Things to note: This experience is comprised of six boxes which are scheduled to be shipped monthly by default. You can ask for the next box to be shipped at any time if you are ready for the next part of the experience. The total cost of the first episode is $180 if you pay $30 monthly; discounts are available off of the total if you prepay for a six or twelve-month Season Pass.