The Box

by Paul Michael Winters profile

Escape Room

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A promising debut for the Kreate system, June 16, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2022

(I beta tested this game)

The Box is a test bed for a bespoke IF system created by the gameís author, and I have to confess that my reaction to such things has previously been to consider them reinventions of the wheel, given the number of robust, mature authoring languages currently out there. Those feelings have shifted in recent years, though, as systems like Dialog and Adventuron have proven themselves to offer distinct advantages to authors and players; itís obviously too soon to tell whether Kreate will join that list, but based on the present evidence, it definitely justifies its existence.

Like many modern systems, part of the draw here is that Kreate allows for both parser- and link-based play; you can type in traditional commands using the typical Inform/TADS syntax, but you also have links and buttons enabling you to do everything you need to with a click. The links are contextual, though, so youíre not overwhelmed with choice; the names of objects are underlined in descriptions, and you can examine them by clicking them, while potential actions are suggested in little buttons right by the command prompt.

This works well, but whatís more exciting is that the system also seems to allow for less standard input approaches too Ė and hereís where talking about the game itself might be useful. The Box doesnít have much of a plot, being an escape-the-room affair thatís primarily focused on the puzzling. As the title suggests, the main business involves fiddling with a mysterious box thatís got a different puzzle on each of its sides, largely based on clues you find in the environment. Some of these are standard object-manipulation affairs, but there are also some that, while old chestnuts, are newer territory for parser IF, including a cryptogram and a tile-selection puzzle. Itís possible to engage with these via the parser, but itís a little awkward Ė the cryptogram requires a bunch of commands like SET DIAL-X TO LETTER-Y Ė fortunately, though, Kreate enables a little drop-down menu you can interact with via the mouse that makes things easy.

Speaking of mice, there are some cute touches that elevate the game above just being a grab-bag of tech-demo puzzles Ė the most notable being the cute white mouse who you can get to join you in your endeavors. Similarly, while the puzzles are primarily old chestnuts, theyíre implemented well and are satisfying to work through, pitched at a reasonable level of difficulty. So even though itís primarily been written as a shakedown cruise for Kreate Ė and I think succeeds on those terms Ė on its own merits too The Box is a pleasant half-hourís puzzling if youíre in the mood for such things.